Preview: Your guide to the 2022 Tour de France GC contenders, sprinters, and more
Here are the riders we expect to shine at the 109th edition of the world's biggest bike race.
Here are the riders we expect to shine at the 109th edition of the world's biggest bike race.
It’s that time of year again. Time for the biggest race of them all: the Tour de France. As we gear up for the 109th edition of La Grande Boucle – which starts on Friday July 1 in Copenhagen – let’s talk about the contenders for the race overall, the sprinters, and other riders you’ll want to keep an eye on.
If you haven’t already, be sure to have a read of our stage-by-stage breakdown of the 2022 Tour de France route too, which includes our thoughts about who might win each stage.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s who we rate as the top favourites for the 2022 Tour de France. Read on for more about each of these riders.
⭐⭐⭐⭐: Roglič, Vingegaard
⭐⭐⭐: Thomas, Martínez, Vlasov
⭐⭐: O’Connor, Haig, Quintana
⭐: Caruso, Bardet, Mas, Fuglsang
At the time of writing, we’re yet to see confirmed rosters for all 22 teams on the startlist. If there are any substantial changes that affect what we’ve written below, we’ll update this preview.
One further caveat before we begin: as we saw at the recent Tour de Suisse, COVID is still very much a factor in professional bike racing. Unfortunately, there’s every chance COVID will have an impact on this year’s Tour and any rider could be forced to head home at any moment. Let’s hope the race isn’t shaped by COVID positives like the Tour de Suisse was.
Chief among the favourites for this year’s Tour is the winner of the past two editions and the best stage racer on the planet right now: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Just 23 years old, Pogačar has done three stage races this year (UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour of Slovenia), and he’s won them all, taking two stages at each along the way. So he comes in with terrific form.
He’s a brilliant climber, wonderful against the clock, he’s got a handy sprint for picking up bonus seconds against his GC rivals, and he’s more than happy to go on the attack when he feels it’s of benefit.
Pogačar’s also got a strong team around him. Rafał Majka comes in with terrific form after two stage wins at the Tour of Slovenia, and Brandon McNulty and George Bennett are both super-strong lieutenants.
It’s a pretty simple equation really. If Pogačar rides to the best of his ability, and stays out of trouble throughout the three weeks, he should win a third-straight Tour.
Pogačar’s greatest challenge will almost certainly come from the might of Jumbo-Visma, which brings two big threats for the race overall.
Primož Roglič is the more-decorated of the team’s contenders, having won the Vuelta a España three times, and finished on the podium at the Tour back in 2020 (behind Pogačar). This year he’s won Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine, putting him in great stead ahead of the Tour. And yet he’ll start in the shadow of his fellow Slovenian.
Roglič is probably the better time-trialist on flatter courses, but in the mountains Pogačar probably has his number. Roglič at his best (and without any crashes like last year) will challenge Pogačar all the way to Paris.
And if he can’t, well Jumbo-Visma still has the guy who finished second behind Pogačar in last year’s Tour: Jonas Vingegaard. The Dane stepped up wonderfully after Roglič’s exit last year and he’s only gotten stronger since then. He finished second behind Roglič at the Dauphine this month (but arguably looked better uphill than Roglič) and was second at Tirreno behind Pogačar, among other strong results. Vingegaard’s climbing is his strong suit, and as he showed at last year’s Tour, he can match it with Pogačar on his day.
It will be intriguing to see how Jumbo-Visma deploys its resources during the race. It has a wonderful team in support of Roglič and Vingegaard, not least Steven Kruijswijk, and Sepp Kuss. Jumbo-Visma dominated the recent Dauphine and as noted in a recent episode of the CyclingTips Podcast, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it means Pogačar is set to have a real fight on his hands.
On paper, there’s a bit of a step down from the leaders of UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma to the race’s other GC contenders, but there are a lot of riders at the Tour with overall ambitions.
The Ineos Grenadiers are set to start the Tour with three GC leaders in 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, the ever-improving Colombian Dani Martínez, and former white jersey winner Adam Yates.
Thomas has had a slow build-up into this season but he did win the Tour de Suisse off the back of a strong time trial which bodes well. Martínez won Itzulia Basque Country earlier this season, and in his three other stage races he finished third, third, and eighth. He was also top five at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne and eighth at Tour de Suisse in what has been the best season of his career so far.
Yates comes to the Tour after a winless season so far, and after leaving Tour de Suisse with COVID. In that sense it hasn’t been the ideal lead-up, but Yates does have two GC top-10s at the Tour to his name, so he shouldn’t be written off.
As with Jumbo-Visma, it’s going to be interesting to see how Ineos uses its GC leaders over the three weeks. On paper none of the three is strong enough to beat Pogačar (or indeed Roglič and Vingegaard) but races aren’t run on paper, and with the spectre of COVID looming over the Tour, who really knows what’s going to happen?
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) continues to rise through the stage racing ranks and was leading the Tour de Suisse when he was forced to abandon the race with COVID. Before that he won the Tour de Romandie where he claimed a stage win, he was third at Flèche Wallonne, and he also finished third overall at Itzulia.
