Ag2r La Mondiale
Although this will be their final Tour de France before Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour leave in a major shake-up, we should still expect the team to be a forceful presence in the mountains. Whether or not they challenge for GC will depend on the ambitions of Bardet, who may instead chase stages to save himself for the Giro d’Italia. Whichever he chooses, sixth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné indicated he has the form to deliver.
Prediction: Either a stage win or top ten finish, depending on their approach
Nairo Quintana’s transfer to Arkea-Samsic came as a surprise at the time, but it’s working out great for both parties. His presence has elevated the team from plucky also-rans to GC contenders; and, though you wouldn’t know it from the poker face he wears at all times, results suggest that Quintana is enjoying racing again. Fingers crossed he’s fully recovered from his Dauphiné injury.
Prediction: A rejuvenated Quintana to make the podium
Joining Astana’s usual collection of quality climbers and puncheurs will be Miguel Ángel López, at last making his Tour debut after success at both the other Grand Tours. The Colombian can be infuriatingly inconsistent, devastating one day and lagging the next, but should mount a competitive GC campaign, and has form having finished fifth at the Dauphiné.
Prediction: A top ten for Lopez, and possibly a stage win too
The decision not to select Mark Cavendish suggests Bahrain-McLaren are all in for Mikel Landa’s bid for yellow. The Spaniard followed second overall at Vuelta a Burgos with a quieter Dauphine, but typically comes good at the Tour, and will relish at last being given the chance to lead a team outright, with a team of class domestiques (including Froome’s former lieutenant, Wout Poels) to back him up.
Prediction: Landa to finish in the top five
B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
The latest squad of French underdogs offered a wildcard invitation by ASO are B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, who make their Tour debut. The invite means a return to the Tour for sprinter Bryan Coquard, who’s coming into form at just the right time having finished second at the French National Championships, and former white jersey winner Pierre Rolland, who can still animate a break in the mountains despite his ageing legs.
Prediction: A top five in the points classification for Coquard
Recent crashes have threatened what had looked set to be another bountiful Tour for Bora-Hansgrohe. Emmanuel Buchmann (fourth overall last year) was on flying form at the Dauphiné, but is now still sore from the crash that forced him to abandon, while Paris-Nice winner Max Schachmann is also still recovering his shocking collision with a rogue vehicle at Il Lombardia. Just as well the ever-dependable Peter Sagan is around to do his usual thing.
Prediction: Sagan to win green and Buchman (if fit) to finish in the top-10
After struggling on debut last year, CCC return to the Tour this year with a line-up more capable of making an impression on the race. Greg Van Avermaet and Matteo Trentin look like an ideal duo to target the many rolling Classics-specialist-friendly stages included this year, while Ilnur Zakarin could climb to a decent GC finish in his typically unassuming manner.
Prediction: A stage win, courtesy of either Van Avermaet or Trentin
Cofidis are finding out the hard way just how difficult it is to replicate the Deceuninck-Quick-Step train that delivered Elia Viviani to so many sprint wins between 2018-2019 — since leaving the Belgian team to sign for them, Viviani remains winless. Still, even if he continues to struggle, hope can be found in the form of climber Guillaume Martin, who finished on the podium at the Dauphiné.
Prediction: Martin to make the top 10
Judging from the line-up of big, strong rouleurs they’ve selected, Deceuninck-Quick-Step are targeting stage wins this year, with little support provided for Julian Alaphilippe in the mountains. That makes a repeat of last year’s dramatic run in the yellow jersey unlikely, but should guarantee another haul of victories, most probably from Sam Bennett in the sprints and the irrepressible Alaphilippe in the hills.
Prediction: Multiple stage wins, plus Alaphilippe to be crowned King of the Mountains
EF Pro Cycling
A new generation of Colombian talent is poised to make a splash for EF Cycling at the Tour. Colombian 24-year-old Dani Martínez will be closely watched having just won the Dauphiné, and his 23-year old compatriot Sergio Higuita makes his debut having won a stage at last year’s Vuelta. Not too much should be expected of such raw talents, who ought to ride with freedom and leave the steady GC rank-solidifying ride to veteran Rigoberto Urán.
Prediction: A stage win at high altitude from one of their Colombian starlets
Thibaut Pinot has bid farewell to his goats, and heads to the Tour carrying the weight of a nation’s expectations. Second overall at the Dauphiné suggests he has last year’s stellar form, and Groupama-FDJ have built a team to exclusively target the yellow jersey, but the pressure could prove too much for a rider who has only finished half the Grand Tours he has ridden.
