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Who are the favourites for the 2021 Tour de France?

14 Jun 2021

Rolling fields of sunflowers, Monsieur Christian Prudhomme hanging out of the top of a Skoda, an increased interest in French gothic architecture, David Millar saying ‘peel off’. Yep, that’s right, it is almost Tour de France time.

On Saturday 26th June, 184 of the world’s best cyclists will roll out of the Breton city of Brest for a three week lap of the France and at the end of it all, one rider will have the privilege of standing on the winner’s podium, draped in the iconic Maillot Jaune.

The million dollar question is: who? Who will be that rider wearing yellow in Paris joining the exclusive club of riders to win cycling’s biggest race?

Below, digital editor Joe Robinson has ordered the top 16 riders he believes will be vying for yellow at this year’s Tour and even gone out on a limb and predicted his top 10:

1 - Tadej Pogacar
2 - Geraint Thomas
3 - Primoz Roglic
4 - Richard Carapaz
5 - Miguel Angel Lopez
6 - Enric Mas
7 - Wilco Kelderman
8 - Nairo Quintana
9 - Tao Geoghegan Hart
10 - Simon Yates

Tour de France 2021 favourites ranked

1. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Stength: He is the complete package  
Weakness: Potentially lacking a team for support but even that’s a reach

Are we entering the Pogacar era? There is this impending sense around those in the know that we may well be.

The 22-year-old’s performance at last year’s Tour needs no real explanation mainly because it bordered upon the unbelievable. But if you thought that his La Planche des Belles Filles heroics were a one-in-a-million fluke, his recent displays at Tirreno-Adriatico, Itzulia Basque Country and Liege-Bastogne-Liege would very much beg to differ.

It’s clear that Pogacar is about to take the sport of cycling into a new stratosphere, the question is can anybody from the current peloton, of the established old guard, join him for the ride? It really feels that there is only rider currently capable of matching Pogacar’s capabilities and potential and that rider will not be racing this year’s Tour, mainly because he has just won the Giro. In other words, things don't bode well for anyone else heading to the Tour with aspirations of yellow.

The best bet for Pogacar’s rivals is hoping that he falls foul of a mechanical, crosswinds or a tummy bug because you get the impression in a straight shoot out, as things currently stand, nobody has the beating of the defending champion.

Cyclist rating: 5/5

Did you know? Young Tadej Pogacar loves to rap

2. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Stength: All-rounder, great team  
Weakness: The ghost of the 2020 Tour; won't have raced for 60 days

It will have been 60 days since Primoz Roglic had pinned on a race number when he takes to the Tour de France start line on Saturday 26th June. Will that matter? Probably not, I suspect Roglic and Jumbo-Visma know what they are doing.

At present, Roglic is the best one-week stage racer in the world and probably the second-best Grand Tour rider after Pogacar. He is explosive on short, steep climbs, metronomic on long alpine ascents and a force to be reckoned with during individual time-trials (unless in the Vosges and on La Planche des Belles Filles). His consistency is also something to behold, it seems as if there’s never any let off for Roglic.

He goes into this year’s Tour as second favourite with the second best team – after the Ineos Grenadiers – and is probably the only rider who can match Pogacar - excluding incident.

You suspect the biggesst obstacle for Roglic will be overcoming the curse of 2020 and the pain of how he lost last year’s race against all odds. Stuff like that can really linger.

Cyc rating: 4.5/5

Did you know? Primoz Roglic used to be a ski jumper...

3. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

Stength: Been there, done it, got the t-shirt  
Weakness: Not as explosive as rivals

Let this sink in. Ineos Grenadiers are heading to the Tour de France with a former Tour winner, a former Vuelta a Espana winner who is set to win the Tour de Suisse, a former Giro d’Italia winner, the current Dauphine champion who finished last year’s Tour third, a former road race World Champion, a former time trial World Champion and Luke Rowe.

It’s a joke really, that kind of strength in-depth, begging comparison with the Hinault/LeMond/Fignon Renault team in the early 1980s. It’s such an abundance of riches that in any other year you would say it was almost impossible for Ineos not to waltz away with yet another yellow jersey but such is the talent of Pogacar and Roglic, the task at hand for Thomas and co feels like a mammoth one.

Thomas will back himself, though. He knows what it takes to win the yellow jersey and that counts for a lot at a Grand Tour, you cannot buy that experience.

