The Spaniard has said this year’s Tour will be the most open race in years, with three of last year’s top four not taking the start line in Brussels on July 6, and added this could cause a changing of the guard in terms of the riders who will go on to contest future Grand Tours.
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Chris Froome (Ineos) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will both miss this year’s race through injury after finishing on the podium last year while Primož Roglič, who finished fourth last year, makes way in the Jumbo-Visma squad for Steven Kruijswijk to have a crack at the GC after Roglič faltered in the third week of the recent Giro d’Italia.
“I think we are facing the most open Tour of recent years, there is no clear favourite if you look at the odds,” Contador told Spanish newspaper Marca, “we are witnessing a generational change and new winners may emerge, with the casualties of Froome and Dumoulin making it even more open.”
Of the top four on last year’s GC, only the defending champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos) lines up this year. After the Welshman crashed out on stage four of the recent Tour de Suisse, his team-mate Egan Bernal took over leadership responsibilities and won the race comfortably.
“Egan is undoubtedly one of the great favourites and not only because of his triumph in Switzerland but because wherever he goes it is a sure victory, and he also has a great team that works very well for him,” Contador said. “But he already knows the race, last year he did well and will fight for the victory.”
Bernal finished 15th at the 2018 Tour de France, proving to be Geraint Thomas’ key mountain domestique as the Welshman rode to his first Grand Tour victory. In 2019 Bernal then went on to pick up to stage race wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse.
Contador believes Bernal is destined for greatness regardless of whether he wins the Tour this year, saying “his future capability is frightening and his quality as a rider is already a reality”.
Despite Bernal being only 22 years old, Contador, who himself won his first Tour de France title aged 24, says that youth will not hold the young Colombian back.
“The experience factor can play a part, but Egan Bernal has a great team, the most powerful, and a quality he has already demonstrated,” Contador said. “I was 24 years old and he is now 22, but when you go from amateur to professional and you know your skills, your watts, there are more ways to know your limits, so the adaptation is shortened. He is young but has a solid base, and is a clear favourite.”
While Geraint Thomas was left relatively unscathed by his crash and quickly returned to training to prepare for the Tour, Chris Froome’s accident resulted in the four-time Tour champion facing six months off the bike as he was placed in intensive care after his crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Contador has backed Froome to make a full return and get back to the level required to challenge for a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title.
“I think he will return to the top level,” Contador said, “he is a competitive rider at all levels and he will recover fully, as shown by Alejandro Valverde in 2017 or myself in 2014.”