This year’s Tour de France isn’t all about two Slovenians and four Ineos Grenadiers.
Although the pre-Tour hype is centered on Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič and a small army of Ineos riders, there are a number of GC hopefuls threatening in the shadows.
Rigoberto Urán, Wilco Kelderman and Julian Alaphilippe may not be likely to have the yellow jersey on their backs come Paris, but they all have a chance at the top-5 as well as the potential to throw a grenade into the wheels of the pre-race favorites.
- Miguel Ángel López punches into top-5 favorites for 2021 Tour de France
- Can Ineos Grenadiers’ team strength outmaneuver Roglič and Pogačar?
Here is the trio that could disrupt the dominance at this Tour de France:
Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo)
Who else is excited to see this guy take off at the Tour de France this Saturday? ✋ 🇫🇷
Full roster coming tomorrow… 👀 😬 pic.twitter.com/k1xkDDyLZc
— EF Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) June 21, 2021
Grand tour palmarès:
- 2017 Tour de France: 2nd on GC, 2013 & 2014 Giro d’Italia: 2nd on GC
- 1 x Tour de France stage win, 2x Giro d’Italia stage win
Rigoberto Urán could wind the clocks back to the mid-2010s at this year’s Tour de France.
Urán has been at the edge of the frame since slotting into second at the 2017 Tour, but the Colombian veteran will roll out of Brittany on Saturday with the wind at his back. EF Education-Nippo’s leader took the world by surprise with a stellar TT at the Tour de Suisse earlier this month and piled the pressure on Carapaz on the final day in the mountains.
Also read: Urán blazes back in Switzerland
After a series of crashes and near-misses through his recent grand tour appearances, the showing in Suisse suggested this could be Rigo’s year.
EF Education-Nippo brings a strong selection to France in support of its 34-year-old captain, with Sergio Higuita, Neilson Powless and Ruben Guerreiro set to provide support across all terrain. The attack-oriented team packs options and promises to race from the front in the bid to balance stage wins with a GC push.
“Each day we will have someone helping Rigo, but he’s such a strategic racer that he doesn’t need an entire team dedicated to him anyways,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters.
Urán has eight Tours de France in his legs and the experience of three grand tour podium finishes in his brain. Don’t rule out a little Rigo rumba in the next month.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) June 24, 2021
Grand tour palmarès:
- 2019 Tour de France: 5th on GC including 17 days in yellow jersey
- 5 x Tour de France stage wins
Yes, that’s right, Julian Alaphilippe is on the list. It may seem stupid at first, but it would be just as foolish not to include the flamboyant Frenchman.
Alaphilippe isn’t specifically racing for GC, but he’s not ruling it out, either – and the last time he said was that in 2019 when he wore the yellow jersey for an against-all-odds 14 days before the wheels came off in the Alps.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step hasn’t brought any climbing support for a charge on the classification and instead is splitting its ambitions between Alaphilippe and returning fastman Mark Cavendish. Although Alaphilippe won’t have wingmen on the road, he has the helping hand of an opening week that Christian Prudhomme acknowledged has been designed with “LouLou” in mind.
The world champ stands a very high chance of capturing yellow on the very first stage of the race, and as he proved in 2019, he can be a tough nut to crack once he’s made it into the maillot jaune.
“I don’t know if the route is perfectly tailored for me, but it’s open all the same, with not a lot of summit finishes,” Alaphilippe said.
“The first week will be important to make a first assessment, then I’ll see what’s possible. You have to be aware that the scenario of 2019, with 14 days in yellow, is really difficult to reproduce. I’ll give the maximum and see where that takes me.”
Should Alaphilippe secure yellow this weekend, the stage 5 time trial will be the first hurdle he has to vault. And if he clears that, who knows how far he could go.
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Grand tour palmarès:
- 2020 Giro d’Italia: 3rd on GC
- 2017 Vuelta a España: 4th
Wilco Kelderman isn’t the most spectacular racer in the Tour de France peloton, but the Dutch stalwart’s all-around skillset and steady engine is well-suited to this year’s Tour.
Long on the fringes of the GC battle, Kelderman came to within two stages of Giro’s pink jersey last fall and carries momentum into the Saturday’s grand départ with fourth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné, just four seconds behind Thomas.
Bora-Hansgrohe has selected a squad balanced around both Kelderman and Peter Sagan for France. However, with Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann by his side, 30-year-old Kelderman will have the support needed to squeeze into the top end of the GC and put an end to a series of Tour de France disappointments.
The inclusion of Buchmann – fourth in the 2019 Tour – could add a lot of firepower to Kelderman’s classification charge. The 28-year-old moved into sixth with a series of spectacular attacks at last month’s Giro only to crash out on stage 15.
Although Buchmann is set to ride in support of his Dutch teammate, he’s not ruling out his own chances. Together, Buchmann and Kelderman could prove strong allies or close enemies.
“Wilco is our captain for the overall standings. I’m not going to try to lose time at the beginning, but just see how it goes for me,” Buchmann told Radsport this week.
“The course is not perfect for me, and if Wilco needs help, I’ll give him help. But if things are going very well for me, I won’t hold back.”
Kelderman saw his chances at Giro glory go up in smoke when Team Sunweb backed his teammate Jai Hindley in a race-shaping stage over the Stelvio Pass last October. While he’ll be hoping to repeat his podium finish from last year’s race, Kelderman will be hoping to avoid the controversy around it.
Also worth a watch:
Miguel Ángel López is the rider most likely to break a Sloveno-Ineos stranglehold on this year’s Tour – that’s why he’s in our top five favorites.
Others to keep an eye on are Enric Mas (Movistar), Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious), and Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange).
🇫🇷 #TDF2021 𝙃𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙡𝙩𝙤𝙣 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙃𝙖𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙧 🦸♂️
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) June 23, 2021