Is anyone else expecting the 2020 edition of the TDF to be one of the most unpredictable in modern history? All we hope though is that it’s not for all the wrong reasons. No-one wants to see riders or teams being sent home for positive cases or at worst case the race being pulled before it even arrives to Paris. Shorter stage races like the Dauphine made it through unscathed so we must stay positive!
It will definitely be a different scene though this weekend with past winners such as Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas both absent from the start line. All riders have also had far from ‘normal’ preparations and with so many tough mountain stages, including unusual summit finishes in the first week of competition plus new summit finishes, we think there will be plenty of surprises along the parcours. Not to mention our initial Pre-Covid thoughts that the overall course with limited time trial stages was already looking for a Thibaut Pinot pódium for France.
So what should we all be looking out for? The Nice race start with several quality local climbs and a mountain stage finish on Stage 4 should have all the main GC riders already lined up in the top 10. Scrutiny on the best riders and the tensión that it brings will be on them right from the word go. Shortly thereafter there is Stage 6 with 30+ kilometres of uphill finish to Mont Aigoual to sign-off what should be a pretty dynamic week one of Le Tour.
Probably the stage that we are most interested in watching play out is Stage 13 up to the extinct Puy Mary volcano. The stage includes 4400m of elevation gain over 7 climbs ranging between 3km and 10km in length. Traditionally this type of elevation gain would be found linking longer traditional climbs such as Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier for example. Anyone else think that Julian Alaphillipe has been written into the script again after his 2019 heroics? We expect to see some awesome racing and team tactics on display during Stage 13 that will shuffle the GC standings and keep things ‘alive’ for the final week.
Stage 15 which comes on the eve of the second rest day should also be pivotal in the quest for the maillot jeune. There are multiple climbs on the road that leads to the Grand Colombiere stage finish. It’s 17.5km at 7% average grade statistics puts it right in the same category as other famous climbs like Tourmalet so expect fireworks but without the Bastille day celebrations on this occasion. Seeing new roads introduced is always exciting and the Stage 17 summit finish has even had a new road built for cyclists only up to Col de la Loze. In the final 4km of this 22.5km climb there are ramps up to 20%. The winner of Stage 17 will also take home the Souvenir Henri Desgrange for the highest elevation reached during the 2020 edition peaking out at 2304m. I cannot wait for this one! But even more importantly I am dreaming of being able to guide Sierra clients on this cycling friendly road in the near future.
When it comes to time trial racing everything has been left until Stage 20. The penultimate race stage includes a finish on La Planche des Belles Filles so the final climb actually removes the chances for the pure individual time trial specialists. Did you know that Pinot lives only 20km from La Planche so he will have ridden this 6km climb (8.5% grade) more than anyone else. Will it serve as extra motivation or added pressure? Without the big crowds allowed this year it may just be the perfect scenario for the Frenchmen to go in relaxed this time round!
What else do we think could be different in 2020? Well the race is starting almost 2 months later than normal which could have weather implications. The French mountains during September can be covered in mist and heavy cloud cover near the summits and the likelihood for rain is greater than July. With such a mountainous parcours hopefully the riders stay upright as the descending skills could become even more important than previous race editions.
We usually like to go out and give some Top 3 predictions but in this upside down Covid world we simply hope that the riders have the chance to dispute the final sprint on the Champs Elysees. How’s that! We were able to slip the word sprint in there at last. There will probably only be four real sprint chances this year so most teams will be bringing extra climbing resources to support their GC contenders. Hopefully a successful TDF should also mean that the rest of the condensed 2020 racing season can be contested. Fingers crossed!