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Tour de France

Analysis: Here’s how 10 GC stars could win the Tour de France

The GC battle is still quite tight at the 2020 Tour de France after 11 stages. How could Nairo Quintana, Tadej Pogačar, Romain Bardet, and other contenders win? We offer a pathway for each rider's victory.

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The GC battle at the 2020 Tour de France is approaching a handful of exciting stages in the Massif Central and Alps. The battle for yellow is still fairly tight, with 11 riders all within two minutes of the lead. Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič appear to be the two strongest contenders, but there are no fewer than 10 riders who have a somewhat realistic shot at winning yellow.

What does each man’s path to victory look like? We offer scenarios for Bernal, Roglič, Nairo Quintana, and others to win the 2020 Tour de France.

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)

Bernal has a new haircut. Photo: Christophe Petit-Tesson – Pool/Getty Images

Current GC place: 2nd place, at 21 seconds 

Pathway to victory: Bernal is in a perfect position to strike for the victory once the Tour de France heads into the Alps on stages 15, 16, 17, and 18. He showed in the Pyrenees that he is getting stronger in the mountains. So, what’s his pathway to victory? Team Ineos Grenadiers lays a few more crosswind traps throughout week two and catches more second-tier contenders off guard. Bernal then allows Jumbo-Visma to burn valuable matches controlling the peloton in the punishing Massif Central. He tests Primož Roglič’s legs on the uphill finish to Puy-Mary on stage 13, and again on the summit finish to Grand Colombier on stage 15. Bernal throws his knockout punch on stage 17, which finishes up the Col de la Loze, the highest point of this year’s race. The hulking climb is 21.5km at 7.8 percent, with pitches at 20 percent in the final few kilometers. It’s the grinding, high-altitude road that suits his big lungs and climbing prowess. If Bernal can take a minute or more out of Roglič then he has a good chance at holding off the Slovenian in the stage 20 individual time trial.

Likelihood of this happening: Will it snow in Denver next September? It’s a 50-50 chance, and I place Bernal’s chances on this level. Even though Roglič appears to be the strongest rider in this year’s race, Bernal is at home in the Alps. Don’t count him out.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)

Roglič looked strong on stage 11. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 1st place

Pathway to victory: Roglič continues his pursuit of bonus seconds across the next few stages of the Tour, using his explosive speed to take the stage win at Puy-Mary on stage 13 and again at Grand Colombier on stage 15. Jumbo-Visma retains its strength in the Alps, and top climbing domestiques Tom Dumoulin, Sepp Kuss, George Bennett, and Wout van Aert (!) are strong enough to isolate the other GC contenders on the big climbs. Roglič then marks Bernal and Nairo Quintana on the stage 17 ascent to the Col de la Loze, and although he is dropped, he does enough to keep the jersey by a few seconds. Roglič then wins the stage 20 individual time trial to seal the win. Sounds easy, right?

Likelihood of this happening: I put a Roglič victory on par with the likelihood of me suffering a flat tire on my next bike ride. Pretty high, considering I’ve flatted on my previous two ones. Roglič looks bulletproof so far in this year’s Tour, and Jumbo-Visma is the strongest team. Have they spent too much energy in the first half? It’s the biggest question of this year’s GC battle. And, as we all know, bike racing can change in an instant!

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)

Quintana is well placed to strike for yellow. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 5th place, at 32 seconds

Pathway to victory: Nairo Quintana is a top climber and also a cagy veteran. Thus, he plays off of the Ineos Grenadiers vs. Jumbo-Visma rivalry and attacks at the perfect moment in the Alps to take time on everyone and seize the jersey. What, specifically, does this look like? On stage 15 the peloton explodes on the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la Biche. As Roglič and Bernal watch each other, Quintana attacks up and over the top with Adam Yates or a resurgent Emanuel Buchmann, and Quintana simply holds off the GC favorites on the Grand Colombier to take the stage win and the jersey. He then marks his rivals over the Col de la Loze and the mountainous stage 18, and limits his losses to a few seconds on the individual time trial. Quintana becomes the second Colombian in as many years to win the Tour de France, and all of Colombia throws a three-week-long rager to celebrate King-tana.

