Tour de France 2019 favourites: Who are we predicting may win and who are the dark horses to watch out for?

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    Tour de France 2019 favourites: Who are we are predicting may win and who are the dark horses to watch out for? - AFP or licensors
    Tour de France 2019 favourites: Who are we are predicting may win and who are the dark horses to watch out for? – AFP or licensors

    Through a series of mishap and misfortune, the 106th edition of the Tour de France may just be the most open race since 2008, the year Carlos Sastre ghosted to victory on Alpe d’Huez before climbing into the yellow jersey and the history books.

    Following the crash that will likely keep four-time winner Chris Froome out of action until next year and Tom Dumoulin’s failure to recover from a knee injury the Dutchman picked up at the Giro d’Italia, the Tour will be missing two of the sport’s biggest names.

    Equally, a number of riders who may ordinarily be considered contenders for the yellow jersey – Vincenzo Nibali, Simon Yates and Mikel Landa – are expected to arrive on the starting line in Brussels a little fatigued following yet another brutal edition of the Giro.

    When the route was revealed in October, received wisdom was that organisers had designed a course for a rider who was not necessarily a strong time trialist, but one who enjoyed climbing. A rider who, a bit like Frenchman Romain Bardet, was an old-fashioned racer.

    Race director Christian Prudhomme described the course, which features five mountain-top finishes with three rising above 2,000 metres in altitude – and a record number of 30 categorised climbs – as “the highest Tour in history”. But who will the course suit most and, more importantly, who appears to be peaking at the right time?

    Egan Bernal (Ineos)

    Date of birth: January 13 1997
    Age: 22
    Nationality: Colombia
    Weight: 60kg | Height: 1.74m

    The season so far: 4,602km raced over 32 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: Paris-Nice (general classification), Tour de Suisse (stage seven and general classification).

    Geraint Thomas may have been named the co-leader alongside team-mate Egan Bernal, but it is the young Colombian who appears to be the next – bought in – champion off the Ineos production line.

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Egan Bernal would make history if he were to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France Credit: REX FEATURES ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/4sZwsztEj8zrB0TNSUqFEg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/d19577d8e70fe191f557191ea298ce11″><img alt="Egan Bernal would make history if he were to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France Credit: REX FEATURES ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/4sZwsztEj8zrB0TNSUqFEg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/d19577d8e70fe191f557191ea298ce11″ class=”caas-img”>
    Egan Bernal would make history if he were to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France Credit: REX FEATURES

    Bernal started his season well back home in Colombia before heading over to Europe where he won Paris-Nice in impressive style and later taking the third step of the podium at Volta a Catalunya. A training ride crash ended Bernal’s hopes of leading Ineos at the Giro d’Italia, but after having held his form through to last month’s Tour de Suisse where he won a mountain-top stage and the general classification, he now faces the very real prospect of leading the strongest men’s team in world cycling at the biggest bicycle race on the planet.

    A natural climber, a decent time trialist and, as witnessed at Paris-Nice, a rider more than able to handle himself in the crosswinds, Bernal is one of the most exciting talents of the new, emerging, generation of general classification riders. It will be fascinating to see how the 22-year-old copes with the pressure of not only potentially carrying the hopes of his team, but also the dreams of his cycling-mad compatriots who in recent years have become a very vocal presence at the race.

    It may appear remiss to omit defending champion Thomas from this list in favour of Bernal, but the Welshman has showed few signs to suggest he is at the level of form needed to contest the title. Despite Froome’s absence and Thomas’s apparent lack of form, though, Ineos will arrive on the starting line with one of the most expensively – and talented – assembled teams and will hope to, once again, benefit from having at least two riders who could be considered contenders.

    While there may be doubts over Thomas, one thing remains certain: Ineos will still be the team to beat in July.

    Tour de France record
    Rode his one and only race last year in support of team-mates when he finished 15th overall and second in the youth classification. Bernal’s best result came on the uphill finish in Saint-Lary-Soulan (stage seven).
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 3/1

    Ineos’s Tour team
    Egan Bernal (Col), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Wout Poels (Hol), Luke Rowe (GB), Geraint Thomas (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).

    Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

    Date of birth: August 7 1992
    Age: 26
    Nationality: Great Britain
    Weight: 58kg | Height: 1.73m

    The season so far: 5,822km raced over 40 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: Tour of the Basque Country (stage six), Volta a Catalunya (stage three).

    Adam Yates will carry the general classification ambitions of Mitchelton-Scott at this year’s Tour where he will be supported by twin brother Simon for the first time at the Tour since 2015.

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Adam Yates is another of the favourites who has yet to win a single stage at the Tour de France Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/wju9aAfuzrJfpZDjkgKwKA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/37034b05367fb34370e03efb561727af”><img alt="Adam Yates is another of the favourites who has yet to win a single stage at the Tour de France Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/wju9aAfuzrJfpZDjkgKwKA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/37034b05367fb34370e03efb561727af” class=”caas-img”>
    Adam Yates is another of the favourites who has yet to win a single stage at the Tour de France Credit: Getty Images

    Adam may have struggled in the past to break through the grand tour glass ceiling – he has yet to finish higher than fourth in both stages and the general classification – but has enjoyed the most consistent series of results of his career in the build-up to this month’s Tour. Runners-up spots at Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya along with the mountains jersey at the Tour of the Basque Country would suggest the 26-year-old and his team have been building momentum towards July’s big test. Despite suffering a recent health scare at the traditional pre-Tour warm-up Critérium du Dauphiné where he was forced to withdrawal with just 50km of the final stage remaining, his team have claimed he is 100 per cent fit a week out from the grand départ.

    Adam’s aggressive style of racing and his ability to cope in altitude – he lives in Andorra and regularly trains at high altitude in Sierra Nevada – will likely suit the tough mountainous route designed by organisers. Backed by a strong team of rouleurs and climbers Adam looks to be a good bet for a podium finish while the addition of his brother to the team may just be the catalyst needed to propel him to the top step.

    Tour de France record
    Missed out on a podium place by 21sec in 2016 when he finished fourth on general classification, but won white jersey as best young rider. Completed all three editions (2015, 2016 and 2018) he has started.
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 14/2

    Mitchelton-Scott’s Tour team
    Luke Durbridge (Aus), Jack Haig (Aus), Michael Hepburn (Aus), Daryl Impey (SA), Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den), Matteo Trentin (Ita), Adam Yates (GB), Simon Yates (GB).

    Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)

    Date of birth: May 29 1990
    Age: 29
    Nationality: France
    Weight: 63kg | Height: 1.8m

    The season so far: 5,248km raced over 34 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: None

    After focusing on the Giro for the past two years Thibaut Pinot returns for another crack at the Tour, but can the rider who is as famed for his fragility as he is for his stylish racing hold it together for three weeks?

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Thibaut Pinot finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium du Dauphiné Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/GiYXZjQmx4_qGRCnMgaTfg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/102a8c0fdfbc9821c93a960359a9aee0″><img alt="Thibaut Pinot finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium du Dauphiné Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/GiYXZjQmx4_qGRCnMgaTfg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/102a8c0fdfbc9821c93a960359a9aee0″ class=”caas-img”>
    Thibaut Pinot finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium du Dauphiné Credit: Getty Images

    That is the question Pinot must answer over the next month as the clamour for a homegrown winner in France continues to grow. Indeed, as the hosts look to end their 34-year drought last week L’Equipe, the daily sports newspaper, splashed with the headline “Now or Never”, the suggestion being that in Froome’s absence, Pinot and compatriot Romain Bardet may never get a better chance of winning the Tour.

    Fifth places at Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium du Dauphiné coupled with general classification wins at the Tour du Haut Var and Tour de l’Ain would hint that Pinot has the climbing legs needed for this brutal looking course. He certainly has the team-mates and in David Gaudu has one of the best mountain domestiques around right now.

