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Tour de France

Active Pass roundtable: Is the next French Tour de France winner already in the peloton?

Can one of France's current riders ever win the Tour de France? And how has the racing shutdown impacted tactics at the 2020 Tour de France? Let's roundtable!

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You have questions about the 2020 Tour de France, and we have answers and educated opinions. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column. Today, we have a question about the current crop of French Tour de France stars, and about how the lack of racing this year could impact the last half of the Tour.

OK, let’s get to your questions!

Is the next Frenchman to win the Tour currently riding in the pro peloton?

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Uffff good question — the current crop of Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Julian Alaphilippe seem to have topped out. I can’t imagine those riders continuing to progress. Pinot doesn’t handle stress, and Alaphilippe is more a stage-hunter/attacker. Perhaps a change of teams for Bardet to Sunweb could spark something new. Among younger riders I haven’t seen anyone like a Tadej Pogačar coming through the French ranks. David Gaudu seems more like a pure climber. Sivakov, though Russian by birth, is almost French .

James Startt: Why not? Guillaume Martin is in third place and ever improving. And Romain Bardet is back in the mix. An aggressive opportunistic rider, Bardet is just the kind of rider that could turn the tables on this year’s Tour, not by sheer strength and power, but by taking chances. And of course the day that Julian Alaphilippe really focuses on the general classification of the Tour de France, he will be a contender. Is a French Tour de France winner in the peloton today, who knows, but this is the best generation of French riders I have seen since I started covering the sport 30 years ago. You have to go back to the 1980s to find it’s equivalent. But those were very different times and the sport was much smaller.

How much is the lack of racing influencing the tactics?

Bernal put in a dig on the final climb as the other riders followed.

Andy: We’re seeing some riders who off the back who normally would be OK — Richard Carapaz, Alejandro Valverde, or Emanuel Buchmann — riders like Wout van Aert are flying because he wasn’t in lockdown. The general feeling is that everyone is on the same approach. it’s been an odd year and we are seeing leaders isolated very early in stages more so than normal

James: Well, it is often cited for the increase in crashes, but other than that not much. I think we have seen very typical Tour stages. The first two mountain days were very conservative, in that the Tour favorites held their cards close to their chest. But that is normal, especially considering how brutal the opening stages were and that the Tour is three weeks long. But the Pyrénées were a different story with real racing on both days. Already the day before into Lavaur the peloton was all over the road as it split up in the crosswinds out of Millau. And thanks to Tadej Pogačar, attacks were non-stop on the final climbs during both days in the Pyrénées. He was one of the principal victims in the winds as he lost over a minutes. But now he has nothing to lose and is attacking constantly, not to mention winning a stage. There have been a lot of Tours where the first big mountains — be it the Alps or the Pyrénées — are pretty boring. That is not the case this year.

Is everybody a little uneasy about how their legs will respond in the 3rd week?

Egan Bernal was strongest in week 3 in 2019. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

 Andy: There was a a lot of that — Egan Bernal has been cautious in the opening week because he wants to be strong in the Alps. Some wonder if Jumbo-Visma will blow themselves up because they’ve gone out so hard so early. The final week is brutal so I expect a quiet second week.

James: Perhaps, but they are not racing like that. Again, there was no holding back in the Pyrénées. Guys may well collapse in the Alps, but they are not racing conservatively. The riders and teams have done their best to peak after a long break in the racing. It’s like cramming for a major exam in college. At one point you just have to go with what you’ve got. But really, I haven’t seen any huge surprises. Sure I expected more for Thibaut Pinot and Dani Martinez after their great rides in the Dauphiné. But they both crashed early in the race and that has affected their performance. But I haven’t seen any huge favorite just off the back and clearly not prepared. It is interesting to see some riders lacking consistency. Quintana looked so strong on the first day in the Pyrénées, but less so on Sunday, while Landa was better. But that’s bike racing at its best. And that is what we are seeing at the Tour.

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