Tour de France 2020

Tour de France roundtable: Secret storylines and must-see stages

Now the Tour is at its halfway point, we chew over some of the emerging themes and things to watch out for in the remaining 10 stages.

It was a quiet day at the Tour de France on Wednesday as the peloton rumbled inland from the Atlantic coast before Caleb Ewan took his second stage of this year’s race.

Rather than pick over the bones of what happened on stage 11, we’re going to take a higher-level look at the race now it’s at its midway point.

From secret storylines to must-see stages, it’s time for some takes on the rest of the Tour to come. Let’s roundtable!

Which emerging non-GC storyline are you most intrigued by at this year’s Tour?

Team Sunweb has been the animators of the race so far. Can they take a stage win?
Team Sunweb has been the animators of the race so far but has yet to win a stage. Can they make it happen? Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Fred Dreier (@freddreier): The emergence of Wout van Aert as the strongest and most dynamic man in the WorldTour peloton is a storyline I will continue to follow throughout the Tour and the rest of the 2020 season. I can’t wait to see Wout try to win another stage, and I can’t wait to see him try and win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): For me, it’s all-things Sunweb. If I’m honest, I’d not really expected much from them at this year’s Tour given their relatively youthful, unknown team. However, they’ve been making the racing in nearly every stage, from Cees Bol going for sprint wins to that near-miss from Marc Hirschi on Sunday. And Nicolas Roche and Tiesj Benoot have both been active and aggressive. Sunweb really deserves a stage win, and I hope they get one, as they sure have been working hard for it.

Ben Delaney: I have enjoyed learning about Guillaume Martin’s philosophy studies and Neilson Powless’ Native American background. I didn’t know about either before the Tour began.

What stage are you most excited about watching, and how do you think it will impact the GC battle?

Ag2r piled the pressure on yellow jersey Froome in the Massif Central in 2017.
Ag2r-La Mondiale piled the pressure on yellow jersey Froome in the Massif Central in 2017. Photo: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images

Ben: How about two stages? Stage 15 and stage 20. The stage 15 summit finish atop Grand Colombier will produce fireworks. Two Cat. 1 climbs immediately precede the 7.4 percent slog up the Grand Colombier, and the Tour’s second rest day immediately follows. So watch the last 90 minutes of this stage! After the rest day there are three more stages in the high mountains, then a rolling day, and then the stage 20 time trial that could make or break the final podium. Time trials aren’t always exciting to watch, but if the yellow-jersey battle is still tight, this one will be! My money is on Roglič.

Jim: Stage 13 this coming Friday. The 191-kilometer trek through the hilly, narrow, heavy roads of the Massif Central just screams out ambushes and attacks. The wild and remote area is stunning on the eye and always sees some exciting racing, making stages through the region a great watch. Chris Froome nearly lost his yellow jersey on a stage in the area in 2017, and last year’s stage into nearby Saint-Etienne saw thrilling attacks from Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, and an awesome all-day break from Thomas De Gendt. More of the same, please!

Fred: It’s all about stage 17, the big battle to the Col de la Loze. On paper, the soaring climb could produce a boring battle between the GC stars. But I still think it will be the decisive climb of this year’s Tour. It’s either Egan Bernal or Primož Roglič for the win on the Loze. I cannot wait for that stage.

How does the loss of Tadej Pogačar’s key domestique Davide Formolo impact his GC prospects?

Pogačar has lost a key teammate ahead of the mountains. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Fred: Of course, losing Formolo after also losing Aru is a major setback. I mean, Pogačar never really had Aru though, right? Still, I think Pogačar’s biggest team help will come from the rouleurs and big men in the flat and crosswind stages, and he is more than capable of fending for himself in the mountains. So, in that regard, it’s not the end of the world.

Jim: Formolo is a great asset to UAE-Team Emirates, which has already lost Fabio Aru after he abandoned in the Pyrénées. However, Pogačar doesn’t seem to be the kind of rider that needs a lot of help. He wins through wild attacks rather than off the back of Ineos Grenadiers or Jumbo-Visma-style team tempo-setting on the cols. However, if he gets caught out by a crash or mechanical on a flat stage or one of these tough Massif Central stages, he will need all the horsepower he can get to help tow him back to the bunch.

Ben: It’s a huge loss for Pogačar, but he has shown he is a fighter with the engine and the drive to win at the Tour. I’m excited to see how far Tadej can go.