Cyc rating: 4/5

Did you know? Geraint Thomas finished second-to-last at his Tour debut in 2007

4. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)

Stength: A Rolls Royce climber  
Weakness: More accomplished favourites within his own team

And just when you think Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart are leading Ineos at the Tour... bam, out of nowhere comes Richard Carapaz riding everyone off his wheel at the Tour de Suisse, turning the British team’s trident of leadership into a fearsome foursome.

We should have seen it coming. After all, Carapaz has done this before. The 2019 Giro which he won while at Movistar. He was originally third of three team leaders and then ended up winning the Maglia Rosa at a canter. If he did the same at this year’s Tour it simply would be history repeating itself.

And Cyclist’s Will Strickson is so convinced by the Ecuadorian, he even wrote an opinion piece on why he should be Ineos’s dedicated leader, which you can read here.

Cyc rating: 4/5

Did you know? Richard Carapaz is from El Carmelo, Ecuador, 2,980m above sea level

5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar)

Stength: On his day, he can be untouchable on the big climbs  
Weakness: Movistar madness

From calling Movistar a bunch of idiots to leading them at the Tour de France in less than two years, Superman Lopez’s last 24 months has had more plot twists than Eastenders.

He returns to the Tour with his new team hoping to improve on his 6th-placed finish at last year’s race. On his day, Lopez climbs with the best. In fact, he climbs better than the best – just look at his performance on the Col de la Loze on Stage 17 of the 2020 Tour.

The problem for Lopez is that not only is Superman’s kryptonite individual time-trials (a poor performance at last year’s Tour TT on La Planche des Belles Filles saw him slip from 3rd to 6th on the penultimate day), he races for Movistar so calamity is never far away.

Cyc rating: 4/5

Did you know? In his native Colombia, Lopez is called ‘Superman’ after fighting off knife-wielding thieves who attempted to steal his bike while on a training ride

6. Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers)

Stength: Confidence high after recent Criterium du Dauphine win  
Weakness: Rarely performs for three consecutive weeks

We have it on great authority that Richie Porte is one the peloton’s current patrons. Many riders, young and old, have recalled being dressed down by the experienced Aussie in the peloton which may come as a surprise considering his relaxed demeanor off the bike.

He heads into this year’s Tour as the current Dauphine champion and a podium finisher in 2020, two things that must do wonders for the confidence. He is also one of the world’s best climbers and a seasoned veteran who has led many a team leader to Grand Tour glory.

The big issue, however, has always been Porte’s ability to piece together three weeks of racing without incident or injury while racing for himself, last year being the exception to the rule. If he can get through the Tour unscaved, however, he could be a great bet for the overall podium.

Cyc rating: 3/5

Did you know? Richie Porte is known for enjoying mammoth 300km+ training rides when back home in Tasmania

7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers)

Stength: Nothing to lose, all to gain  
Weakness: Inexperience

If a kid from Kilburn can win the Tour surely a boy from Hackney can too? Well, Tao Geoghegan Hart has proven himself as a Grand Tour winner, taking last year’s Giro title, so that would suggest he could evolve to a Tour yellow.

This year though? It feels unlikely. In terms of a pecking order, Geoghegan Hart is probably fourth for Ineos and therefore the most likely to be considered expendable in regards to domestique duties in the high mountains.

However, to defeat the ominous march of Pog/Rog, you get the feeling that Ineos’s age-old mountain tactics may not cut the mustard and that a more freestyle jazz approach may be needed. If that’s the case, it could be Geoghegan Hart who profits from long range mountain raids to shake up proceedings.

Cyc rating: 3/5

Did you know? Tao is Gaelic for Tom which is his dad’s name

8. Enric Mas (Movistar)

Stength: Good climber with solid GC results  
Weakness: He rides for Movistar

If you watched the second series of ‘The Least Expected Day’, Movistar’s Netflix documentary series, you couldn't have helped but warming to Enric Mas. He is clearly a talented rider but one who perhaps lacks the confidence and self-belief to match his ability on the road.

If, for example, he believed in himself to the same extent as teammate Alejandro Valverde, you suspect he would be a completley different rider. But he doesn’t and because he rides for the travelling circus of Movistar, you know something is always likely to go wrong.

For Mas, another top 5 will be a success at this year’s Tour.

Cyc rating: 3/5

Did you know? Enric Mas is from the Baleric island of Mallorca

9. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Stength: Quietly in fair form  
Weakness: His Giro capitulation

If a tree falls in the forest but nobody hears it, does it make a sound? And if Wilco Kelderman finished fourth at the Dauphine but wasn’t seen once on the live television coverage, did he actually race? Honestly, Kelderman’s performance at the Dauphine was so discrete even the great Haimar Zubeldia would have been proud.

