The Slovenian starts the Tour de France as a big favorite. One of the biggest opponents this year is invisible.
When the starting signal for the 109th Tour de France is fired in Copenhagen on Friday, it means: everyone against Tadej Pogacar! Anything but another overall victory for the 23-year-old Slovenian – the third in a row – would be a surprise. Even in this clarity, this statement is not exaggerated. Too light-footed, too untouchable presented itself on the last tour and also this year. The Slovenian took part in three tours – and won them all.
The exceptional talent most recently triumphed in the Tour of Slovenia. The five-day tour through his homeland is not a definitive indicator, but the biggest competitors were missing. But it was always a pointer to the shape of the top favorite.
And this shows: Pogacar is in great shape again. The all-rounder with strong climbing ability, which was also able to be at the forefront of the classics in spring, easily outperformed the competition in the decisive moments.
Always by Pogacar’s side: teammate Rafal Majka. The Pole will also play an important role in the Tour. However, in general, Team UAE Emirates has geared the squad fully towards its star. Strong climbers like Brandon McNulty, Marc Soler or George Bennett will work for the young Slovenian as well as the classic specialists Mikkel Bjerg and Marc Hirschi.
Jumbo-Visma is not the only danger
On the almost 3350 kilometers to Paris, Pogacar is also the big favorite because he is probably the most complete driver in the field. He can ride time trials, climbs and cobbles like the best specialists in each field. In a man-to-man duel, no one can match him at the moment.
The topic of Corona worries me a bit. I hope we stay in bubbles as much as possible.
Jumbo-Visma is also aware of this. That’s why the Dutch team, with Primoz Roglic and the Dane Jonas Vingegaard, sent a double lead into the race. In 2020, the Slovene, who was 9 years older than him, lost the tour on the penultimate day against his compatriot, last year he had to give up due to the consequences of a fall. With last year’s second Vingegaard at his side and an extremely strong team, Roglic will do everything to win the Tour this year.
Ineos Grenadiers even competes with a top three: Geraint Thomas, recent winner of the Tour de Suisse and 2018 winner of the Tour de France, Daniel Martinez and Adam Yates, who recently suffered from Corona, are on the overall ranking.
Pogacar is not only threatened by his hunters, who will be there if the favorite mishaps. With Corona there is also an invisible opponent. Pogacar experienced how great this danger is on Wednesday: Matteo Trentin had to be removed from the squad after a positive test. “The topic of Corona worries me a bit. I hope we stay in bubbles as much as possible,” said Pogacar: “But in general, a lot can happen in a tour.”
Two big absentees from QuickStep:
- Mark Cavendish: Number 35 will have to wait. The British superstar was hoping to set a record for stage wins and break away from Eddy Merckx, with whom he shares first place with 34 stage wins. But the 37-year-old is only intended by his team as a substitute, instead they rely on the Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen in the sprint.
- Julian Alaphilippe: The world champion stays at home. However, the Frenchman is not absent as involuntarily as his team-mate Cavendish. The 30-year-old had a bad fall in April and only made his comeback on Sunday. He simply lacks the form for the three-week tour ordeal.