    Tour de France record
    The Frenchman has a complicated relationship with the Tour and has completed just three of the six editions started. Did, however, finish third in 2014 and has two stages (2012 and 2015) on his palmarès.
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 20/1

    Groupama-FDJ’s Tour team
    William Bonnet (Fra), David Gaudu (Fra), Stefan Küng (Swi), Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra), Rudy Molard (Fra), Thibaut Pinot (Fra), Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi), Anthony Roux (Fra).

    Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)

    Date of birth: March 22 1985
    Age: 34
    Nationality: Denmark
    Weight: 68kg | Height: 1.82m

    The season so far: 5,087km raced over 33 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: Tirreno-Adriatico (stage five), Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Critérium du Dauphiné (general classification).

    For the past few years Jakob Fuglsang has been mentioned in passing as a possible Tour winner, though much like 2018 champion Thomas has often endured the jour sans – a day where something goes wrong.

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Jakob Fuglsang has not won a single stage at the Tour de France, but he will arrive in blistering form Credit: REX FEATURES ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/I31aayZeypPCHHs_hFGeoQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/d4b1586885a70b4d7449bb0126a9a186″><img alt="Jakob Fuglsang has not won a single stage at the Tour de France, but he will arrive in blistering form Credit: REX FEATURES ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/I31aayZeypPCHHs_hFGeoQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/d4b1586885a70b4d7449bb0126a9a186″ class=”caas-img”>
    Jakob Fuglsang has not won a single stage at the Tour de France, but he will arrive in blistering form Credit: REX FEATURES

    The Dane however, has thus far enjoyed something of an annus mirabilis throughout 2019. Though not a WorldTour race, victory at the Vuelta a Andalucía ahead of Ion Izagirre and Steven Kruijswijk signposted an upward trajectory for Fuglsang. Some solid rides throughout the classics – second at Strade Bianche, third at Amstel Gold Race and runner-up at La Flèche Wallonne – culminated in the Ardennes where Fuglsang landed Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Following a short break, the 34-year-old returned to racing last month when he added a second Critérium du Dauphiné title to his growing palmarès.

    Though questions will remain over Fuglsang’s ability to last the full three weeks without a bad day, there is little doubt about the form he is carrying into this year’s Tour. Along with Ineos and Movistar, Astana has one of the strongest teams who will arrive in Brussels brimming with confidence having enjoyed huge WorldTour success this year.

    Tour de France record
    Has completed seven of the eight editions started, finishing in the top 10 just once in 2013 when he was seventh. Has yet to win a stage, though was runner-up in three stages (2013, 2014 and 2015).
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 11/2

    Astana’s Tour team
    Pello Bilbao (Spa), Magnus Cort (Den), Omar Fraile (Spa), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Hugo Houle (Can), Gorka Izagirre (Spa), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Luis León Sánchez (Spa).

    Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

    Date of birth: February 4 1990
    Age: 29
    Nationality: Colombia
    Weight: 59kg | Height: 1.67m

    The season so far: 5,549km raced over 37 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: None

    After promising so much, so young, when he threatened to make history and become the first South American to win the Tour in 2013, Nairo Quintana has largely disappointed with his defensive tactics.

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Nairo Quintana was second to compatriot Egan Bernal on general classification at Paris-Nice in March Credit: REUTERS ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0WMEME2Ep7BL8gV5IHfhIQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/e42262fe1659731c45df4d692a36a14f”><img alt="Nairo Quintana was second to compatriot Egan Bernal on general classification at Paris-Nice in March Credit: REUTERS ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0WMEME2Ep7BL8gV5IHfhIQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/e42262fe1659731c45df4d692a36a14f” class=”caas-img”>
    Nairo Quintana was second to compatriot Egan Bernal on general classification at Paris-Nice in March Credit: REUTERS

    Has ridden consistently throughout the season. A fourth-placed finish at Volta a Catalunya and a runners-up spot at Paris-Nice may not be the form of a Tour champion in waiting, but has shown a few signs to suggest that there is life in the not-so old dog yet. Like Pinot and Bardet, may never stand a better chance of winning the Tour which may, or may not, be enough of a motivation for the pint-sized climber whose days must now be numbered following the emergence of the young general classification riders such as Bernal and Enric Mas.

