Preview: Your guide to the 2020 Tour de France contenders, sprinters and more
Well, it’s starting two months later than normal, and there’s a good argument to say it shouldn’t be happening at all, but here we are, just a few days out from the 2020 Tour de France. We’ve already given you a stage-by-stage breakdown of this year’s route; now it’s time to bring you up to speed on the contenders, other riders to watch, and how you can watch the race to begin with.
For a full breakdown of the 2020 Tour de France route, including notes on every stage and how they might play out, be sure to check out our detailed course preview. But here’s a quick summary:
The 2020 Tour de France is an Alps-heavy route with eight mountain-top finishes and one crucial mountain time trial. The Tour begins in Nice this Saturday August 29, takes a quick dip into the Alps, then runs west for a brief stint in the Pyrenees. That’s followed by a long slog across the middle of France, highlighted by an uphill finish at Puy Mary.
The last week bounces around in the Alps and leads into a time trial finishing on La Planche des Belles Filles for the penultimate stage. And then it’s on to Paris.
There’s only a single time trial this year: the 36.2 km stage 20 ITT (the race’s penultimate stage) which finishes with the nearly 6 km ascent up La Planche des Belles Filles.
The GC battle
While any rider can lose time on any stage for any reason, some days are more conducive to changes in the GC than others. Here are the six stages that we think will have the greatest impact in the race for yellow:
Stage 4: The first uphill finish. Not super long or difficult, but should create the first meaningful time gaps.
Stage 6: Mostly flat then a bunch of climbing in the last 50 km.
Stage 13: Possibly the hardest stage of the race. No hugely long climbs, but lots of climbing with an uphill finish.
Stage 15: First of the Alpine stages with the Grand Colombier to finish (17.4 km at 7.1%)
Stage 17: An incredibly steep, narrow, and nasty finish on a bike track!
Stage 20: The race’s only time trial and the final chance to create time gaps.
Again, if you’re looking for a detailed breakdown of every stage, we’ve got you covered.
The overall favourites
Before we consider the top favourites for the race overall, a quick note about the lead-in to this year’s Tour.
As we all know, 2020 has been anything but a normal year. The racing calendar has been turned upside down and riders haven’t had the same pre-Tour preparation that they normally would. The third week of a Grand Tour is always a bit of an unknown — who will cope best with the fatigue, who will fall by the wayside — but that’s doubly true in a year where riders haven’t had the volume or consistency of racing they normally would.
Just about anything could happen at this year’s Tour, especially in that tough final week, and the race is among the most open we’ve seen in years. Not only that but, as you’re about to read, so many of the big names crashed out of the Dauphine or left the race with an injury of some kind. Who knows what impact that will have.
With all that said, there are a few big favourites for the overall.
Egan Bernal (Ineos): The defending champion has as good a chance as any to win in 2020. He’s been great since the season restart, winning the Tour d’Occitanie (his first race back) and coming second at the Tour de l’Ain. He was sitting seventh overall at the Criterium du Dauphine before back pain forced him from the race.
Hopefully the 23-year-old Colombian has recovered in time for the Tour. Assuming he has, he’ll be very hard to beat. He should be among the best uphill, the time trial should suit him nicely, and he’s shown many times that he’s more than capable of finishing near the front on non-GC stages, in order to save time.
In true Ineos/Sky form, Bernal’s got a stellar team around him (even without Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas there). And let’s not forget that Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz will be on the squad too. He’s more than able to fill Bernal’s shoes if the Colombian isn’t at his best. The ever-impressive Pavel Sivakov is a more-than-handy backup too.
In short, Ineos has a great shot at winning its eighth Tour in nine years. But it won’t be without competition …
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): The Slovenian is likely to be Bernal’s biggest challenger for the overall. Like Bernal he’s shown great form this year: he dominated at the Tour de l’Ain, taking two stage wins, and then he won an uphill finish at the Dauphine.
Like Bernal though, Roglic didn’t finish the Dauphine, thanks to a crash on stage 4. Roglic’s partner told the media this week that the Jumbo-Visma leader crashed harder than first thought at the Dauphine and that his starting the Tour is still in question, despite Jumbo-Visma playing down the seriousness of the crash. Hopefully Roglic is fighting fit by the time the race starts.
Like Bernal, Roglic is excellent uphill, he’ll be very hard to beat in the time trial, plus he also has a strong kick which gives him an advantage at the end of long climbs, to snag those all-important time bonuses. And like Bernal, Roglic also has a great team around him. Even without Steven Kruijswijk there (also thanks to a Dauphine crash), Roglic has Tom Dumoulin, George Bennett, Sep Kuss and others to help in the mountains.