Assuming the Russian has recovered from COVID we can expect to see him riding with the best GC contenders at the Tour. A top five overall is more than possible, and the podium is a possibility.
Romain Bardet is enjoying something of a mid-to-late career renaissance after moving to DSM and should come to the Tour with ambitions of having an impact. He was sitting fourth overall at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year when he was forced to abandon due to illness, and he won the Tour of the Alps just before that.
It’s not yet clear whether Bardet will be focussing on GC or stage wins in his home Grand Tour, but he should be in the mix either way. Top five overall is a realistic target.
Speaking of riders who should be aiming for the top five overall, Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) returns to the Tour after a breakout fourth place overall last year off the back of a wonderful stage win. The West Australian has had a very solid run-in, snagging top-seven finishes overall at the Ruta del Sol, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie, and most recently, at the Dauphine where he was third behind the Jumbo-Visma duo of Roglič and Vingegaard.
All going well, O’Connor could well finish top five again. And if his GC plans don’t unfold as he would like, he can easily switch to stage-hunting mode and be a real chance of another stage victory in the mountains of the second and third week.
Another Australian that comes to the race with high hopes is Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious). Like O’Connor, Haig has had a string of strong stage-race results this year: sixth at Paris-Nice and Ruta del Sol, and fifth at the Dauphine. And let’s not forget he was third overall at the Vuelta last season.
Haig has unfinished business at the Tour. He was well placed in the early stages last year before crashing out. He wants a strong result at this race and with a bit of luck, the top five is very possible.
It’s worth mentioning that Bahrain Victorious will also have Damiano Caruso at the Tour. The Italian veteran was second overall at the Giro last year and has had a great season so far: seventh at Tirreno, victory at the Giro di Sicilia, sixth at the Tour de Romandie, and fourth at the Dauphine (just ahead of Haig). Two genuine leaders for Bahrain Victorious?
It’s been several years since Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) was at his very best, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. This season he won the Tour de la Provence and the Tour des Alpes, and was fifth at Paris-Nice, fourth at the Volta a Catalunya, and seventh at Route d’Occitanie. Clearly he’s still doing something right.
The question will be: which version of Quintana will we get at this year’s Tour? If he’s in good form, as he seems to be, he could be among the race’s best climbers. If not, he could sail through the race anonymously. Let’s hope for our sake it’s more of the former.
It’s not 100% clear where France’s tragic hero, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), will direct his energies at this year’s Tour. He could be having another tilt at the GC, or perhaps stage wins and the KOM classification could be of more interest.
There’s a good argument to suggest he should just focus on stage wins and the polka dot jersey. Stage hunting has worked well for him this season, with stage wins at the Tour de Suisse and the Tour of the Alps.
It’s worth noting that Groupama-FDJ has quite a strong team for the mountains, with Dauphine and Volta a Algarve stage winner David Gaudu and two-time 2021 Vuelta stage winner Michael Storer on board. Expect the team to come away from the Tour with at least one stage win.
Enric Mas (Movistar) hasn’t had a spectacular year so far (his best stage race result was fourth at the Volta a la Valenciana) but the Spaniard shouldn’t be written off. He was fifth and sixth overall the past two years, and if he brings good form into the race, a similar result is very possible. He abandoned the Dauphine after a crash so here’s hoping he’s fit and healthy by the time the Tour starts.
For other riders targeting the GC fight, keep an eye on Colombian fan favourite Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-EasyPost), who’s had an average season so far but knows how to turn up to a big race in good form, and philosopher-vampire-cyclist Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), who was eighth overall last year and could well feature inside the top 10 again.
Being the biggest race on the planet, it’s no surprise the Tour boasts the strongest sprint field of any race this year.
It’s difficult to pick a single favourite for the flat stages, but if we had to, it would probably be Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). With 10 wins for the year, the Dutchman has the equal most victories of any male rider in the world (alongside Pogačar) and a stage win at the recent Baloise Belgium Tour sets him up nicely coming into the Tour.
The 25-year-old is yet to win a stage at the Tour, but that should change in the next few weeks.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) had hopes of winning at the Giro d’Italia before doing the same at the Tour, but he had what he described as a “Giro from hell” and left early without adding to his palmares. He has five wins at the Tour and in all likelihood will add to that tally this time around. But he is without key lead-out man Jasper De Buyst who hasn’t been able to recover from a hip fracture in time for the Tour. That could hamper Ewan’s chances somewhat.
It feels slightly strange listing Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) among the sprinters given he’s so much more than that. Who could forget his Tour last year: a stage win each on a massive mountain stage, in a time trial, and in the Champs-Élysées sprint? Incredible.
Van Aert comes into the Tour with imperious form once again: two stage wins and the points classification at the recent Dauphine among five stage wins for the year in just 22 race days.
