5 riders who stepped it up at the 2020 Tour de France
Now that the dust has settled on the 2020 Tour de France, we can look back on some of the performances that really stood out from the race.
One thing that struck us about this year’s Tour was the way so many up-and-comers and budding stars seemed to take that next big step. For the second straight year, the white jersey and the yellow jersey went to the same person. More than half of the stages at this year’s Tour went to riders 26 or younger.
Here are five riders who really stepped it up at this year’s Tour.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates)
I know, Captain Obvious reporting for duty, but it’s worth breaking down just what it was, exactly, that put Pogacar over the top in his debut Tour de France.
He may not have been quite as heavily favored ahead of the race as Primoz Roglic and Egan Bernal, but Pogacar was in the strong second tier of pre-Tour favorites because his climbing talents were already known around the peloton. He soared to three stage wins and third overall at last year’s Vuelta a España for a reason.
That said, there were still plenty of unknowns for Pogacar coming into 2020. After all, we just didn’t have much data to go on for the 21-year-old Slovenian with only one Grand Tour under his belt. Time trials and consistency were still questions marks. Obviously, he answered those question emphatically, staying strong from the first week into the third in France and ending on a particularly high note with a stellar time trial that essentially won him the race.
Pogacar will be more of a marked man from here on out, but the climbing legs and big engine that earned him three stages and the overall win this year should keep him battling for Tour wins for a while.
Marc Hirschi (Sunweb)
Not all under-23 world champions develop into big-time stars, but Marc Hirschi seems as likely as any to do so. He had already nabbed some results last year, his first WorldTour season, that suggested that his abilities could translate to the pro level, and his consistent contention for Tour stage wins was another sign that the Swiss up-and-comer is already a rider worth watching.
Hirschi finished second out of a late attack on stage 2 and third after being caught by an elite GC group on stage 9 before he took an impressive solo win on stage 12. On each occasion, he showed great instincts for getting into the decisive move and the engine to hold on out front, particularly on stage 12 where no one even came close to catching him after he launched clear from the break.
With great climbing legs to go with that engine and those instincts, Hirschi looks like a good bet to continue to thrive as he gets more experience in both one-day races and stage races to come.
Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb)
Sticking with Sunweb, Soren Kragh Andersen was another member of the squad with a strong under-23 pedigree who stepped it up big time at this year’s Tour.
It’s taken perhaps a bit longer than Kragh Andersen might have hoped after he won two stages at the Tour de l’Avenir in 2015, but the 26-year-old Dane sure looks good now. Starting his year off strong with a podium performance at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a TT stage win at Paris-Nice, Kragh Andersen hinted at his Tour form with a third-place finish on stage 12 and then backed that up with two impressive wins on stages 14 and 19.
The way he soloed clear on both occasions, leaving behind a particularly impressive group of Classics talents in the latter stage, Kragh Andersen seems to have taken that next step forward as a pro. Sunweb sees him as a worthy featured rider for the one-day races, and the kind of explosiveness and tactical nous that he’ll need to put in a winning attack at the Tour of Flanders was on display in France.
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Moving from two Sunweb riders to one who left the team at the end of last year, Lennard Kämna has had a great first season with Bora-Hansgrohe. After he won a stage and finished eighth at the Critérium du Dauphiné, it was hardly a secret that the promising German was in good form, but that didn’t keep him from coming close to a win on stage 13 of the Tour and then nabbing the victory on stage 16.
Kämna showed on both occasions that he is a great climber with a bright future. Sometimes, you will see a Grand Tour breakaway without too many big names in it fighting for a stage win, but Kämna was second only to Dauphiné winner Daniel Martínez on stage 13 and dropped Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz on his way to the stage 16 win.
Known to be a capable time trialist as well, Kämna showed the kind of talent at this year’s Tour that could translate into GC success in the future.
Enric Mas (Movistar)
You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but Enric Mas rode to fifth overall at the 2020 Tour de France, gradually working his way up the GC standings and putting in a particularly strong final week.
After riding to runner-up honors at the 2018 Vuelta a España, Mas seemed destined for big things, but his 22nd overall finish at last year’s Tour wasn’t much to write home about, and left some wondering whether he could really perform on the biggest stage. Movistar signed him over the offseason to be a new leader in the Grand Tours, and after a slow start, he delivered a fine result in his second Tour appearance.
This race seemed like a case of working-your-way-into-form for Mas, who lagged behind a bit on the early climbs but was fifth on the Grand Colombier and sixth on the Col de la Loze. He capped off his Tour with a strong ride to ninth in the TT, just like he did in last year’s TT. Already a well-rounded rider at age 25, Mas could prove to be a great investment for Movistar moving forward.
Who else impressed you at this year’s Tour de France?