Prediction: Pinot will star in the mountains, but come undone elsewhere
In all their years dominating the sport, Ineos have never endured such a troublesome build up to the Tour. The Covid-enforced delay to the season will have been especially detrimental to a team that so values meticulous planning, while both their British stars, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, have been deemed too out of form to merit selection. Yet despite all this, their team is stacked with talent, and Egan Bernal is — back injury permitting — the man to beat.
Prediction: Bernal to retain the yellow jersey
Israel Start-Up Nation
This year’s Tour is likely to be a transitional race for the Israel-based team, as they await the arrival of star signing Chris Froome next season. Those present will want to prove their worth before Froome and other new recruits arrive, and are likely to frequent breakaways throughout the race. Besides climber Dan Martin and rouleur Nils Politt, however, there’s a lack of quality.
Prediction: Lots of breakaway involvement, but no stage wins
At last, a team has emerged that’s capable of challenging the Ineos Tour hegemony. A swarm of yellow-clad ‘killer wasps’ got the better of Ineos at both the Tour de l’Ain and Dauphiné this month, and through l’Ain winner Primož Roglič, plus Tom Dumoulin in reserve, they have proven Grand Tour champions at the spearhead. The stage is set for a potential changing of the guard — although nagging doubts linger over Roglič’s fitness after crashing out of the Dauphiné.
Prediction: Roglič to finish runner-up
Tour de France sprints have become more open affairs since the eras of peak Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, with no sprinter winning more than three stages in a race since 2017, but Caleb Ewan looks the man most likely to pick up a major haul having landed three stages on debut last year. Philippe Gilbert and Thomas De Gendt will try their luck with the occasional attack, but top priority will be delivering Ewan.
Prediction: Multiple sprint wins in store for Ewan
It’s been four years now since either Adam Yates or Esteban Chaves managed to put together a convincing GC campaign at a Grand Tour, but they both continue to be prolific winners of individual stages. Consequently, stage wins are the number one aim for Mitchelton-Scott at this Tour, with versatile veteran Daryl Impey and sprinter Luka Mezgec also capable of challenging for one.
Prediction: At least one of their riders will grab a stage win
While their former riders flourish, those left at Movistar flounder. Marc Soler hasn’t made a convincing leap to leadership status, new signing Enric Mas has yet to land so much as a top 10 for the team, and even the evergreen Alejandro Valverde is finally beginning to look his age. A difficult Tour awaits.
Prediction: This could be Movistar’s worst Tour in years, with even a defence of their team classification title looking beyond them
After years hoping in vain that the now-departed Mark Cavendish would return to his best, NTT Cycling seem finally to have discovered a renewed sense of purpose through Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian sprinter was recently crowned European champion in Brittany and is enjoying his most prolific season to date. He can't match the top sprinters in a head-to-head duel, but could capitalise if and when they have an off day.
Prediction: Nizzolo to win a stage
The surprising exclusion of Michael Matthews, as well as the departure of Tom Dumoulin to Jumbo-Visma, has left Sunweb without an obvious leader for the Tour. With the multifaceted Paris-Nice runner-up Tiesj Benoot, powerful rouleur Søren Kragh Andersen and promising young sprinter Cees Bol, they have options for most kinds of terrain, but the lack of a GC contender places these riders under lots of pressure to deliver a stage victory.
Prediction: They will leave the race empty handed
Total Direct Energie
Jean-Rene Bernaudeau’s team probably has lower expectations than any other at the Tour. Niccolo Bonifazio achieved his best result in years with a stage win at Paris-Nice in March, but is not quite a good enough sprinter to justify having the team built around. So their other riders will attempt to frequent as many breakaways as possible, however hopeless their chances of succeeding might be.
Prediction: Plenty of combativity awards for attacking racing
Thirty-three-year old Bauke Mollema and 35-year old Richie Porte have experience in abundance, but it’s been four years since either of them finished in the top 10 at the Tour, and age dictates that neither is likely to do so this time. Instead, the team’s best hopes lie in the hilly, rolling stages, where the young duo of classics specialist Jasper Stuyven and world champion Mads Pedersen should flourish.
Prediction: There’s enough quality in their line-up to make a stage win likely
UAE Team Emirates
A team of strong climbers such as Fabio Aru and Davide Formolo will be led by young prodigy Tadej Pogačar, who was reassuringly steady in his fourth-place finish at the Dauphiné. Usually we’d be cautious of bigging up a Tour debutant, but the way the Slovenian stormed to third overall on his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta last year suggests it’s possible he could celebrate his 22nd birthday the day after the Champs-Élysées stage with the gift of the yellow jersey.
Prediction: A top five for Pogačar
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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