The GC battle ignites as early as the first week with mountain stages in the Provence region. Stage 2 is a mountain race in Nice’s hinterland, not the hardest you can imagine, but it will give a first indication of the riders in form. Stage 4 serves the first summit finish after a 7.1 kilometres climb at 6.7% to ski resort Orcières-Merlette .
Another uphill finish takes place on stage 6. Although the finale is not exactly steep, the road is inclined in the last 34 kilometres. A section of 2 kilometres at 11% with 18 kilometres out is potentially crucial, as losing contact could cost you minutes.
After the rest day in La Charente-Maritime the GC cards have been shuffled around a bit and the race continues with a number of relatively easy stages. The 13th stage is something else entirely though, as this race is in the Massif Central with an elevation gain of 4,400 metres. The last 30 kilometres run virtually all uphill, while that Sunday’s 15th stage is sure to detonate the fireworks with a finale on the Grand Colombier. Which is a steep and irregular inclination of 17.4 kilometres long.
The third week kicks off with a race to Villard-de-Lans in the Alps, although the route of stage 16 is not expected to open up significant gaps in the GC. Which is a different story the next day, as stage 17 finishes atop Col de la Loze. The climb was never before included in the Tour de France and it really is a monster: 21.5 kilometres long and with ramps of more than 20%. The last 2.5 kilometres rise at almost 10%.
The 18th stage is a tricky one, cresting six cols – such as the brutally steep and partly unpaved Montée du Plateau des Glières with 20 kilometres left – before descending to the line. Riders with world-class time trial pedigrees are treated on the penultimate day of action, when stage 20 provides 30 kilometres of flat or rolling roads and a 5.9 kilometres finish climb on La Planche des Belles Filles. So the last climb of the Tour de France is included in a time trial. And a steep climb it is – average gradient: 8.5%, steepest ramp: 20% (just before the line).
What to expect
Last year we wrote: ‘It is not a bold statement to say Bernal is a Grand Tour winner in waiting, but will it be this early?’ Well, it was. He won La Grande Boucle 1.11 minutes ahead of Geraint Thomas with Steven Kruijswijk another 20 seconds further behind. Yet, the field of this year’s Tour de France is so much stronger.
Jumbo-Visma lines-up with two extra stars alongside Kruijswijk, namely Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic, in their bid to dislodge Team Ineos. Another spectacular youngster, Tadej Pogacar, is making his debut in the biggest (cycling) race on earth, while Thibaut Pinot returns to the race that he had to abandon last year with a torn muscle in his left thigh after it appeared that he was poised for victory. The Frenchman rode an amazing Tour de France. Early echelons put him on the back foot before he rediscovered his mojo in the Pyrenees with two superb surges. One yielded him a stage win, the other catapulted him right back in the fight for the final yellow jersey, but then… ecstasy once again turned to agony and he left the Tour in the passenger’s seat of a car.
Looking at last year’s results, Primoz Roglic and Egan Bernal are the riders to watch. The Slovene won the Vuelta a España, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour de Romandie and UAE Tour, while the Colombian took the spoils on Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France.
Favourites Tour de France 2020
***** Egan Bernal, Thibaut Pinot, Primoz Roglic
**** Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome, Miguel Ángel López
*** Steven Kruijswijk, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Nairo Quintana
** Julian Alaphilippe, Simon Yates, Rigoberto Uran, Emanuel Buchmann
* Enric Mas, Tadej Pogacar, Sergio Higuita, Adam Yates, Romain Bardet