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Form ranking: Tour de France 2020 contenders

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) tops our first Tour de France form ranking of the season (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

This ranking was first devised before the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis escalated in in Europe in early March, and only includes riders already confirmed as starting the Tour de France.

It's mid-March, time for our first look at how the Tour de France GC contenders arer shaping up so far. It's a strange opening edition of our form ranking, with Covid-19 coronavirus wiping out the racing calendar for the rest of March and also already having an affect on the next few months, too.

But still, we have to hope for the best for the summer, with the Tour de France over three months away, possibly one of the first major races on a new post-coronavirus calendar. 

Even if there won't be much – if any – racing in the near future, there's still been enough action so far to run the rule over the men hoping to be GC contenders at the Tour de France.

Some riders flew out of the gates in January and kept going through March, while others have had quieter starts, and a few haven't managed to hit the road at all. 

Nevertheless, from Quintana to Froome, the big-name contenders are all here in the first Cyclingnews Tour de France power ranking of 2020, which will – hopefully – be a series running up to the race start in Nice on June 27.

1. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)

Best result: Second in 2013 and 2015

Overview: Quintana has enjoyed a strong start at his new surroundings, taking two stage race victories and three summit finish wins to kick off the 2020 season. After taking second in the Colombian time trial championships and fourth in the road race, Quintana headed to Arkéa-Samsic's home country to get back to stage racing. 

The Colombian, who turned 30 in February, dominated the Tour de la Provence, beating Alexey Lutsenko by 1:28 on Mont Ventoux. A week later, he won the Tour du Var, winning atop the Col d'Èze in the process. 

The past week saw bad luck in the crosswinds at Paris-Nice knock him out of overall contention, but he came back on the final day to comfortably win atop Valdeblore La Colmiane. What might have been...

There are caveats – competition at Provence and Var might not have been the sternest test on offer, and at Paris-Nice he wasn't a GC threat when he attacked. But still you can only beat what's in front of you. 

A change of scenery, after eight years at Movistar, seems to have done Quintana good so far.

Highlight: Three more summit finish victories to add to his impressive collection, which includes Blockhaus, Terminillo (x2), Lagos de Covadonga, Vallter 2000, Alto de las Palmas, Semnoz, Val Martello and more.

Lowlight: Missing out on the Nationals road race podium in a two-up sprint.

2. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Best result: Fourth in 2014

Overview: The Briton has only taken part in one race so far this season, the curtailed UAE Tour, but he's put in the most impressive climbing performance of the prospective Tour de France contenders so far.

On the first of two stage finishes atop Jebel Hafeet, Yates launched the attacking 6km from the line before going solo for the final 5km. Nobody, not even the impressive Tadej Pogačar (more on him below), could reign in the Mitchelton-Scott man, who went on to take victory by over a minute.

The stunning victory – the most dominant of his career – saw Yates clinch overall victory at a WorldTour stage race for the first time, even if he didn't get to fully enjoy it when the final two stages of the race were cancelled.

Highlight: That win on Jebel Hafeet, and an at-ease defence of the race lead under sustained attack from Pogačar two days later.

Lowlight: Not taking the plaudits he deserved because the UAE Tour was halted due to coronavirus positive tests the night after stage 5.

3. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

JEBEL HAFEET UNITED ARAB EMIRATES FEBRUARY 27 Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates Adam Yates of The United Kingdom and Team Mitchelton Scott Red Leader Jersey during the 6th UAE Tour 2020 Stage 5 a 162km stage from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet 1033m UCIWT UAETour uaetour on February 27 2020 in Jebel Hafeet United Arab Emirates Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates do battle at the UAE Tour (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Best result: N/A

Overview: The other big stage race star of the year so far, Pogačar has picked up where he left off in 2019. After ending his debut pro season with three stage wins and third at the Vuelta a España, he's come back and taken four victories in February  and is third in the current 2020 win rankings.

At the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, the 20-year-old laid down a statement of intent to outsprint Alejandro Valverde on the hilltop finish at Cullera. Two days later, he won the tougher summit finish at Sierra de Bérnia, beating the likes of Wout Poels, Dan Martin and Jack Haig to the win.

