Tour de France 2020 – Yellow jersey guide – Egan Bernal v Primoz Roglic
Rightly or wrongly, the 2020 Tour de France is shaping up to be a battle between Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma – or more specifically, the defending champion Egan Bernal and his supreme challenger Primoz Roglic. But who are the other riders to consider in the battle for yellow?
Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk on the final podium in Paris, 2019 Tour de France
British riders from Team Sky had won six of the previous seven Tours before Colombia's Egan Bernal opened up his account for Ineos last summer to deny the hosts what may have been a dam-busting victory through either Julian Alaphilippe or Thibaut Pinot, both in the form of their lives.
Still only 23, Bernal now spearheads a new-look Ineos Grenadiers team opting to leave behind former winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. Such a drastic measure is thought to have been made under mounting pressure from Team Jumbo-Visma, the stand-out team of this corona-curtailed and heavily truncated season.
In Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin, Jumbo-Visma have two outstanding GC riders who should give Bernal and his fellow South American Richard Carapaz a run for their peso in what could be the most open and unpredictable Tour in years.
First awarded in 1919, the maillot jaune is worn by the rider who leads the race in the general classification – he who has the shortest overall time for all the stages cobbled together.
The awarding of bonus seconds means – at least early on – that this may not technically be the rider who has covered the course faster than anyone else. But it usually all comes out in the wash – or the Alps, in this case – and so, come Paris, it's the quickest man after all 21 stages who will don the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe.
Once again, this year there are bonus seconds of 10-6-4 seconds at the finish for the top three riders in every stage except the time trial on the penultimate day of the race. There are also 8-5-2 seconds up for grabs in a series of bonus sprints in designated stages, namely stages 2, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16 and 18. These bonus sprints are marked with a B on the official profiles and tend to come on the last or penultimate climb before the finish – in a bid to encourage attacking riding in the finale.
Last year, just three riders – Mike Teunissen, Giulio Ciccone and Alaphilippe – wore the yellow jersey before Bernal prised it from the shoulders of the Frenchman in controversial circumstances following the weather-shortened stage 19 in the Alps.
If that raised doubts as to whether Bernal won the Tour fair and square, the Colombian will hope to secure a second successive win in far more conventional circumstances this September – although the meteoric rise of Roglic, not to mentioned the finesse of the purring Pinot, will mean the eighth youngest rider on the race will have his work cut out.
Let's now take a closer look at the top GC riders of the 107th Tour de France and rate their chances of yellow glory…
***** Egan Bernal and Primoz Roglic
Primoz Roglic, Egan Bernal 2019
Image credit: Getty Images
Such is the noise around this duo it's worth remembering that Bernal and Roglic have only ridden seven Grand Tours between them. In fact, the thoroughbred Bernal matches snowjumper Roglic two apiece when it comes to the Tour, although his record is eminently more favourable.
While supporting Thomas to victory and Froome to third place in 2018, Bernal finished an admirable 15th in his debut, with Roglic, one year after coming 38th in his own maiden Tour, taking fourth place just ahead of his Jumbo teammate Steven Kruijswijk.
Kruijswijk's absence this year will be keenly felt by the Dutch team, although they have brought in another Dutchman, Dumoulin, who was runner-up that year in his last Tour appearance.
Roglic took a step back last year to concentrate on the Giro and Vuelta as Kruijswijk finished behind Bernal and Thomas on the podium. Having come close in the fight for pink, red Roglic then won the Vuelta to open up his account aged 29.
Since then, Roglic has proved himself to be one of the best – if not the best – short stage race rider of his generation, with his victory in the Tour de l'Ain followed by what would have been a victory in the Dauphiné had he not pulled out as a precaution following a crash in the penultimate stage.
Tour de l'Ain Stage 3 highlights - Primoz Roglic and Egan Bernal battle it out for GC honours
Bernal, too, left the Dauphiné early because of a minor back injury – but that race was never about him, more about gauging the form of the riders surrounding him on the roads of France in September. As it turned out, David Brailsford felt that Froome and Thomas were not up for the challenge – and will redeploy them elsewhere instead.
The upshot is that the so-called Ineos Grenadiers enter the Tour with just the one British rider in Luke Rowe and without the usual British GC challenger among their numbers. Former Movistar duo Richard Carapaz and Andrey Amador should provide adequate support for Bernal in the mountains, while the Russian youngster Pavel Sivakov makes his Tour debut after a promising Dauphiné.
But Jumbo-Visma – even without Kruijswijk – are hitting all the right notes. They have a great blend of youth (Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert) and experience (Tony Martin, Robert Gesink), plus one of the best mountain domestiques in the business (George Bennett).
It's a tight one to call. Nothing seems to separate Bernal and Roglic right now; they are certainly head and shoulders above their rivals. But three weeks is a long time, and preparation has been far from conventional in this most curious and unprecedented of seasons.
