Tour de France – 2020
This year’s delayed Tour de France is set to be an exciting one… The 2020 race kicks off almost two months later than scheduled, on Saturday August 29 in Nice, with 176 riders set to take to the start line. The Tour was originally scheduled to start on June 27, however due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns across much of the world, the race was postponed. The UCI announced in May that the race would take place in August and September in a revamped schedule of World Tour races.
With the eventual winner likely to come from either Team Ineos or Jumbo-Visma, it is likely to be an explosive affair.
Jumbo-Visma have confirmed they will send a strong team that could challenge for victory, including 2017 Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, last year’s Vuelta a España champion Primož Roglič, and Steven Kruijswijk, who was third overall at the 2019 Tour.
The powers that be at Team Ineos, have decided that it is a good move to include the past 3 winners of the Tour in their eight man line-up…..champion Egan Bernal, 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, and four-time winner Chris Froome..
As well as still being on the comeback trail from a career-threatening injury, Froome recently confirmed he will leave Team Ineos at the end of 2020 and has agreed a move to Israel Start-up Nation. Chris Froome missed last year’s tour when he crashed at high speed whilst conducting a reconnaissance of the fourth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Cyrille Guimard recently said that this year’s Tour de France could see Team Ineos finally explode at the Tour de France, and that Chris Froome is the ‘gunpowder’ who could set it all off. Guimard won seven stages at the Tour de France as a rider and seven overall titles as a director of Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, and Lucien Van Impe.
“He’ll be there, without doubt, but how will it play out? Honestly, I wouldn’t put the three of them on the start line,” Guimard said.
“In any case, Froome will be like gunpowder. At what moment will the spark light the fuse that blows everything up. It’s impossible to know, but who sees Bernal telling Froome to ride for him from the bottom of a climb until he’s empty? Unless Froome is strong, but if he’s not, why pick him and leave out another good domestique? That could lead to a clash, because either Froome is not going well and it’s not worth putting him in the team, or he’s going well and then Ineos have a sword of Damocles hanging over them every day!” The absence of the calming presence of Nico Portal, who tragically died in March, will also be felt, meaning that Dave Brailsford will face his toughest managerial challenge in this year’s race.
Other overall contenders confirmed include Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Arkèa-Samsic), and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). Sprinters set to feature include Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)… It’ll be interesting, there’s going to be a race
Regarding the 35 year old’s transfer to Israel Start-Up Nation, Guimard felt there was no other choice for the four-time Tour champion given the emergence of Bernal, who became the youngest Tour winner in more than 100 years last year at 22.
“Froome had to go – that’s obvious. When you have a rider who has won four Tours, and another who has won one and has the potential to win four or five, it’s not possible to have them in the same team. Except if Froome had said ‘I can’t win another Tour, I’ll put myself in service of the young guy’, but that’s not in Froome’s nature,” Guimard said.
The 107th edition will feature eight mountain stages with four summit finishes, nine flat stages, three hilly stages, and one individual time trial on the penultimate day. The race takes on mountains in the Alps, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees, the Jura and the Vosges across the three weeks.Perhaps the most striking feature of the route is the individual time trial, racing to the summit of La Planches de Belles Filles on the final day. The route moves from the Grand Départ in Nice northwards for an early summit finish to Ocières-Merlette at 1,875m in the Hautes-Alps on stage four. It will then head west through central France and down to the Pyrenees for two mountainous stages to Loudenvielle and Laruns.
The race will then transfer north to Le Charente Maritime for its first rest day before resuming on the west coast where crosswinds could feature. It will then again head through the centre of France and the Massif Central with a gruelling summit finish to Puy Mary. As it heads towards its climax riders will take on a summit finish to Grand Colombier in the Jura mountains before the race heads into the Alps for finishes to Méribel and La Roche-sur-Foron.
The Tour then heads north with a transition stage and culminates with a time trial up the steep slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges. The climb featured as a summit finish in the 2019 edition.
The race will conclude with its traditional run in to Paris and the Champs-Élysées.
Whatever happens in this year’s tour, the 2021 edition is set to be an interesting one…The organizer loves to set up a route that will deliver a good race, and after several years of ever-more-difficult parcours, ASO might create a race that has more time trial kilometers, something that could tilt the advantage back to Froome.
Ineos, the company behind the men’s WorldTour cycling team, have launched a new 4×4 SUV vehicle, with reports suggesting it could lead to a change of kit and name for Team Ineos at the Tour de France to help promote the new vehicle. Ineos, run and largely-owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is primarily a petrochemicals company, but has entered the automotive market with its ‘Grenadier’, described as “a stripped back, no-nonsense, utilitarian 4×4”. The project began in 2018 and hopes to launch into the market in 2021-2022 at a price of £40,000. The name Grenadier is taken from the London pub where the idea was first hatched and it could soon be seen on the jerseys of Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, and Geraint Thomas. The team is considering temporarily changing its name, creating a new kit and even newly-painted bikes for the occasion. www.ineosgrenadier.com
Other Grand Tours
The Giro d’Italia has now been rescheduled for October 3 – October 25 and will finish in Milan (last year’s winner Richard Carapaz).
The Vuelta a España has now been rescheduled for October 20 – November 8. The race will start in the Basque Country and finish in Madrid (last year’s winner Roberto Herasdagger (Esp) Kelme–Costa Blanca)
By Dan Marsh
Photos credt: Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2020