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Previewing the 2020 Tour de France

By Wes Reynolds  (VSiN.com) 

The Tour de France is ordinarily a July staple on the sports calendar, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to August where it starts this Saturday and runs through September 20th.

This will be the first time the Tour hasn't been held in July since World War II, and the 2020 Tour route will not extend outside of France due to governmental restrictions. Over 10 million fans usually attend the three-week event but France currently has a ban on gatherings of over 5,000 people. On Saturday, the Grand Départ will begin the event in Nice and the race will conclude as usual down the Champs-Élysées in Paris for the 21st and final stage.

 

The early favorite for the race was 23 year-old Colombian Egan Bernal (5-2), as he won the 2019 edition. However, British-based Team Ineos has changed plans and Bernal will have to try and repeat without the support of Brits Chris Froome (2013, 2015-17 winner) and Geraint Thomas (2018 winner) as they were both left off the TDF roster. Bernal had to withdraw after Stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné two weeks ago with a back injury. The initial plan was to have the winners of the last five TDF races function as a trio of leaders, but now most of the eggs are in Bernal's basket so Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz (12-1) and Costa Rican Andrey Amador, beasts in the mountain stages, will function as Bernal's chief lieutenants. 

The outright favorite is now Slovenian rider Primož Roglič (2-1), who rides for Dutch team Jumbo Visma. He has won a couple TDF stages in 2017 and 2018 and is the reigning champion of the Vuelta a España. Teammate and Dutch native Tom Dumoulin (6-1) is a multiple stage winner at both the TDF and the Vuelta and was the 2017 Giro d'Italia champion. Arguably the best American hope in this year's Tour is 25 year-old Sepp Kuss (40-1), who hails from Durango, CO and also rides for Jumbo Visma. He won the final stage at Dauphiné two weeks ago and finished 10th in the final classification. 

A Frenchman has not won his home race since Bernard Hinault in 1985, but that could change this year as Thibaut Pinot (6-1) is a bona fide contender. Pinot has won stages in all three Grand Tour events (TDF, Giro and Vuelta). Like most of the top riders, he's been battling some injuries (back) but he fought on to finish second at Dauphiné two weeks ago. The other podium finishers at Dauphiné include Colombian winner Daniel Martinez (40-1) and third-place finisher Frenchman Guillaume Martin (80-1). 

A couple of potential sleepers to be wearing the yellow jersey after the final stage:

 

  • The 21 year-old Slovenian Tadej Pogačar (12-1), a three-stage winner at last year's Vuelta who finished third overall
  • Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (20-1), who won the mountains classification at the TDF two years ago and classified fifth overall in the '19 TDF
  • Colombian Nairo Quintana, who won the Tour de la Provence, the Tour du Var and the Stage 7 summit finish at Paris-Nice and was eighth in overall classification here last year.

Ordinarily, the Crit event in Dauphiné is an accurate predictor of what we would see in the Tour de France but many of the top contenders failed to even finish the race due to crashes, injuries or lack of racing form. This likely means the only predictable thing about the 2020 Tour de France is its unpredictability, which provides some potential value to take shots down the board although the two favorites, Roglič and Bernal, are seeing the bulk of minimal action thus far. 

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