**** Thibaut Pinot
SARRANCOLIN, FRANCE - AUGUST 03: Arrival / Thibaut Pinot of France and Team Groupama - FDJ / during the 44th La Route d'Occitanie - La Depeche du Midi 2020, Stage 3 a 163,5km stage from Saint Gaudens to Col de Beyrède 1417m / @RouteOccitanie / #RDO2020 /
Image credit: Getty Images
On to the great French hope. Deep down, we all want to see Pinot become the first Frenchman in 34 years to win his home race. But the thing is, would Bernard Hinault have imploded on stage 19 of last year's Tour when victory was within his grasp? Would the Badger have allowed Dani Martinez to win the Dauphiné after Roglic withdrew ahead of the final stage? A resounding 'non' on both counts.
The thing about Thibaut Pinot is that, as nice a chap as he is with his goats and his farm and his smouldering good looks, he always seems to find a way to Thibaut Pinot his chances. His trademark wobbles have become part and parcel of the Tour – to the extent that they can almost be programmed in as a given.
Pinot and his Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot were psychologically destroyed by his plight last year – to the point that it looked like he may never clamber out of the hole of doom. But here we are, 14 months on, and Pinot is raring to go, hitting good form, and has an entire team built around him, without any sprint distractions from the French national champion Arnaud Demare.
It's a huge call from Madiot and Groupama. Can Pinot cope with the pressure and repay the faith put in him? Every neutral fan hopes he can. It would be an unbridled joy to watch. Allez Thibaut!
*** Nairo Quintana, Emanuel Buchmann, Miguel Angel Lopez, Tom Dumoulin, Tadej Pogacar
Tadej Pogacar (Emirates)
Image credit: Getty Images
A mixed bag, these third tier. On the one end of the spectrum we have a Tour debutant in Pogacar, the second strongest Slovenian in the race, and on the other we have the man most of us, seven years ago, would have backed to become Colombia's first Tour winner…
As Bernal went about joining the history books last July, his compatriot Quintana has to settle for eighth place and a consolatory stage win in Valloire. Now 30, Quintana has drawn a line under his often frustrating time at Movistar – or should that be the other way around? – and joined French minnows Arkea-Samsic.
The form looks okay, but Quintana doesn't seem to have anything in his armoury to worry the big guns – and there are question marks around how much support he'll get in the mountains.
A far better option is perhaps the German Buchmann, who came fourth last year for Bora-Hansgrohe and was riding well in the Dauphiné before coming down in the same crash that curtailed Kruijswijk's season. It remains to be seen if the 27-year-old can return to competitive fitness but he should be in the mix for a podium finish.
Emanuel Buchmann | Team Bora-hansgrohe 2020
Image credit: Imago
Pogacar makes his debut for UAE-Team Emirates after finishing third in the Vuelta, behind compatriot Roglic and the evergreen Alejandro Valverde. Still just 21, Pogacar has been in consistently good form this year and rides the Tour without too much pressure on his shoulders, with UAE carrying other cards in the form of Aru and Formolo.
Another debutant is Astana's Lopez, whose stock as the next-best-thing-from-Colombia has somewhat dropped in recent years. Still, the 26-year-old has finished in the top 10 of all five of his previous five Grand Tours and embarks on his first Tour with a solid Astana team around him.
This leaves Dumoulin, the rangy Dutch all-rounder, who has finished second in both the Giro and Tour since winning the maglia rosa in 2017. He's been solid if unspectacular since his return from a nasty injury in last year's Giro – and the 29-year-old could go under the radar as Roglic's right-hand man this September.
** Mikel Landa, Rigoberto Uran, Alejandro Valverde, Richard Carapaz, Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru, Julian Alaphilippe, Guillaume Martin, Adam Yates, Daniel Martinez
Image credit: Eurosport
Poor Landa – wherever he goes, he never quite seems to become the GC rider his early results promised. The Spaniard has flirted with the podium on his last three outings on the Tour for Sky and then Movistar. Now at Bahrain-McLaren, he should be top dog, and links up again with former teammate Wout Poels.
Second in the Vuelta a Burgos, Landa looked to consolidate his form at the Dauphiné before plummeting down the standings on the final day after an implosion of Pinot-esque proportions. What kind of Landa will we see this September? Who knows – your guess is as good as anyone's.
Landa's former Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde – the last-man standing of the Spanish team's former GC trident – returns to France for a 12th Tour. Although he finished runner-up in the 2019 Vuelta, the 40-year-old's days of putting in a yellow push must be over, those long, high-altitude climbs the stumbling block for his otherwise strong and sinewy legs.
Another former Movistar man – and one who never made it to leadership status, despite winning the 2019 Giro and consistently out-performing the team's three leaders – who will hope to make an impression in his debut Tour is Carapaz. But whether that impression will be as an unflagging teammate to Bernal, or pursuing his own ambitions, remains to be seen.
