The Tour de France 2019 is looking to be one of the most open in years, with Chris Froome (Team Ineos) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) missing the race through injury.
Of course, Ineos will still be strong with two potential winners, defending champion Geraint Thomas and the young Colombian Egan Bernal, whilst Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) will also be supported by strong teams.
But until we actually see the riders on the climbs, how can we get an inkling of who may ride themselves into the yellow jersey over 21 stages? The bookies have their thoughts but does Strava, where many pros log their rides, actually hold the key?
Turns out many riders have measured their efforts up some of the toughest climbs of this year's Tour using the social media for athletes, either on training rides or during previous editions of the Tour. Here are the riders who hold the King of the Mountains on the toughest climbs of the Tour de France 2019.
Stage six: La Planche des Belles Filles
After six categorised climbs on stage six, including three first category ascents, the peloton are faced with a summit finish to La Planche des Belles Filles, 7km long with an average gradient of 8.7 per cent. It will be the first time we get a proper look at which GC contenders may have the legs to end up in yellow on the Champs-Élysées at the end of July.
New Zealander George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) holds the Strava KoM, completing the climb in 17-21 with an average speed of 20.1km/h.
Bennett was five seconds quicker than Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), whose name will be cropping up a lot, with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) a second behind the German.
Other pros filling out the top-10 and all finishing inside a minute of Bennett's time include Laurens ten Dam (CCC), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Welshman Scott Davies (Dimension Data) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Ineos).
Stage 14: Col du Tourmalet
The Tourmalet has been featured more than any other climb since the introduction of the Pyrenees mountains to the Tour in 1910.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was victorious the last time the Tour crested the climb on stage 20 of last year’s race, whilst Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) won on stage eight in 2016, with both Frenchmen taking to the start line this year in Brussels on July 6.
It is in fact Pinot's effort at the Tour three years ago that holds the record to this day. Pinot ascended the climb at an average speed of 19.3km/h as part of a breakaway alongside Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) after an extremely fast opening hour of racing that saw the peloton cover more than 50km. Their attack was eventually reeled in as Chris Froome attacked on the descent to take the stage win and overall race lead.
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) is currently in second spot, three seconds down, with Damiano Caruso third. This year the Tourmalet will feature as a summit finish for only the third time in its history, so expect fireworks as many eye a very rare and valuable prize.
Stage 15: Prat d’Albis
The day after the Tourmalet is yet another summit finish, this time on the Col du Prat d'Albis which the riders will climb after dealing with a second category and two first category climbs. Prat d'Albis will separate those who have the legs and those who don't, with an average gradient of 6.9 per cent over 11.8km.
Jumbo-Visma's Bram Tankink holds the KoM, completing the climb in a time of 37-12 at an average speed of 17.3km.
Stage 18: Col d’Izoard
Stage 18 features two classic Tour climbs and begins the last three days in the mountains as a final test for the GC contenders.
First up is the Col d’Izoard, with the Galibier also featuring later in the stage.
The Izoard will begin after 119km of racing this year, with an average gradient of 7.3 per cent up the 14.1km ascent. The second half of the climb is steepest, reaching gradients of up to 10 per cent.
The Col d’Izoard last featured in the Tour on stage 18 back in 2017. That day Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) took the stage win, with Chris Froome, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Darwin Atapuma (now Cofidis, but then riding for UAE Team Emirates) finishing in a group 20 seconds back.
Barguil's time set as he rode victory currently holds the record, completing the seven percent gradient climb in 37-53 at an average speed of 21.9km/h. In fact all of the top six's times on the leaderboard were posted that day, with Bardet second and Damiano Caruso once again third, nearly four minutes slower than the Frenchman.
Stage 18: Col du Galibier
After 20km of descending from the Col du Izoard, the peloton will start up their second HC climb of the day, the Galibier.
The registered climb is slightly different to what will be ridden in the Tour, with the riders tackling a 23km ascent with an average gradient of 5.1 per cent, and it's unlikely they'll be going up at anything like the speeds posted at the top of the Strava leaderboard after a day of climbing already in their legs when they get to the foothills.
It looks like stage 17 of the 2017 Tour de France was one a lot of the riders decided to not upload, as Emanuel Buchmann holds the record despite rolling across the line in 22nd place, 7-43 down on stage winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Tiesj Benoot is just a minute down in fourth, with Bardet and Barguil once again making the top 10.
Stage 20: Val Thorens
The final test before the processional stage 21 to Paris is a long slog up to Val Thorens. More than 30 kilometres at an average gradient of five per cent will allow riders to put in last gasp attempts to improve their placing in the overall classification, with no-on able to relax until they're across the line at the summit finish.
French road and cyclocross cyclist Yannick Martinez, who rides for French amateur team Guidon Chalettois, currently holds the KoM, completing the climb in 1-36-45. His older brother Miguel is in second place, who would have been 40 years old at the time of the achievement.
Romain Bardet sits in fourth, putting in a time of 1-45-34 and average speed of 20.4km/h, which bodes well should the Frenchman be in or near the yellow jersey at this stage of the race.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1