Note that like Carapaz for Ineos, Dumoulin is a Giro d’Italia winner and a Tour contender in his own right (he was second at the 2018 Tour don’t forget). There’s a bit of a question mark over Dumoulin’s form, given he’s only just returned after more than a year away from racing, but he’s certainly capable of riding into some form by the third week.
So, like Ineos, Jumbo-Visma has a great chance of winning the Tour. It will be interesting to watch Roglic in the third week. He was brilliant at last year’s Giro and led the race early before drifting to third overall by race’s end. He’s since won the Vuelta so hopefully that bodes well for his chances over three weeks.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ): If Roglic and Bernal are five-star favourites for overall victory, Pinot is somewhere around four stars. He was great at last year’s Tour, winning a stage and sitting fifth overall when a thigh injury forced him from the race. He’s had some promising results so far this year too: fifth at Paris-Nice, fourth at Route d’Occitanie, and then second at the Dauphine after being second best behind Roglic on the stage 2 summit finish.
Realistically, Pinot was probably lucky to finish second at the Dauphine, given Bernal and Roglic and others abandoned, which probably sums up his chances at the Tour. To win, absolutely everything will have to go his way which, historically, hasn’t happened for Pinot. It’s not hard to imagine the Frenchman repeating his third-place finish from 2014 though.
Other GC contenders
Just beyond the top favourites are a host of riders that should be vying for the top 10 (if not the podium). Here’s who you should keep an eye on.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates): It’s hard to know exactly what the Slovenian is capable of at this year’s Tour. There’s no doubt he’s an absolute prodigy — he was third at the Vuelta last year in his debut Grand Tour, winning three stages along the way. Not bad for a 20 year old. He also won the Volta a la Valenciana earlier this year, he was second at the UAE Tour, and he was fourth at the Dauphine.
But none of those races are the Tour de France. As phenomenally talented as Pogacar is, it would probably be a surprise to see him reach the podium. But then again, we would have said that before the Vuelta last year. Either way, expect to see Pogacar feature in some capacity. He’s an incredible talent.
Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic): A few years back Quintana would have been among the outright favourites but nowadays it’s harder to see him taking the top step. That’s especially true given that “severe pain” in his knee forced the Colombian from the Dauphine. Who knows whether he will have recovered fully in time.
Assuming he has, he should finish inside the top 10, if his form this season is anything to go by. He won the Tour de la Provence and Tour du Var, was sixth at Paris-Nice with a stage win, third at the Tour de l’Ain, and was sitting seventh at the Dauphine when he abandoned. A fit and in-form Quintana could well threaten the podium.
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren): This is Landa’s first Tour de France as outright leader of a team. He’s shown some good signs this year: third at Ruta del Sol and second at Vuelta a Burgos, but nothing that makes him stand out as a contender to win the thing overall.
Note that Landa was yet another rider to leave the Dauphine injured — back pain scuppered his chances of overall success and he ended up 18th. He’s reportedly recovered and should be fighting fit come Saturday.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana): Fifth at the Dauphine, third at the Volta ao Algarve: Lopez has been thereabouts this season, without truly excelling. This will be his debut Tour de France and while he’s finished third at the Giro and Vuelta in the past, he’ll likely find it tricky to snag a podium at the Tour this year.
Still, the 26-year-old Colombian is a very dangerous rider. Expect to see him in the top 10 and to be animating the race in the mountains.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale): The Frenchman is a three-time stage winner and has finished second and third overall in the past. Another podium finish would be a surprise this year, but the top 10 is a very plausible goal.
Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo): Porte’s often gone into the Tour with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. For years he was talked about as a potential winner (or at least podium finisher). He probably won’t have as much pressure this year.
For starters, he’s sharing leadership responsibilities with Bauke Mollema, who’s finished in the top 10 three times before. Plus, with so much focus on the Ineos vs Jumbo-Visma battle, Porte has had far less attention directed his way.
He’s been thereabouts this year: he won the Tour Down Under, was third at Tour du Var, then sixth at Route d’Occitanie after the restart, before 18th at Tour de l’Ain and 15th at the Dauphine. One of Porte or Mollema should be able to end up inside the top 10, but probably not both. The team has said it wants a stage win — its best chance might be for one of them to lose a bunch of time, then win a mountain stage from the breakaway (like Mollema did in 2017).
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe): Unfortunately Buchmann was yet another casualty at the Dauphine, crashing out in the same incident that felled Kruijswijk. Buchmann will start the Tour but his team has made it clear he’s not yet back at 100%.
The German was fourth overall last year. If he’s battling with his injuries from the Dauphine he won’t be able to replicate that, but hopefully he continues to recover as the race goes on. He’s certainly shown good form: he was sitting third at the Dauphine before he abandoned.
