By Max Anders
Like so many other sporting events, this year’s staging of the Tour De France has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and although at one point it looked as if cycling’s greatest spectacle would not be held in 2020, thankfully the show is set to go on.
A show that gets underway on August 29th – more than two months later than originally planned, as 176 of the world’s greatest pedal pushers will aim to reach the final stop in Paris, just three weeks later.
A route that gets underway without the usual opening day prologue time trial and instead the first of two stages to be contained within the city of Nice, will act as the catalyst for a schedule that consists of 3,470 total kilometres.
22 teams will embark on this year’s tour and as always, the focus will be mainly on the Ineos outfit and when you consider that under their current and former guise, they have won seven of the last eight editions of the Tour De France, you can understand why.
The bulk of this team’s success has come under the branding of UK media giant Sky and with Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company taking on the sponsorship rights last season, it was a debut win for Ineos in 2019.
According to SBR, the favourite to win the competition is once again Egan Bernal after beating 2018 winner, Geraint Thomas.
A win that came courtesy of Colombian Egan Bernal and after beating 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and teammate to the top step of the Paris podium, he is once again favoured.
Much has been made of whether Ineos’ (and Sky before them) dominance of this event is healthy for the event and although critics will argue that success elsewhere would be beneficial, there is no doubt that this team have been the gold standard in the sport as of late.
Which means it is up to the other 21 teams to create a winning strategy of their own and if that is to be the case, then it is going to need something special from the likes of Jumbo-Visma and their main man Primoz Roglic.
If anyone can get close to Bernal, it is he and after impressing in the Tour de l’Ain with two stage wins in three days, the bookmakers have him priced as the current second favorite to win the 2020 Tour De France.
Could this be the year in which a state of overall disruption sees Ineos’ efforts bested? We won’t know the answer to that until September, but if that is to be the case the Slovenian Roglic looks well placed to finally break such a stranglehold.
Since the cycle hibernation has ended and rubber has met tarmac again, Roglic has been imperious and with the 2019 Vuelta crown also in his possession, he already has the experience required to win a Grand Tour.
An experience that should set him in good stead for September and if he can carry that form over from Spain and continue his recent impressive performances, Egan Bernal will have an even sterner challenge than last year.
The argument this year, as it has always been, is one that suggests that each team is better off having a primary candidate and everyone else within the squad knows their role and more importantly, plays it well. In this context, the non-inclusion of Thomas and Froome in Team Ineos is understandable.
Froome, who is Britain’s most successful entrant in the event, has announced he will be moving to Israeli backed outfit Start-Up Nation in 2021 and with doubts over his form and lingering injuries, he has not be given the chance of an ideal Tour De France send off.
Something that when you consider he has won this event on four previous occasions, seems rather harsh. Then again, time waits for no man and especially when it comes to something as gruelling a challenge as this.
Which means, Froome’s time could be done and dusted for Ineos and a new era that looked like it got underway last year, may now be set to continue, as Egan Bernal is the man to beat in this year’s quest for French cycling immortality.