I am honestly excited about TDF 2021 battle. For the first time we have not a clear favourite – or better, we have, it’s Pogacar – but team balanced the individual skills. Pogacar on the top 3 has the weakest team – can be easily isolated and unlike the last year won’t be dragged for free around France. He is still owerpowered compared to the rest and in a normal route he would probably be the favourite. But this isn’t a normal route.
This tour present a correct amount of ITT KMs but lacks about an hard mountain stage. And this is why, for example, Thomas is the INEOS leader. Thomas isn’t as strong as Carapaz in mountain (and of course is not better than Roglic and Pogacar), isn’t as fast as Roglic in ITTs.
INEOS has indeed the better team, but they don’t have the better rider. They have to play how they are not used to do in TDF: tactical superiority. About that, i will take into account Porte or Carapaz – probably the 2nd over the first. In a situation in which Carapaz has more than 1 minute, he can come back in GC counterattacking after INEOS had isolated the peloton and rest of captains are one by one. Similar with how he won Giro with Movistar. If INEOS take the train tactic, instead, they are unlikely to win and we’ll get a boring TDF. We have then Roglic and Jumbo-Visma. Where did Roglic lose the last TDF? In the ITT. Why he lost it? Because he rely on a tiny gap. Pogacar did a super ITT, but you should take care into account that you can have a mechanical, or a bad day, and try to increase the gap where you can. Roglic could’ve increased twice: on Glieres stage, where Pogacar suffered and he stopped and on Loze, pacing hard before the climb when Bahrain stopped. He was better than Pogacar on that day, he didn’t. For sure Roglic learnt the lesson – he didn’t race before TDF to avoid to have troubles of keeping form for 3 weeks (remember he suffered in last Vuelta too) and if he have legs, he’ll surely attack.
Another error of Jumbo-Visma in 2020 was to not keep a 2nd rider in GC. Dumoulin was out of contention in Peyresourde. Could’ve helped them a lot in stages like Glieres in which everyone was isolated while they got 3-4 riders. Send him to the move, let the other chase. With this route, I’d try to keep WVA in the GC the more I can. Could help a lot, specially in covering INEOS.
Pogacar, then. Pogacar in this TDF has only to hope to get the jersey the more late he can. He don’t have the riders to decimate INEOS when attacking, even if he’s the strongest. With this route, he can make the difference on Portet and Ventoux stages – my only concern on Ventoux is that descent is 0 technical, so you have to gain a lot of time. 10-15” gaps are likely to be closed. You have then to see how he performs in hot temperatures – he suffered in NCs ITT last week.
All the above can get simply get void by stages 1 and 2. It’s TDF, there are two uphill finishes with no 3 Kms rule. One crash and you are out, like Dumoulin in 2018 at Mur de Bretagne. And first stages are the one with most crashes as everyone wants to be in front and take the yellow – EVERYONE. Take 2 minutes for a crash and you have already lost the tour.
Possibile outsider: Alaphilippe. He is here for GC. Zero doubts. Route suits him in his limits, suited more Evenepoel or Almeida, but they are not here. Alaphilippe will skip olympics so he’ll probably be focused on tdf. In 2019 his problem was the third week (and the resistance over 21 days). Now we’ll discover if he worked on it.
Green jersey: can’t see someone beating Sagan. Maybe only Demare, but Demare won’t take points in First two stages. Ewan can win it if he goes for intermediates, but in the past he didn’t. Van der poel Is not going to finish the tour, Van Aert would be a contender and the favourite but only if he will be allowed to attack and go into breakaway in mountains to take the IS points, like Sagan can and will do.
KOM Battle: two options here according to peloton attitude. Kom battle will be played on big climbs, namely Ventoux 2nd passage, Portet and Luz Ardiden. These climbs will give 40 to 1st, other HC will give 20, 1st cat 10. The stage to win it is Le Grand Bornand that has four 1st category and in this final race always ended with a breakaway reaching finish since I have memory.
So, that’s all for this my personal ideas of TDF 2021. Who will be your winner? My guess is INEOS taking it, but not with Thomas.
Co-Founder of LFR account. Cycling lover since early 2000s. Say no to short stages.