Likelihood of this happening: I put a Quintana overall victory on par with an Andre Greipel stage win. It could happen but it probably won’t. While Quintana may, indeed, find his best form in the Alps, he still needs to drop Bernal and Roglič, and right now that does not seem likely. The standoff could happen, of course. We’ve seen riders win major races due to standoffs between stars — that dynamic helped Richard Carapaz win the 2019 Giro d’Italia. But Quintana would need to then limit his losses in an individual time trial that contains 30 flat kilometers, which does not seem likely.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates)

Tadej Pogačar may be the strongest rider in the race. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 7th place, at 44 seconds

Pathway to victory: Tadej Pogačar ends up being the strongest dude in the race. He attacks relentlessly in the Alps and drops Bernal and Roglič on the Grand Colombier and the Col de la Loze, taking yellow in the process. His UAE-Team Emirates squad, weakened by crashes and injuries, doesn’t need to do any work because Pogačar is beastly strong. He puts in a great ride in the individual time trial to defend yellow and replaces Bernal as the youngest postwar winner of the Tour de France.

Likelihood of this happening: Will the Miami Heat win the 2020 NBA Championship? In the moment it seems unlikely, but in retrospect you see the obvious signs of the scenario happening. Pogačar was likely the strongest GC rider in the Pyrenees, and if he keeps form like that, there’s no telling what he could accomplish in the Alps. Sure, he has that unfortunate time deficit from the crosswinds on stage 7. That just gives the kid more motivation to attack. If there is one lesson we should have learned at the 2019 Vuelta a España, it’s to not underestimate Tadej Pogačar.

Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Crédits)

Guillaume Martin
We cannot say enough positive things about Guillaume Martin. Photo: James Startt

Current GC place: 3rd place, at 28 seconds

Pathway to victory: Even though Guillaume Martin is just 28 seconds out of the lead, the pathway he must take to victory is pretty tough. Similar to Nairo Quintana, Martin benefits from the mano-a-mano battle between Roglič and Bernal, and simply slips up the road at an opportunistic moment in the Alps, and then speeds away to victory as the two Tour de France favorites mark each other’s move, assuming the Frenchman will fail. Martin then scores an impressive individual time trial to retain yellow. France explodes in celebration, and Tour organizer ASO permanently moves the race to September, thinking the cooler weather benefits home riders.

Likelihood of this happening: Sorry, Guillaume Martin, this scenario is on par with me learning how to change the ringback tone on my phone by the end of the day. It’s highly unlikely. As much as I’d like to see a guy who has written a book and a play become the Tour de France champ, I don’t see it happening this year. Martin was already struggling on the second day in the Pyrenees, and he crashed and then burned some matches on Tuesday’s stage along the coast. The crash and the burned energy are likely to weaken Martin for the Alps. And, since he’s in 3rd place, I just don’t see Bernal or Roglič letting him go on a climb.

Riche Porte (Trek-Segafredo)

Porte needs to attack in the Alps. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 11th place, at 1:53

Pathway to victory: Richie Porte comes alive in the Alps and then makes a cagy strategic move on stage 18 that upends the GC battle. Here’s the thing: Porte is 1:53 down already, which is a wide margin in this tight Tour de France. Thus, he needs to benefit from some real chaos and confusion in order to win. When I look at the stage profiles this year, it’s stage 18 that looks destined to create chaos and confusion. It falls after three huge days in the mountains, and it opens with two cat 1 climbs before concluding with a cat 1 and HC climb. So, Porte follows Bernal and Roglič up the Grand Colombier and the Col de la Loze. Then, on stage 18, everyone is dog tired. Porte attacks on the opening climb of the day and slips into a breakaway alongside some really strong riders. Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers are simply too exhausted from this agonizing Tour de France to keep the gap down, and Porte and his breakaway buddies pull out five minutes by the end of the stage. Porte drops the mic in Paris and goes home to meet his new daughter, Eloise.