He duly sealed overall victory there, the third stage race win of his young career, and then went on to take second at the UAE Tour. He had no answer to Yates' stage 3 offensive but attacked the quality front group over and over on what turned out to be the final stage to grab another victory.

The Coronavirus has hit UAE Team Emirates harder than any other pro team, with several team members catching the virus in the UAE. As a result, Pogačar and his teammates were confined to their hotel for a 14-day quarantine.

Highlight: Starting the season in flying form with victory in Valencia and then saving his team's home race with a victory on Jebel Hafeet.

Lowlight: Losing by 1:03 to Yates on the first summit finish in the UAE and subsequently being stuck in quarantine for weeks after the race.

4. Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team)

Best result: N/A

Overview: The Colombian usually gets his season up and running with a strong showing or two, and 2020 was no different. He's won his first race by February in three of the last four seasons, and 2020 saw him continue the tradition with one at the Volta ao Algarve.

At the race, López won the hilltop finish on the Alto do Malhão, beating Dan Martin and eventual race winner Remco Evenepoel to the line on stage 4. The victory – a strong show of power in the dash to the line – came two days after a mistimed late attack saw him end up sixth on the summit finish of the Alto do Fóia.

Perhaps more interesting, though, was his fifth place in the closing time trial in Lagoa, which was a largely flat affair. López covered the 20km course in the same time as Max Schachmann, Michał Kwiatkowski and Patrick Bevin for probably the best TT performance of his career. Has he turned a corner in what is usually his weakest discipline?

Highlight: Grabbing that lung-busting victory on Malhão and putting in that impressive time-trial effort to close the race.

Lowlight: An attack on Fóia that faded, leaving him trailing in behind Tim Wellens and Rui Costa.

5. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo)

Best result: Fifth in 2016

Overview: Porte was the winner of the year's first WorldTour race, the Tour Down Under in Australia. He grabbed his second overall victory at the race at the end of January, which almost seems ancient history given all the action since then.

Still, Porte beat a quality field to do so, taking victory on the uphill finish at Paracombe ahead of Simon Yates and Rohan Dennis, among others. A second place on Willunga Hill – breaking his long winning streak – then sealed the overall.

Porte went on to take third at the Tour du Var, though he was quieter there. Finishing alongside Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet on the summit finish of Mont Faron showed he was still going strong almost a month after Australia.

At Paris-Nice, he put himself to work for new teammate Vincenzo Nibali after losing chunks of time in the early crosswind stages.

Highlight: Starting the season off right with overall victory in Australia.

Lowlight: Losing his Willunga Hill winning streak; Porte had taken the stage win there every year since 2014.

6. Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)

Tour Colombia 2020 - 3rd Edition - 5th stage Paipa - Zipaquira' 180.5 km - 13/02/2020 - Egan Bernal (COL - Team Ineos) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2020

Bernal on the attack at the 2020 Tour Colombia 2.1 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Best result: Winner in 2019

Overview: Bernal has had a good, but at the same time low-key start to 2020, similar to his early 2019 campaign. At the Colombian National Championships, he took third in the time trial and second in the road race (where he came back from a hairy crash), although he was some way off Daniel Martínez and Sergio Higuita, who won the two titles.

A few weeks later, he was fourth overall at the Tour Colombia 2.1, once against foiled by the EF Pro Cycling duo. The American team gained a race-winning gap in the opening team time trial before defending well and winning the two uphill finishes at the race.

Last time out, Bernal also finished fourth there, seemingly outclassed by a selection of fellow compatriots. He went on to win Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse, but this year his team withdrew from the former after the death of Nicolas Portal.

Highlight: Recovering from a crash to take second place at the Colombian Nationals, and winning the breakthrough prize at the Laureus Awards.

Lowlight: It's far removed from the other lowlights here, but nothing can compare to the recent loss of Nicolas Portal, Team Ineos' multiple Tour-winning directeur sportif. The Frenchman was in the car for Bernal's win last year and will be sadly missed.

7. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Best result: Sixth in 2017

Overview: It's a new start for the Irishman, and the opening signs have been positive so far, as he begins a new chapter of his career with Israel Start-Up Nation. 

Martin opened his campaign in Valencia, taking a couple of fourth places on the uphill finishes to cement fourth overall at the end of the week.