Daniel Martinez (EF Pro Cycling): Martinez won the Dauphine but won’t win the Tour. As Dane Cash noted, one-week racing isn’t three-week racing and, besides, the Colombian certainly benefited from Bernal, Kruijswijk and Roglic abandoning the race. Which is to take absolutely nothing away from Martinez — he was excellent at the Dauphine and there’s no reason he can’t push for a top 10 at the Tour.
In fact EF has three possible contenders in that regard. Sergio Higuita was third at Paris-Nice earlier this year, won the Tour Colombia, and was excellent in the Vuelta last year — his debut Grand Tour. And then there’s Rigo Uran. He was only 22nd at the Dauphine but don’t let a quiet run-in fool you — Uran was also mediocre in the lead-up to the 2017 Tour where he ended up finishing second overall.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Now 40 years old, Valverde finally seems to be slowing down a little. He hasn’t been at his brilliant best so far this year, but the top 10 isn’t beyond him. Fun fact: Valverde has seven top-10s at the Tour, from nine finishes, and 19 Grand Tour top 10s in total.
Keep an eye on Enric Mas too — it might be that Movistar is riding for him. He was second at the Vuelta in 2018 and while he hasn’t reached the same lofty heights since, he’s a very talented bike racer who can do great things on his day.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis): Martin has had a great lead-in with eighth at the Tour de l’Ain and third at the Dauphine thanks to some brilliant climbing. The Frenchman was 12th at last year’s Tour — a top 10 is within his reach this year.
By our reckoning there are eight or nine stages that could end in a bunch sprint at this year’s Tour: stages 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 and 11, maybe stage 14, and stages 19 and 21. That’s quite a few opportunities for the fastmen. And as usual at the Tour, there are quite a few of the world’s best sprinters in attendance. Here’s are some of the riders you should watch out for in the fast finishes.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal): On his debut last year Ewan was the race’s best sprinter and snagged three stages. Expect the Aussie to add to his tally in 2020. Just last week he won a stage of the Tour de Wallonie and was second in another, and he has a total of four wins for the year. Good signs.
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep): The Irishman has been one of the best sprinters in the world the past couple seasons. Like Ewan he has four wins for the year but unlike Ewan he hasn’t won a stage at the Tour before. Expect that to change in the next three weeks.
Elia Viviani (Cofidis): Since switching to Cofidis in January the Italian is yet to get his arms in the air. Changing teams usually means a period of adjustment for sprinters, and 2020 really hasn’t been conducive to that.
Viviani has a few second places for the year but he’ll hoping that everything falls together at the Tour. He’s clearly more than capable of a stage win if his team can get him in the right position.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): Remember stage 10 of last year’s Tour? Van Aert won a bunch sprint ahead of Viviani, Ewan, Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan, highlighting yet again just how versatile and talented he is. He’s even better in 2020.
The Strade Bianche winner will likely be riding for Roglic and Dumoulin in the mountains like he did brilliantly at the Dauphine, but like on stage 1 of the Dauphine, he’ll almost certainly get his own chances as well. It would probably be a surprise for him not to win a stage of some description, given how impressive he’s been in 2020.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): The three-time world champion hasn’t been at his insane best for a little while now but it would be zero surprise for him to win a stage (or stages) here. Of course he’ll almost certainly be battling for green, so he’ll likely be up there even if he’s not winning.
Matteo Trentin (CCC): The Italian is yet to win a race since joining CCC but is capable of doing so here. A proven winner on the big stage and a fast finisher, particularly in reduced bunch kicks where the pure sprinters have been dislodged by late climbs.
Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT): The newly minted Italian champion has had a great year. Stage wins at the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice, plus other top-fives bode well for a strong Tour de France performance. He hasn’t won at the Tour before but that could change this year.
The battle for green
The battle for the points jersey at the Tour de France has been Peter Sagan’s to lose since 2012. In that time he’s won the “maillot vert” a record seven times and he’s the massive favourite to extend that record this year.
Who can beat him? Well, Wout van Aert probably can. The question is whether he’ll be allowed to. It would be great for the race if Jumbo-Visma let Van Aert go for green. More likely Van Aert will ride for Roglic/Dumoulin most of the time, and target the odd stage win.
Beyond those two, it’s probably a sprinter that’s got the best shot. Ewan was second last year thanks to his three stage wins, with Viviani after him. Maybe Matteo Trentin is a chance? He’s got the sprint and the climbing ability to challenge Sagan, assuming he commits early and gives it 100%.
