TOUR DE FRANCE FEVER – CLASH OF THE TITANS

When the 2024 Tour de France was announced, everyone immediately had their mouths full about the huge battle that was to come between the phenomena of Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Primož Roglič. However, the latter three went down heavily at the Tour of the Basque Country and saw their planned preparation fall seriously into the water right away.

They were rehabbing while Pogačar rode the stars of heaven in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and afterwards took the Giro d’Italia in Merckxian fashion, even seeming to ride with the handbrake on. It was as if he rode everyone home in saving/training mode and it gives the impression that this Giro did not wear him out at all, on the contrary, it even made him a lot better. Immediately then comes the question of who is doing what to him?

But is this question appropriate? After all, we are talking about the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France, the most hotly contested race of the year, in which every edition, always something we don’t expect, happens anyway. The battle for the particular jersey will be rock hard and very different from the Giro d’Italia where the competition – with all due respect to Pogačar’s performance – was pretty poor anyway. We weigh the odds of the favorites for the overall victory.

Two top favorites + two real challengers and some shadow favorites

Tadej Pogačar

The Slovenian lost the last two editions of the Tour to Dane Jonas Vingegaard. So actually Tadej Pogačar should be second in the favorites pecking order. However, anyone who has seen him throughout the season and especially in the Giro knows enough, he is much better than the two previous years. Moreover, his team is also stronger than ever. Or what about a team with Tadej Pogačar, Juan Ayuso, Joao Almeida, Adam Yates, Pavel Sivakov, Marc Soler, Nils Politt and Tim Wellens?
We wrote in Cyclelive magazine No. 78 in early June that Pogačar is broadly the number one favorite for us.

The fact that Pogi, a few days ago told us he has never felt better on the bike adds to that. A mental game that already seems to have been settled in his favor, because not only these words, but certainly also his legs have certainly already sown mental doubts among his competitors in recent months.

Jonas Vingegaard

If you had asked us at the end of March who was the top favorite for this Tour, we would have put Vingegaard at the top spot. At the beginning of the season, like his entire team, he seemed to be even stronger than he was in 2023.
Vingegaard’s season began when he dominated the Spanish stage race O Gran Camiño from start to finish in late February, winning three of the four stages and the general classification, just as he did in 2023.

He also showed his wonder legs in the Tirreno-Adriatico by winning the fifth stage with a solo attack. The Dane rode away at 29 kilometers from the finish on the steepest part of the San Giacamo. He won the stage by more than a minute’s lead. Later he also won the stage to Monte Petrano making the Italian stage race, winning by 1’24” lead.

When the American Matteo Jorgenson, beat Remco Evenepoel in Paris-Nice and his team also monopolized the first one-day races, we even thought they were stronger than the year before in width as well. Until the riders of Visma – Lease a Bike suddenly started cycling from one setback to another and also Vingegaard did a huge crash with serious consequences in the Tour of the Basque Country. Just before the start of the Tour, it looks like the rehabilitation of both Vingegaard and Wout van Aert have been successful. Both will be at the start of this Tour, but how good they will really be is still a pipe dream. That fog is being sprayed from the entourage is certainly also part of the game. However, even with “very good form,” there is little to be done against a “super Pogi. Not a very good – but just a SU-PER Vingegaard, could be enough to beat the Slovenian. Can Jonas still find his alien Tour legs in time and will it be alien against alien and hard against hard? We hope so!

Jonas Vingegaard in Tirreno-Adriatico 2024 © GM D'Alberto

Remco Evenepoel

It will be the first Tour experience for Remco Evenepoel, who will have a Soudal-Quick Step team behind him that is a little stronger in lap work than in 2023. But where will Remco stand after his fall in the Basque Country? And how far would he have stood in relation to the two top favorites without that fall? In fact, we have very little to go on about Evenepoel’s real qualities as a tour rider and certainly not as a Tour rider. The time trials in this Tour are obviously in his favor. Question mark becomes how he handles the tough mountain stages. We see Remco fighting for a third place on the podium in Paris.

Primož Roglič

Primož Roglič, who swapped his Jumbo-Visma cycling jersey for a Bora-Hans Grohe outfit this year, had yet to charm us at the beginning of the season. When he too went down with it in the mega-crash in the Basque Country, the question marks only increased. Will he really be an important challenger to the two big favorites? In any case, we place him well away from Tadej and Jonas and think he will compete with Remco for the podium. But the experienced and wily fox that is Primož could also surprise us tremendously. Let’s not forget that in the Basque Country he came out of the crash as the least battered favorite. Perhaps he is the best prepared rider of them all, and after the crash he and Bora-Hans Grohe were mostly spraying a lot of fog and throwing sand in our eyes. At least in the Dauphiné, that fog cleared a little bit until it suddenly reappeared in the final stage.

Remco Evenepoel in Volta ao Algarve © Patrick Van Gansen

Outsiders

Egan Bernal

Bernal’s story is well enough known and nobody ever expected him to be among the favorites after his near fatal accident. We certainly don’t count him as a real favorite yet, but Egan showed some nice things early in the season, although in the Tour of Switzerland he didn’t quite charm. However, Bernal could well be a determining factor in terms of the overall victory. Whoever gets him on his side could benefit! In any case, it would be nice to see him in the top five at the end of the Tour.

Matteo Jorgenson

The revelation of the season is undoubtedly Matteo Jorgenson. Since his transfer to Jumbo | Lease a Bike he has become one of the best classification riders in the smaller tours, while also doing well in the classics. He beat Remco Evenepoel in Paris-Nice and was only narrowly beaten by Roglič in the Critérium du Dauphiné. In the final stage, he almost made up for his deficit of more than a minute. He ended up only eight seconds short of beating the Slovenian. How Jorgenson will play chess will depend mainly on how his leader Vingegaard feels in the first week.

Candidates for top ten

Three other candidates for the top ten can be found in the team of top favorite Tadej Pogačar. With Juan Ayuso who won the Tour of the Basque Country, Adam Yates who finished third in last year’s Tour and João Almeida, Team UAE could well park several pawns in the top ten.

There are also many at the INEOS Grenadiers – warriors to pursue a top spot. In addition to the aforementioned Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas will want to reaffirm his third-place finish in the Giro with a good Tour de France. Carlos Rodriguez has also been on a good run in recent months in which he won the Tour de Romandie and finished fourth in the Dauphiné. And with a bit of a sense of chauvinism, we also put Laurens De Plus, after his fifth place in the Dauphiné, among the candidates for the top ten, although with almost absolute certainty he will not be allowed to go for a classification and will have to cycle his way out of the seam for the leaders.

And then, for the Belgians, there is Steff Cras. The unlucky rider was the heaviest casualty in the Tour of the Basque Country, but he showed great things again in the Tour of Slovenia. If for once the puzzle comes together without any bad luck, Steff is also a candidate for a top ten place.

Two Belgians at the top of the Tour de France standings? It has been ages since we have seen that.

And with a little more sense of chauvinism, we still hope that it will be Remco who will surprise the most and really put Belgium back on the Tour map…


Text: Patrick van Gansen
Cover Picture: La Presse, Luca Bettini

More news

More Articles