Next up was Algarve, where he was best of the rest behind Remco Evenepoel and Max Schachmann on the Fóia summit finish. A second-place finish behind López on Malhão saw him edge closer to victory, while the final-day time trial saw him slip out of podium contention. 

Still, after moving to a new squad, which has had half a roster transferred in, and getting quickly acquainted with his new teammates, along with some positive results on the road, is a good start to the season in anyone's book.

Highlight: Putting a tricky final season with UAE behind him, Martin has a number of good results in the bag, and says he's enjoying time with his new team.

Lowlight: He's been within sight of victory several times now, going from fourth to third to second, but Martin will keep looking for his first win since 2018.

8. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)

Best result: Third in 2014

Overview: Pinot made his long-awaited return to racing last month, resurfacing at the Tour de la Provence – the first action he's seen since tearfully withdrawing from the Tour de France last July due to injury.

The Frenchman has preached patience as he makes his way up to full speed but has put in some decent performances already this year. He took seventh at the Tour de la Provence, despite suffering from stomach problems, and was sixth at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var after two fourth places on the opening two stages of the race.

A debut at Paris-Nice – yep, he usually rides Tirreno-Adriatico – saw Pinot take fifth overall, with a solid third place on the queen stage the highlight of his week.

Highlight: Fifth in Paris-Nice, including a third place on the stage 7 summit finish.

Lowlight: Struggling with illness in Provence.

9. Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren)

Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)

Landa in action at Andalucía (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Best result: Fourth in 2017

Overview: Like Dan Martin, Landa is another rider who has made the leap to a team in the midst of a revamp. Landa has got his first campaign with Bahrain McLaren off to a solid start, even if he only has one race under his belt so far.

The Basque rider got his season under way at the Vuelta a Andalucía. He was up there throughout the race, taking second behind Jakob Fuglsang on day one in Grazalema, and then finishing fourth behind the Dane and Jack Haig on stage 4 in Granada.

Hopes of an overall victory faded on the final day time trial in Mijas – something of a recurring theme for Landa. He'll be happy that the Tour's only TT finishes atop La Planche des Belles Filles.

Highlight: A couple of strong results to start his year in Andalucía.

Lowlight: Being hit by a car in a hit-and-run incident in February.

10. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Best result: Fourth in 2019

Overview: The German got his 2020 season off to a flying start with a win in Spain but has been quiet since the Challenge Mallorca.

At the Trofeo Serra Tramuntana on the final day of January, Buchmann soloed to victory ahead of a sizeable chasing bunch – an impressive effort with Movistar working for Valverde behind.

Buchmann had attacked over the top of the final climb and flew down the descent to grab his fourth career victory. A day later, he was fourth at the Trofeo Pollença-Andratx, but has since had a quiet time, crashing on stage 3 at the UAE Tour before withdrawing the next day.

Highlight: That impressive solo win in Spain and the lightning fast descent that sealed it.

Lowlight: Missing out on the chance to contend with Yates and Pogačar on Jebel Hafeet due to his crash.

11. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)

Best result: 62nd in 2017

Overview: Chaves has only raced in his home country of Colombia so far, but has some solid results to take away from his time in South America. This year was the first time he had done so as a pro, coming away with fifth places at both races at the Colombian National Championships before taking seventh overall at the Tour Colombia 2.1.

It's not a lot to write home about but signals a positive start to the season after a tough two seasons battling, and then recovering from, Epstein-Barr syndrome. Chaves was set to get back to European racing in March, but that plan is, of course, now on hold.

Highlight: Some good results after spending the bulk of the last two seasons struggling with illness.

Lowlight: N/A

12. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

EL ONCE ALTO VERJN COLOMBIA FEBRUARY 16 Arrival Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck Quick Step during the 3rd Tour of Colombia 2020 Stage 6 a 1826km stage from Zipaquir to El Once Alto Verjn 3290m TourColombiaUCI TourColombia2020 on February 16 2020 in El Once Alto Verjn Colombia Photo by Maximiliano BlancoGetty Images

Julian Alaphilippe in good spirits in Colombia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Best result: Fifth in 2019

Overview: First of all, Alaphilippe has said that he's not planning to target the Tour GC this year, so let's get that out of the way first. Although he probably didn't head into July with any ambitions last year either.

