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September 15, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos, Kristof Ramon, Gruber Images
As the final week of the 2020 Tour de France is about to get underway, we’ve been pondering some of the big questions that have emerged over the course of the race. There’s been quite a few such storylines during a Tour that has featured no shortage of compelling storylines.
For the first time in years, Ineos has faltered in cycling’s biggest race. Jumbo-Visma has established itself as the team to beat this year, but a Tour debutant is sitting second overall, and some familiar names are in with a shot at finishing on the final podium.
With so much to talk about and so much action ahead, we took some time to gather our thoughts on three key topics of this year’s race. We hope you’ll find some insight here—and just as importantly, we hope you’ll share your own in the comments below.
Can Tadej Pogacar overhaul Primoz Roglic in the final week? Should Ineos have brought Geraint Thomas to this Tour? Can Richie Porte end up on the final podium?
What do you think?
Caley Fretz, editor-in-chief: I think he could, using time bonuses. He’s outkicked Roglic repeatedly. However, Jumbo is likely to let breaks go all week and his UAE team is not strong enough to hold everything together, so that tactic is unlikely to work.
Without those bonuses, I don’t see him taking any significant real-time gains on Roglic. The TT should be close between the two of them. Roglic should carry yellow to Paris.
Matt de Neef, managing editor: It’s certainly possible. Remember stage 8, the day Pogacar got away from his GC rivals to get back time he’d lost in the crosswinds a day earlier? He finished 40 seconds ahead of Roglic that day – the exact margin that separates them now.
Pogacar will likely need to do something similar again if he’s to win the Tour. I’ve got him finishing just ahead of Roglic in the stage 20 ITT but not 40 seconds. For me, Roglic is still the massive favorite — I give Pogacar about a 35% chance to overhaul Roglic from here.
Dane Cash, news editor: It’s improbable, but possible. The last week of this Tour is very hard, but I see stage 17 as the only really obvious day for a big change in the standings. The other days will likely see Jumbo-Visma whittling away at the GC hopefuls, but I’d be surprised to see Pogacar put any big time into Roglic anywhere other than the massive summit finish at the Col de la Loze.
That said, Pogacar might have the explosiveness and the form to really make a difference on stage 17 — if he risks it. That’s the other big factor here. Right now, it looks like Pogacar has a firm grip on second overall in his debut Tour, which is something special, and he may not want to risk that by going all in for yellow. For the sake of the race, he will hopefully decide to go on the attack anyway.
Caley Fretz, editor-in-chief: Hindsight is 20/20, so though it’s easy to second guess now that Thomas is riding well at Tirreno, I wouldn’t have taken him either given what we knew at the start of the Tour.
He said he didn’t want to play a support role, and you simply can’t bring a rider with that attitude when you already have the defending champion. Plus he didn’t look capable of winning much of anything in mid-August.
Matt de Neef, managing editor: It’s easy to say in hindsight but yes, probably. Thomas showed some promising form at Tirreno-Adriatico to finish second overall so while he was average at the Critérium du Dauphiné, perhaps he would have worked into some good form by the third week of the Tour. Would he have been good enough to stay with the Slovenians?
It’s impossible to know, of course, but with Bernal off his best, and Richard Carapaz also not firing, it wouldn’t have hurt to have Thomas there. All will be forgiven if he wins the Giro though …
Dane Cash, news editor: It’s hard to say from the outside looking in. To me, this comes down to whether Richard Carapaz showed any signs of being off his best in the run-up to the Tour. At the time, it seemed like a smart decision to switch Carapaz in for Thomas as Ineos’s second option, but we now know that the reigning Giro d’Italia champ is not in peak form, while Thomas wasn’t as far off as his Dauphiné performance suggested.
If there was any indication that that might be the case, Ineos probably should have stuck to the original plan of taking Thomas to France and sending Carapaz to Italy, because it’s a pretty big challenge for a rider to suddenly change plans and race a Grand Tour one month earlier than expected. It’s also worth noting that Thomas probably could have helped his own case for Tour selection if he had expressed more willingness to be a secondary option.
Caley Fretz, editor-in-chief: Absolutely. If the altitude doesn’t get to him, he should be consistent through the week and he’ll beat most of his rivals in the final time trial.
Porte just needs to stay upright, well-fed, and calm.
Matt de Neef, managing editor: I’m not a superstitious person but boy this whole discussion feels like it has the potential to jinx Porte. He’s currently sixth, 39 seconds off the podium. If everything goes right for him between now and Paris, he should be able to finish third.
He’ll need to keep taking seconds over Rigoberto Urán (third), Miguel Ángel López (fourth) and Adam Yates (fifth) wherever he can. He showed on stage 15 he can do that, it’s just a matter of doing it a few times more. And then there’s the stage 20 ITT — that’s what will really decide it. I’ve got Porte finishing ahead of Urán, López and Yates there, but it will be tight. On balance, I’d say Porte’s about a 50% chance to finish on the podium.
Dane Cash, news editor: Yes. Say what you will about his Grand Tour record but Richie Porte is one of the best one-week racers of this millennium, and he only needs to keep up the good work for one more week at this Tour.
He does have ground to cover to the riders in front of him, but Porte has looked good enough recently that he should be able to make that up over the next few days. The stage 20 time trial will be a real opportunity for him to shine over the other riders who are in contention for the third spot on the podium. If he can stay upright, Porte’s talent should put him inside the final top three.
So that’s how we feel about things. What about you? Let us know in the comments …