26 June - 18 July
The 108th edition of La Grande Boucle kicks off in Brest (no) this Saturday!!! Has a bit of an old-school feel to it: almost exclusively in France this time; classics style stages/something for the sprinters but no real mountains in the first week; onto the alps in week 2; then on to Ventoux before heading to the Pyrenees, a 2nd time trial and the traditional 99% dull final stage to Paris.
Traditional powerhouse Slovenia again has the two most likely overall winners in Pogacar and Roglic. Pogacar in particular has looked very, very, good once again: 1st in Tirreno-Adriatico; UAE Tour; Tour of Slovenia; Liege-Bastogne-Liege and 3rd in Tour of the Basque Country. Frankly he disgraced himself with a pitiful 7th in Strade Bianchi.
The reigning champion is somehow still only 22.
Roglic hasn’t raced so much, but has still managed to defeat Poggles in the Basque Country; win paris nice and come 2nd at Fleche Wallone. Will last year’s amazing time trial defeat haunt him though? Guess we’ll find out…
Just found out he used to be a ski jumper??!
Ineos have decided to bring along half a team of GC contenders (on paper at least). Gee Thomas; Richard Carapaz; Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte. The first three are all Grand Tour winners, and Richie has just won the Criterium du Dauphine: Sky/Ineos riders have done the Dauphine/Tour double 5 times in the last 9 years. Movistar trident +1? Maybe, but as annoying as they are, Ineos tend to be a lot more disciplined than that, but with the time trial more important this year, they will look to support Thomas unless he struggles in the mountains.
Thomas and Porte to crash out by stage 10 then.
To be honest, can’t see any of the others realistically challenging for the yellow, but you never know…
Simon Yates is here, but having got a slightly disappointing 3rd at the Giro, has said he’s focussing on stage wins. Don’t tell Carton, but Uran is here too, fresh from nearly causing an upset and taking 2nd in Tour de Suisse. Nailed on for 7th overall.
SUPERMAN lopez. Mas and 118 year old Alejandro Valverde head up the much-feared Movistar trident: both could get a stage win or two, but won’t challenge the podium. We’ve also got perennial nearly-men Landa, Buchman, Woods, etc. Bored of this lot, lets talk about 3 of the best 4 cyclists in the world
Along with Pogacar and Rogacar, we have 3 of the other 5 riders who could reasonably claim to be the best cyclist in the world right now.
Alaphilippe, Van Aert and Van der Poel are all riding. It’s not impossible that any of them could end up sticking around in the GC conversation deep into the race (and Jala did finish 5th 2 years ago), but all should be challenging for stages at various points, possibly the green jersey, and most importantly, launching ridiculous attacks that might just work. Shame we don’t have Eggzy Bernie or Evenepoel to complete the set, but if we get the chance to see all three going head to head an any point we’re in for a treat.
CAV IS RACING!!! Sam Bennett unfortunately couldn’t make it, so Cav has got a chance to add to his frankly ridiculous 30 stages. It felt like he was probably done for good even a year ago, but he’s managed to beat most of the current best sprinters already this year, so it’s not impossible… Man, what a story that would be. Don’t write him off. Arnaud Demare will try to spoil the party, as will Ewan, Colbrelli, Merlier and of course, WVA.
Sagan (maybe WVA or MVDP or Trentin or Matthews but… it’s gonna be Sagan, isn’t it)
Pointless now so many riders are so good, so young. Need to do away with this
Again, cool jersey, but ultimately pointless innit. Lets hope Alaphilippe gets it.
Froomedog is gonna be smiling along in his new role of road captain for Israel Start Up Nation.
Stages not to miss
Stage 1 - Brest – Landerneau (197.8km, hilly)
Stage 2 - Perros-Guirec to Mûr-de-Bretagne Guerlédan (183.5km, hilly)
Two hilly stages in Britanny. Hopefully a bit of weather. Second stage has 2 goes up the mur-de-bretagne. Both for the puncheurs. Alaphilippe going for yellow? France will be expecting…
Stage 9 - Cluses - Tignes (145km, high mountains)
Second day in the alps, and probably the hardest. Takes in the Domancy, Saises, @harru favourite Roselend, before finishing at 2,113m in Tignes. One of very few mountain-top finishes this year. Should know who’s looking good after this one, but will still be a long time to go…
Stage 11 - Sorgues – Malaucène (199km, high mountains)
Double ascent of Mont Ventoux!!! Finishes with a descent after the second time up, which could be absolutely terrifying if someone launches an attack near the top…
Stage 17: Muret – Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet (178km, high mountains)
Ah, the Pyrenees. The thinking persons The Alps. Today takes in the peyresourde and the Portet. Gradient is all over the shop on the final climb: could well be the key day in the GC unless everyone is saving themselves for…
Stage 18: Pau – Luz Ardiden (130km, high mountains)
Tourmalet day! Then a long descent on to Luz-Ardiden. Lots of switchbacks. Should be v. pretty. Not so much for the riders.
Stage 20: Libourne - Saint Emillon (30.8km, ITT)
Penultimate day, final chance for the GC contenders. This is quite a long one. Could be crucial. Could Poggles overhaul Roggles again…?