The 30-year-old will be hoping to carry the spirit of Zubeldia into this summer’s Tour, ghosting his way to a top 5 on GC without anybody even realising he had been in the race in the first place.

Cyc rating: 3/5

Did you know? Wilco Kelderman has finished top 4 in the Giro and Vuelta but has yet to finish better than 32nd at the Tour

10. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange)

Stength: Can climb and TT with the best  
Weakness: Heavy Giro legs

Continuing on from his recent 3rd place at the Giro d’Italia, Yates is likely to be targeting stages at this year’s Tour rather than the overall. But cycling is a strange sport and many a man targeting stage victories in the mountains have suddenly found themselves high on the GC leaderboard.

We will go out on a limb though and say Yates will win Stage 15 to Andorre-la-Vieille. Mark our words.

Cyc rating: 2/5

Did you know? Simon Yates is a former track World Champion in the points race

11. Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic)

Stength: Being Nairoman  
Weakness: Being Nairoman

Nairoman was not interested in racing the Tour de France this year, much preferring the recent Giro d’Italia route. Unfortunately, his ProTeam Akrea-Samsic were not invited to the Giro so it is the Tour that he will have to settle for.

Twice a second-place finisher and once Colombia’s leading hope, he has since been eclipsed by Egan Bernal and is no longer regarded as the mythical figure he was once considered. Regardless, the classy Grand Tour operator he is, a top 5 could be within reach.

Cyc rating: 2/5

Did you know? Nairo Quintana briefly worked a taxi driver at the age of 16

12. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)

Stength: The support of the entire French nation  
Weakness: The expectation of the entire French nation

With the Shakesperean demise of teammate Thibaut Pinot, 24-year-old David Gaudu has suddenly found himself in the intimidating position of being ‘France’s next great hope’, a role that carries more pressure than the country’s presidency.

Victory at this year’s Tour will not happen for Gaudu but a stage win and a solid GC finish will certainly build confidence for future years and hopefully alleviate the French Tour pressure cooker for another year yet.

Cyc rating: 2/5

Did you know? David Gaudu has a reported VO2max of 92ml/kg-min

13. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Stength: Age is but a number
Weakness: He is really, really old...

There is a rumour that Alejandro Valverde took 50 consecutive victories between the age of 11 and 13 which completely checks out when you consider the 41-year-old’ss staggering palmares. Sure, there are parts of Valverde’s past that are less than rosy but nothing changes the fact he is probably the best rider of this century so far.

Not that will help him win this year’s Tour though, far too old for that now, best he can aim for another top 10 on GC.

Cyc rating: 2/5

Did you know? Alejandro Valverde made his Grand Tour debut at the 2002 Vuelta a Espana

14. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

Stength: Everyone loves him  
Weakness: He isn’t a Grand Tour contender

We’ve met Julian Alaphilippe a few times, he complimented me on my cyclist tan lines, great guy.

The issue is he is not a Grand Tour contender despite what the French public and media may hope. There is very little chance of him wearing yellow in Paris but a very good chance he could wear yellow for the first week of this race considering the parcours of this year’s Breton Grand Depart. There's just a certain Mathieu van der Poel standing in his way...

Cyc rating: 1/5

Did you know? Julian Alaphilippe is an accomplished drummer

15. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo)

Stength: Going under the radar and finishing on Grand Tour podiums is his thing
Weakness: Past his best

There’s a story that goes around about Rigo Uran, the 2012 Olympic Games and a gold-plated Lamborghini but that’s one for another time.

Mick Jagger is a proven operator at Grand Tours which came to light best at the 2017 Tour when he finished second just 54 seconds behind Chris Froome. A repeat of such performance is unlikely this summer but another top 10 is definitely within reach if he can avoid injuries and crashes.

Cyc rating: 1/5

Did you know? Rigoberto Uran is hotly tipped to run for President of Colombia once retired from cycling

16. Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious)

Stength: Riding for the world’s in-form team
Weakness: Lots of riders are better than him

So after continually making jokes about Bahrain not being so ‘victorious’, it seems like the team have suddenly become unbeatable in order to stop us making cheap jibes.
Damiano Caruso at the Giro, Mark Padun at the Dauphine, Phil Bahaus at the Tour of Slovenia. They cannot stop winning which bodes well for their Tour team.

Leading the GC charge will be Pello Bilbao alongside young Aussie Jack Haig and we suspect the latter could surprise a few with his best career GC finish so far.

Cyc rating: 1/5

Did you know? Aussie Jack Haig lives in Andorra and owns a dog called Bill