Perhaps most exciting for us watching is that Van Aert seems to have the all-clear to go for the green jersey this year. Which means we should see lots of Van Aert this Tour, not just contesting stage wins, but getting up the road in the mountains to snag points. If he does indeed go for green, he’s the hot favourite to win it.
One thing to note about Van Aert: he missed the Belgian Nationals last weekend after injuring his knee at a training camp the week before. Thankfully, it seems like he’s right to go for the Tour. Hopefully he’s not hampered in any way.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) continues to rise through the sprinting ranks and has four wins to his name in 2022. One of those wins came at the recent Baloise Belgium Tour (where he snagged two other podiums) so he has every right to feel like a debut Tour stage win is on the cards.
Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) has five wins for the year but they’re all at smaller races. That said, the Dutchman is a proven winner at the Tour (four stage wins so far) so don’t be surprised to see him right in amongst it.
Note that BikeExchange-Jayco also brings Michael Matthews to the race. The Australian is another fast-finisher, but will likely get his chances on the tougher finishes. Matthews won the points jersey in 2017 and was second last year. Could he go for it again this year? We’d love to see it.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has had some wonderful moments this season, with six wins for the year, including a victory at Paris-Nice, two at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, plus a stage and the points classification at the recent Baloise Belgium Tour. The former world champ might fancy his chances on the lumpier days that end with a reduced bunch sprint, but he’s a formidable rider in any sprint finish.
Speaking of formidable riders, how about Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)? Like Van Aert, the Dutchman is so much more than a pure sprinter, but he can certainly be in the mix in the bunch kicks too. As with the likes of Matthews and Pedersen, Van der Poel will likely fancy his chances on the tougher days … not to mention on the cobbles on stage 5.
It’d be great to see Van der Poel target the green jersey – head to head battle with Van Aert anyone? – but that seems highly unlikely at this point. Van der Poel seems more interested in stage wins.
Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) has shown several flashes of brilliance this year, not least his win at Scheldeprijs. In some ways it’s easy to overlook Kristoff, but do so at your peril – the Stavanger Stallion has a knack of peaking very well for the biggest races. A stage win is well within his range.
And then there’s Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies). Before this month, Sagan had had a pretty ordinary few seasons, but at the Tour de Suisse he managed his first WorldTour win in over a year. He then tested positive to COVID for a third time in 18 months.
Assuming Sagan has recovered in time, and assuming his Suisse win was a sign of improving form, we could see the Slovakian at the fore in yet another Tour de France. He already has the record for the most green jerseys with seven, and while it seems unlikely he’ll add to that this year, you just never know. Either way, let’s hope Sagan is fighting fit for the Tour – a healthy Sagan is good for the race and for cycling full stop.
For other riders that could be in the mix in the bunch sprints, consider the likes of Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Giro stage winner Alberto Dainese (DSM).
We’ve looked at the GC contenders and the sprint favourites, but there are many others on the startlist who will likely impact the Tour in a meaningful way. Here’s are some of the riders we’ll be keeping an eye out for.
The Trek-Segafredo duo of Bauke Mollema and Guilio Ciccone are worth watching. Both will likely be riding in search of stage wins at this Tour, something both riders do with great distinction.
Mollema won a stage at last year’s Tour and was on the move plenty at the Giro. And Ciccone won a stage of the Giro in May but is yet to win at the Tour (but did lead the race for a day in 2019). You’d have to imagine one of them will win a stage over the next few weeks.
Another rider we can expect to star from the breakaway in the mountains is Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), a stage winner in 2020 and at the recent Giro d’Italia. He’ll likely have to split his time between riding for Vlasov and targeting stage wins, and is more than capable of doing both.
Four-time Tour winner Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) is set to start the Tour and while there are no expectations of him winning a stage, let alone challenging on GC, it would be great to see him competitive again.
Froome will probably be riding in the service of Michael Woods or Jakob Fuglsang. Woods just won the Route d’Occitanie with an uphill stage win, which is a great sign ahead of the Tour. Woods could target GC, or maybe he’ll focus on stage wins. The latter seems his best chance of having a meaningful impact, but he’s one to watch either way.
Fuglsang, meanwhile, was third overall at the Tour de Suisse and maybe seems more likely to fight for a high GC placing than stage wins, but who knows how it will shake out.
Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) won two stages last year (both solo from the breakaway) and is just as likely to win again as any other opportunist on the startlist. He was second on a stage at the recent Tour of Slovenia (losing in a two-up sprint to Pogačar) so he’s got some decent form coming in.
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) seems to have recovered from a bout of COVID and assuming he starts the race as planned, he’ll definitely be worth your attention. The young Brit is one of the most versatile and capable riders in the bunch, and well able to snag a stage win if he plays his cards right.
Speaking of Ineos, time trial world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) will be among the favourites to win the stage 1 ITT in Copenhagen and don the first maillot jaune.
Keep an eye on Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) in the opening TT too. Fast against the clock, the Dane would love to wear the first yellow jersey on home soil.
For other stage hunters worth a look, consider Matteo Trentin and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).
Who do you think will win the 2022 Tour de France? And which other riders are you most looking forward to watching?