Likelihood of this happening: Ryan Reynolds winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, despite him being more of a Golden Globes type of guy. Roglič and Bernal aren’t stupid, and I just don’t see them giving Richie Porte too much slack. But hey, it’s the Tour, and crashes and calamity happen, even to GC favorites. It’s great to see Richie Porte riding so well this year. Unfortunately, he lost that 1:21 in the crosswinds on stage 7, which puts him in a big deficit.

Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling)

Urán is having a very good Tour de France thus far. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 6th place, at 32 seconds

Pathway to victory: Urán is having a great Tour, and we cannot discount the tough road he’s had since his crash at the 2019 Vuelta a España. How does he win? It’s a blend of the Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana scenarios. I don’t see Urán on the same level as Roglič and Bernal, so he needs to benefit from opportunism, chaos, and infighting. If he can attack early on stage 15 and grab some time up the Grand Colombier, and then escape into a strong move during the mountainous stage 18, he could ride his way into yellow. I believe Urán will have a strong individual time trial. His real need will be to attack in the mountains.

Likelihood of this happening: Weezer recording a new album that’s better than their 1990s stuff. I think Rigoberto Urán is very happy to be riding inside the top-10 in this Tour de France, considering the last 12 months of his career. And, to be perfectly honest, he should be. Thus, I just don’t see him wanting to attack and jeopardize his high spot on GC.

Miguel Ángel López (Team Astana)

López was dropped in the Pyrenees. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 9th place, 1:15 down

Pathway to victory: López needs a major turnaround if he’s going to win the Tour de France. He lost a chunk of time on the ascent of the Col de Marie-Blanque, and just doesn’t appear to be on the same level as the top-7 riders in the Tour. Thus, his pathway to victory is, similar to Urán and Porte, very dependent on chaos and calamity amongst the top favorites. He’s also a rider for the explosive climbs, not the long and grinding ones. Here’s a very unlikely scenario. Jumbo Visma gets really tired in the Massif Central and decides to lose the jersey on stage 13 to Puy-Marie. López somehow attacks into an early move on the Col de Ceyssat, and Jumbo says ‘sure, screw it’ and lets him take the jersey. The yellow jersey invigorates López, who defends it to Paris.

Likelihood of this happening: Snowball’s survival in Death Valley in July. Sorry, MAL, it’s not going to happen.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)

Could Romain Bardet win? Sure — it’s not likely but Bardet is a strong rider in the Alps. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Current GC place: 4th place, at 30 seconds

Pathway to victory: Bardet loves to attack, he’s always strong in the Alps, and he’s already stood on the Tour de France podium twice in his career. Bardet’s pathway to victory requires him to simply be a better and more aggressive climber than Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič in the Alps. Perhaps he becomes the only rider who is capable of following Tadej Pogačar’s blistering attacks, and he simply rides the Pogačar express all the way to yellow on stages 15 and 17. Bardet will need a healthy advantage on Bernal and Roglič in the mountains if he wants to hold yellow after the individual time trial. So, the pathway to victory includes him getting a minute’s advantage on those to on the Col de la Loze.

Likelihood of this happening: I place it on par with a Quintana victory. It probably won’t happen, but hey, strange things happen every day. A more likely scenario is that Bardet attacks and ends up on the podium.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren)

Landa has a major deficit to make up in GC. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Current GC place: 10th place, 1:42 down

Pathway to victory: Landa is one of the four best climbers in the race after the Pyrenees, but he’s dogged by that time he lost in the crosswinds. Thus, he has a ton of strong riders he needs to leapfrog, including Bernal and Roglič, who are unlikely to give him much of a leash due to his strong climbing in the Pyrenees. Thus, he needs to be the strongest climber in the race on the Colombier and the Col de la Loze, and he must win the individual time trial on stage 20. I just don’t see another scenario playing out where he wins. Landa has to miraculously become the strongest rider in the race. Even if he marks Pogačar or some other guy in the top-10, he’s going to lose on GC.

Likelihood of this happening: Sorry, Mikel Landa, your chances of winning the 2020 Tour de France are pretty slim.