Coronavirus is still dominating the news, but sports are back on as well around the globe, including the Tour de France. And it is a feast for the Colombian cycling fans as the Colombians are looking good. What can we take away from the first week of the Tour de France 2020?
We are still cycling
In the week before the start of the Tour de France 2020, there were doubts about whether it could still happen. Cases of coronavirus were surging in France and until a day before the start there was no clarity over whether the race was going to happen or not. The UCI tried to abolish the rule that a team will be disqualified entirely when two of its members (cyclists or staff) test positive, but the French government stepped in and said that was not acceptable. They threatened to cancel the event if they didn’t keep that rule in place, so the sword of Damocles is hanging over the peloton.
The rest day was the first peloton-wide coronavirus test round which was possibly one of the most tense moments in the peloton. The results weren’t immediately released, so team busses getting ready to get to the start was proof that a team had not been disqualified. None of the 166 riders still in the race had tested positive, although four teams saw one member of staff being sent home after testing positive.
In most of the images of the Tour so far we have seen the majority of fans wearing facemasks, but a lack of social distancing on the climbs and in the towns is a common picture. And as many fans are also not wearing facemasks while energetically cheering the riders on, this remains a concern in a country that has been heavily hit by the coronavirus. With a sudden ending of the race still hanging above their heads (if the French government thinks a surge of the virus requires stricter measures), as it stands all 22 teams are still racing.
Egan Bernal could win it.
From those four, 2019 winner Bernal is the favourite for the yellow jersey. As leader of Team Ineos, chosen ahead of other Grand Tour winners Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz. Bernal has got an experienced team around him. Michal Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo have both escorted the Tour de France winner five times in Ineos’s (formerly Team Sky) Tour de France reign. Now it is up to Bernal to continue that. He hasn’t looked entirely at his best in all stages, as he looked like breaking a couple of times in the first Tour week, but good enough to still be one of the main contenders
Four Colombians in the top 10
It is almost a Colombian Tour de France, as Egan Bernal is not the only escarabajo at the top of the leaderboard. 4 Colombians are the absolute general classification leaders of their team and all four are still in the race. Bernal, Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán and Miguel Ángel López are all sitting comfortably in the top 10 already. Nairo looks sharp in the year he finally left Team Movistar. He is now cycling for the small French team Arkea. The lack of good domestiques who could stay with him in the mountains, does make it harder for him, but he seems to be with a team who fully supports him now.
Rigo Urán is team EF-Education First’s call for the victory. It looks like Rigo had a huge say in putting the team together as he has got two young Colombian riders next to him who can support him in the mountains. Sergio Higuita and this year’s Dauphiné winner Daniel Mártinez are not quite good enough yet to go for the win this year, but could well be in the years to come.
Egan Bernal’s incredible Tour de France 2019
Then, ‘Superman’ López is Astana’s leader and chance for victory. It is only his first Tour and though he has mostly been with the best riders he has fallen behind a few times and is an outsider for the podium. Astana also brought Harold Tejada to help López and the young relatively unknown Colombian has looked good in the mountains. Esteban Chaves also left a good impression. Not quite good enough for the top spots, but at times he is showing his 2016 form. The Bogotano might challenge for a stage win in the next weeks.
Colombia vs Slovenia (and maybe France)
The general classification of the Tour 2020 seems to be between two nations. For Slovenia, Primoz Roglic is the big favourite to win the Tour. The current race leader has got a strong team behind him at Jumbo-Visma. They have looked quite strong in the mountains and very strong on the flat so far.
Besides Roglic, the nation has also got the hot young prospect Tadej Pogacar lurking in the race for a podium spot. Pogacar has already won a stage in the mountains and is looking like one of the strongest riders in the peloton so far. It looks inevitable that this year’s Tour winner will come from Colombia or Slovenia, but France has got two riders in the top 4 as we speak. Guillaume Martin and Romain Bardet have been good so far, but nobody really sees them as contenders for the yellow jersey (except maybe.. the French)