    Once again will arrive with a well-drilled team packed with strong climbers, including world champion Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa, Andrey Amador and Marc Soler. It’s now or never, Nairo.

    Tour de France record
    Made a blistering debut in 2013 when he won a stage and two jerseys (mountains and the young rider) en route to finishing runner-up. A further runners-up spot in 2015 was followed by a third place (2016) and 12th (2017). Won a second stage in 2018 when he finished 10th.
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 18/1

    Movistar’s probable Tour team
    Andrey Amador (Crc), Winner Anacona (Col), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Mikel Landa (Spa), Nelson Oliveira (Por), Nairo Quintana (Col), Marc Soler (Spa), Carlos Verona (Spa), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).

    Romain Bardet (Ag2r-LaMondiale)

    Date of birth: November 9 1990
    Age: 28
    Nationality: France
    Weight: 65kg | Height: 1.84m

    The season so far: 5,756km raced over 34 days
    WorldTour wins in 2019: None

    Romain Bardet would have, unquestionably, licked his lips at the prospect of racing this course in these circumstances had he been presented with the situation in 2016 or 2017. Sadly for him, he was not.

    <img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Romain Bardet has twice finished on the podium in Paris, but could he make the final step this year? Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://sports.yahoo.com/tour-france-2019-favourites-predicting-063000949.html?src=rss” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/WNG6PS6ubs80WYJffTVCqg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/f0a5ed73fa5798d476a756e224fdd145″><img alt="Romain Bardet has twice finished on the podium in Paris, but could he make the final step this year? Credit: Getty Images ” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/WNG6PS6ubs80WYJffTVCqg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_telegraph_258/f0a5ed73fa5798d476a756e224fdd145″ class=”caas-img”>
    Romain Bardet has twice finished on the podium in Paris, but could he make the final step this year? Credit: Getty Images

    With just 54km of time trials included in this year’s Tour race organisers could not have designed a route better suited to the Ag2r-La Mondiale leader. However, given the Frenchman’s apparent inability to improve his skills against the clock – he was a whole minute slower than Bernal in the 25.5km time trial at Paris-Nice in March – then if he is the end that 34-year wait for the host nation, then he will have to be a canny operator on the ups and downs of this tough, tricky and often technical route. Bardet is more than equipped to cope – he’s what you would describe as a racer’s racer – but does he have the legs?

    Looking through Bardet’s results from this season one would struggle to extrapolate any single detail to hint at him being in any position to challenge for the yellow jersey. History would suggest, though, that he will arrive in Brussels ready to challenge. Unlike compatriot Pinot is able to cope with the pressure a little better which he will need if France gets the slightest of whiff that the waif-like climber is about to make history. Backed by a team of largely experienced riders in favour of youth.

    Tour de France record
    Has completed all six editions started and, over the years, has performed consistently finishing in the top 10 in each year other than his debut in 2013. Managed back-to-back podium places in 2016 and 2017 and has three stages (2015, 2016 and 2017) on his palmarès.
    Best bookmakers’ odds available: 25/1

    Ag2r-La Mondiale Tour team
    Romain Bardet (Fra), Mikaël Cherel (Fra), Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra), Nico Denz (Ger), Mathias Frank (Swi), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Alexis Gougeard (Fra), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra).

    And three dark horses . . .

    Dan Martin: UAE Team Emirates, Ireland
    Like Bardet, this course could suit the aggressive style of the Irishman. Second at the Tour of the Basque Country and eighth at the Dauphiné. Will be interesting to see if Fabio Aru’s return is a help or hindrance.

    Vincenzo Nibali: Bahrain Merida, Italy
    Finished runner-up at the Giro before claiming he would be stage hunting at the Tour and may have a crack at the mountains jersey. But with a weakened field will the man nicknamed ‘the Shark’ sense blood?

    Rigoberto Urán: EF Education First, Colombia
    The Colombian may have raced just 19 days this year, but will arrive encouraged with his third-place finish at La Route d’Occitanie. Has a strong team featuring Tejay van Garderen and Michael Woods.