A preview of what’s to come? Six Tour favourites to go head-to-head at Tour de l’Ain

Geraint Thomas makes his racing return in the three-day French race

Both Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma will field their three star general classification riders at the Tour de l’Ain, offering fans an insight into who looks good ahead of the Tour de France.

This year’s rearranged Tour has been billed as Ineos versus Jumbo-Visma, with the Dutch team aiming to end the British outfit’s dominance with their own trio of GC superpowers.

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The 2019 Vuelta a España winner Primož Roglič, former Giro d’Italia victor Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk, third at last year’s Tour, will lead Jumbo-Visma’s charge.

The three will all be in action at the Tour de l’Ain which starts on Friday, coming up against the force of Ineos.

Reigning Tour champion Egan Bernal, fresh from winning La Route d’Occitanie, will be joined by Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, the latter racing for the first time since the sport’s return.

Ineos’ six-man squad is bolstered by Andrey Amador, Jonathan Castroviejo and Tao Geoghegan Hart.

George Bennett, Tony Martin and Robert Gesink will provide assistance to Jumbo-Visma’s three hopefuls.

The three-day race in eastern France kicks off with an opening stage that finishes with a slight rise.

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But it is stage two and three where the climbers will come to the fore: there are categorised ascents on Saturday, and Sunday finishes atop Grand Colombier in a near-identical route to the Tour’s stage 15.

Tom Dumoulin and his Jumbo-Visma teammates at team launch

Tom Dumoulin and his Jumbo-Visma teammates at team launch (Photo by VINCENT JANNINK/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Thomas downplayed expectations surrounding him: “I’m pretty chilled about it really. Obviously I’d love to win, but at the same time it’s not make or break.

“We’ll just see how it goes, see how the legs are and obviously speak to Egan as well. He’s already got a win, and I think the team are moving really well. We’ll just take each day as it comes really.

“We’ve got a really strong team here, and with Jumbo-Visma and a few other teams being so strong – and because there’s such limited races now – it’s worked out really well for the race.

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“To have a lot of strong Tour contenders here is exciting and with our team you can’t ask for more really.”

Also looking to be in contention is Nairo Quintana of Arkea-Samsic, the Colombian most recently finishing eighth at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), rumoured to be joining Ineos in 2021, and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) are also on the start list.