The Frenchman has had a mixed start to the 2020 season, withdrawing from the Vuelta a San Juan after two days due to stomach issues and also suffering from the cold at the Faun-Ardèche Classic and the Royal Bernard Drôme Classics.

It hasn't all been bad, although third place on stage 4 at the Tour Colombia 2.1 and a couple of top fives at Paris-Nice are rather meagre highlights for a man who won from January to July last year. 

Alaphilippe did say, however, that he didn't feel great ahead of Paris-Nice, so it might be a bit longer until we see him back in 2019 form.

Highlight: An opening stage attack at Paris-Nice, resulting in fourth on the crosswind-hit stage.

Lowlight: The struggle for form, plus the illness setback in Argentina.

13. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo)

Best result: Sixth in 2013

Overview: Admittedly, we're somewhat grasping at straws by this point, with a clutch of riders who haven't had the most notable starts to the season. Mollema has three races under his belt thus far in 2020: the Volta ao Algarve, the Faun-Ardèche Classic, and the Royal Bernard Drôme Classic.

Algarve saw him take eighth overall after a quiet week alongside new teammate Vincenzo Nibali. The two French one-day races saw him record two DNFs. To be frank, there's not a lot to extrapolate from that, although his week in Portugal is a solid start to 2020.

Highlight: Beginning 2020 with some sun and a top 10 overall at the Volta ao Algarve. 

Lowlight: Failing to finish in France in rather less pleasant weather conditions.

14. Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos)

Best result: Winner in 2018

Overview: The 2018 Tour winner and runner-up last year enjoyed a quiet start to his season in the Algarve. He ended up in 21st place after the week of racing, having put himself at the service of his teammates rather than pursuing a third victory at the race.

Thomas' season is entirely built around July, so hopes of fireworks in Portugal would always be misplaced. At the end of the race he was pleased with how things were going, and now heads back to training ahead of a planned return to racing at the now-cancelled Tirreno-Adriatico. Like most other riders, he is doing his quality training on the home trainer.

Highlight: A low-key start to the season in Portugal.

Lowlight: As with Bernal, the loss of Portal will hit hard.

15. Chris Froome (Team Ineos)

Best result: Winner in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017

Overview: The four-time Tour winner takes our last spot on the list after his fightback from a long list of injuries sustained during a crash at last year's Critérium du Dauphiné. Froome returned to racing at the UAE Tour, eight months after the career-threatening spill.

The 34-year-old was 71st at the end of five days of racing, but, regardless of result, he was just pleased to be back racing. It's impossible to say whether he'll be back at the pointy end of the racing come the Tour de France, but for now he sits in the final place on our list.

Highlight: An emotional return to racing at the UAE Tour, where he said, "It felt good to just have a race number on, have my elbows out again, and be fighting in the bunch."

Lowlight: Understandably, the same as Bernal and Thomas.

Honourable mentions

Netherlands Tom Dumoulin C and Steven Kruiswijk L and Slovenias Primoz Roglic R attend the presentation of Team JumboVisma cycling team at the HEMA headquarters in Amsterdam on December 20 2019 Photo by Vincent JANNINK ANP AFP Netherlands OUT Photo by VINCENT JANNINKANPAFP via Getty Images

Kruijsijk, Dumoulin and Roglič at the Jumbo-Visma team presentation (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma): The Dutch answer to Team Ineos, though none of JumboVisma's big names managed to start their season before the coronavirus struck. Dumoulin has battled intestinal parasites while Roglič and Kruijswijk were set to get underway in March.

Enric Mas (Movistar): The Spanish powerhouse's new GC man has had a quiet start to life at the team, taking 20th at Andalucía.

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale): Set to take up the AG2R Tour leader mantle as Romain Bardet was set to target the now-postponed Giro, Latour kicked off 2020 with 30th at Etoile des Bessèges but was anonymous at Paris-Nice.

Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb): GC leader in the post-Dumoulin Sunweb squad, Oomen has two 17th places to his name, at Provence and Var.

Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling): The 2017 Tour runner-up worked in service of his teammates at the Tour Colombia 2.1. Those men – Sergio Higuita and Dani Martínez – have enjoyed great starts to the year, though they may be at Urán's service come the summer.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates): After two seasons lost to iliac artery problems and a virus late last year, Aru began his 2020 season in Colombia injury-free.

Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.