Carapaz was in good nick in the Tour de Pologne before crashing out, which could put him a bit short when it comes to race kilometres in the legs. While we're on the subject of Ineos, it will be interesting to see how Adam Yates fares in what may be his last Grand Tour for Mitchelton-Scott before he joins the like of Carapaz and Bernal at the British-based team. Yates has not been talking up his GC chances, and his priority could be a maiden stage win and a push for the polka dots, but he will hope to rekindle the form that saw him finish fourth in 2016.
Uran and Martinez, who make up two thirds of an exciting Colombian trio at EF Pro Cycling, will hope to keep out of the usual first-week spills of the Tour and put in a decent run. Now 33, Uran usually has enough to secure a top 10 finish, but only rarely shows the form that saw him finish runner-up in 2017.
Highlights: Dani Martinez beats Thibaut Pinot to thrilling Criterium du Dauphine win
Martinez was the surprise winner of the Dauphiné after taking the bull by the horns on the final day – but the Tour will prove a very different kettle of fish.
It's been three years since Aru rode the Tour competitively – and five years since he won the Vuelta – so the jury is still out on the Italian's ability to perform on the centre stage since his injury setbacks of recent seasons. UAE-Team Emirates have a solid team of individuals this summer and the 30-year-old could benefit from riding out of the spotlight – although he's still far from the Aru of old.
This leaves French trio Bardet, Martin, and Alaphilippe. The latter's swashbuckling yellow jersey run last July gave the home fans reason to dream big. Alaphilippe says he's not riding for GC this year, but he may well ride himself into contention by targeting stage wins and the polka dot jersey.
Talking of which, last year's maillot à pois, Bardet, would not even be here were it not for Covid-19. His plans to ride the Giro derailed, Bardet will now hope to bounce back from last year's GC disappointment in what may be his last major stage race for Ag2R-La Mondiale before joining Team Sunweb.
Lastly, the pedalling philosopher Guillaume Martin will hope to cap his rise to WorldTour level at Cofidis with a push for the top 10. Twelfth last year, the 27-year-old won't get much support, but he reached the podium in the Dauphiné and could be an option for the polka dot jersey in 2020.
* Wout Poels, Ilnur Zakarin, Bob Jungels, Sergio Higuita, Esteban Chaves, Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, Pavel Sivakov, Davide Formolo, Dan Martin, Enric Mas, Marc Soler
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), vainqueur de la Japan Cup 2019
Image credit: Getty Images
Dutch duo Poels and Mollema, the Russian Zakarin, Ireland's Martin and Australia's Porte have all made the Tour's top 10 before – although there are more question marks around their ability to do so again than there are hovering around the Riddler on the page of a DC comic.
It will be interesting to see how Tour debutants Higuita (EF Education First), Formolo (UAE-Team Emirates) and Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) get along – they have each shown flashes of good form this year and may have high hopes of a decent finish depending on the roles they may have to play.
Spain's Mas struggled a bit last year as Deceuninck-QuickStep's only mountain lieutenant for Alaphilippe, but now finds himself in as part of a new-look Movistar triangle alongside compatriots Soler and Valverde. Luxembourg's Jungels is back at the Tour after two years – but the 27-year-old's stock has dropped a little since, leading to a forthcoming move away to Ag2R-La Mondiale.
The smiling Colombian Chaves is still on the comeback trail from his various injury setbacks, while Martin will be hoping for a strong showing at Israel Start-Up Nation before his inevitable demotion to being a lieutenant for Froome next year. Has he got over the fractured sacrum from the Dauphiné? We'll find out soon.
Other riders to watch…
Bora-Hansgrohe duo Gregor Muhlberger and Lennard Kamna could shine while riding in support of their leader, Buchmann – ditto Bennett, although the New Zealander could find himself flogged to breaking point in the Jumbo-Visma mountain train.
Ion Izagirre of Astana could be a good Plan B if Lopez doesn't produce the goods, while compatriot David de la Cruz could be an interesting outsider at UAE-Team Emirates. Denmark's Soren Kragh Andersen may be worth monitoring at Team Sunweb.
A trio of riders at polarised points of their careers are worth a mention: French climber Valentin Madouas is one for the future, but finished 13th in his debut Giro last year and could prove an invaluable asset to teammate Pinot, along with compatriot David Gaudu; NTT Pro Cycling's Domenico Pozzovivo, meanwhile, is riding his 19th Grand Tour at the age of 37, but only his third Tour.
And finally, there's another French duo who could either set the mountains on fire – or implode spectacularly, depending on which way the wind blows… Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) won two stages and the polka dot jersey in 2018, and has twice finished 10th, while Pierre Rolland (B&B-Vital Concept) also has two 10th place finishes, plus a career-high eighth in 2012. We will surely see a fair bit of both riders over the course of the next few weeks…