By Diego Thompson
With one of cycling’s three Grand Tour’s now behind us in 2021, it is time to look ahead to what is on the horizon and with the Tour De France back in its more familiar timeslot this year, we cannot look much further than events in and around Paris this month. After the 2020 edition of the Tour was threatened by the still ongoing threat of COVID-19, it was eventually staged across August and September and although it had a rather difficult look and feel to it, there was no shortage in drama.
Drama that went right to the end or at least the penultimate day and with Primoz Roglic tipped as favourite to claim the maillot jaune for himself, he was eventually usurped by compatriot Tadej Pogacar.
While although it was an incredible sight for the nation of Slovenia, it was despair for Roglic and after cracking on the penultimate stage time-trial, it was left to Pogacar to simply blow him away and move into the lead.
With the final day being nothing more than a procession, as the race ends its arduous three-week schedule with a leisurely stroll around Paris, there was no other opportunity for the now second placed rider to win any time back.
Which meant although there was a first-time winner from Slovenia, it was not the one that many had backed at the start of the 2020 Tour and for those who operate the sportsbooks, this outcome was rather favourable for them.
While a look at the general odds board at the well-reviewed draftkings sees a different complexion to the pre-race odds this year and after his stunning success of almost 12 months ago, it is Pogacar who has now taken the mantle of favourite.
Of course, being the man to beat before a pedal has been turned in anger is one thing, it is backing up that status over the course of three weeks which is more important and if last year showed us anything, it is that nothing is for certain.
For those who like to place a wager or two, then the smart money should be placed on either of Slovenia’s cycling duo and for a population of just under two million, it is incredible that the former Yugoslav republic has put forward these two powerhouses at the same time.
However, there are always other options to consider and one of those could be a man who has a point to prove. That man is Geraint Thomas and the point, is the fact that he did not race the Tour in 2020.
Left out by his Ineos paymasters, there was something of a bone of contention behind the decision and although the Welshman said that he was up for taking part last year, there is an element of face saving in such a comment.
Because for a man who won the 2018 edition of cycling’s greatest race, the fact that he could not attempt to return to the top step of the podium in 2020, is a pill that would have been incredibly bitter to swallow.
While with Ineos being blown out of the water as a team last year, perhaps they have decided that this year it is time to play to their strengths and if that is the case, then they are better having Thomas in the fold, than opposed to outside of it.
Of course, the 35-year-old was no slouch in 2019 either and although he would eventually have to make do with second place behind teammate Egan Bernal, he certainly provided the Colombian with a run for his money.
While when it comes to money, some of that will undoubtedly go in the direction of Bernal in terms of punters persuasion and with both he and his Welsh teammate being selected by Ineos, it will be interesting to see who really is the number one within the camp.
The policy in the past has been one of shared responsibility and although that is rather noble, it can lead to friction or a dilution of dominance and if co-leaders is once again the tactic, it may be advantage to either of Slovenia’s newest cycling heroes.