If Michael Matthews (Sunweb) was racing I’d be saying he’s a chance to challenge Sagan but, for reasons unknown, Sunweb decided to leave the in-form Aussie off its Tour squad. Strange.
The battle for polka dots
The KOM jersey is always a little harder to predict. The GC contenders tend to feature strongly, by virtue of being the best climbers, but normally its a breakaway specialist that ends up taking the polka dots.
Bardet won it in 2019 and if he thinks his GC chances are evaporating he might be convinced to target it again. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won it in 2018 and is a great chance of repeat success. He’s likely to be up the road a bunch anyway, searching for stage wins, and if he decides he wants that jersey, he’ll be hard to stop.
Other contenders include any of the GC men who had ambitions of a high overall placing but eventually fall by the wayside. Other candidates include the likes of Warren Barguil (winner in 2017) — a strong climber that is prepared to fight to be in the breakaway almost every day in the mountains.
The stage hunters
With eight or so stages for the sprinters, one time trial, and half a dozen important GC days, that leaves plenty of chances for the stage hunters and the opportunists. Here’s a few such riders we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep): The Frenchman almost single-handedly made last year’s Tour the most exciting in years. He won a stage solo, he won a time trial, he was second on the Col du Tourmalet ahead of most of the GC men — he was simply brilliant. Expect more entertainment this year – he’s capable of great things on almost every stage.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal): De Gendt is the premier breakaway rider in the peloton as exemplified by his masterful solo win at last year’s Tour. He can win in the mountains or on the more rolling days. Expect to see more quality social distancing from the Belgian hardman in the weeks ahead.
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep): The 25-year-old newly minted Danish champ loves going it alone and is very adept at doing so. Expect him to be on the move at some point.
The Mitchelton-Scott team: The Aussie team has declared that it is chasing stage wins in this year’s Tour rather than GC. Accordingly they bring a strong team of opportunists. Look to Adam Yates, Esteban Chaves, and Mikel Nieve to infiltrate breakaways on the mountain stages before setting off alone. Daryl Impey won a stage last year from the breakaway on a rolling stage and is one of the team’s best shots at glory this time around too.
Much of the Astana lineup: Miguel Angel Lopez will focus on GC for the team, but the outfit also has a bunch of great opportunists for days where GC support isn’t needed. New Spanish champion Luis Leon Sanchez, Alexey Lutsenko, Ion and Gorka Izagirre, Omar Fraile — these are all dangerous riders who can do great things.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC): The Belgian is yet to take a win in 2020 but has been close a bunch of times. He’s a versatile rider who can win in a reduced bunch sprint (see stage 13 of the 2015 Tour) and from a breakaway in the mountains (see stage 5 of the 2016 Tour).
Ilnur Zakarin (CCC): The Russian has done little this year, but the same was true before last year’s Giro where he won a stage in the mountains, solo. He can be very dangerous if he gets up the road on the alpine stages.
Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal): The Belgian veteran brings great form in, with a promising second place behind Arnaud Demare in a sprint finish at the Tour de Wallonie last week. Like his compatriot Van Avermaet, Gilbert can win a small-bunch sprint, or win solo from a break in the mountains. He hasn’t won a race since returning to Lotto-Soudal this year. What better place to do so than the Tour?
Davide Formolo (UAE-Team Emirates): The Italian took a stellar solo stage win at the Dauphine a few weeks back in what was confirmation of great form. A few weeks earlier he was second at Strade Bianche, with only a rampaging Wout van Aert able to beat him. Expect Formolo to be active on the hillier days and to try getting away solo, much like he did as a neo-pro back in 2015 to win a stage of his first Giro.
Say you aren’t able to watch every stage of the Tour, but you want to make sure you catch the most exciting ones. Which ones should you focus on? Here’s what we’d recommend:
Stage 4: The first uphill finish. Not super long or difficult, but should create the first meaningful time gaps.
Stage 6: Mostly flat then a bunch of climbing in the last 50 km. Finishes atop Mont Aigoual, made famous by Tim Krabbé’s seminal cycling novel, The Rider.
Stage 10: The possibility of strong crosswinds, including near the finish, mean you should probably tune in.
Stage 13: A very hard and lumpy day with a tough uphill finish.
Stage 15: Finishes with the Grand Colombier (17.4 km at 7.1%).
Stage 17: An incredibly steep, narrow, and nasty finish on a bike track!
Stage 20: The race’s only time trial and the place where the Tour will be decided.
How to watch the Tour
So how can you actually watch the Tour? Well, it depends where you are.
In the UK, ITV4 will have every stage live. Elsewhere in Europe, Eurosport is a great option. As ever, steephill.tv is a great resource for live broadcast info.
Which storylines are you most interested in following at this year’s Tour de France?