The long-awaited Tour de France 2020 will start two months later than planned in Nice on Saturday, but it will do so without quadruple winner Chris Froome and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas.
One of the most dramatic editions in racing history was won by his British teammate Egan Bernal last year – so who will play in 2020?
BBC Sport takes a look at some of the drivers who could light up the next three weeks of racing.
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
Ineos’ hopes of securing an eighth overall Tour de France triumph in nine years rest on defending champion Egan Bernal, 23, following the omission of Froome and Thomas.
Climbing specialist, born in central Colombia at an altitude of 2650m, Bernal should thrive on what appears to be a strenuous course in 2020 which sees serious climbs in the Alps from the opening weekend. .
A climb to the climax of this year’s race – the Col de la Loze at 2,304m – on stage 17 looks set to determine who will have the legs to fight for the yellow jersey in the finals, and Bernal could very well be the pace by then.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
The Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe donned the yellow jersey in the style of swashbuckling for 14 days of the 2019 race, before distressing the general lead to Bernal during an extraordinary 19th stage in Tignes.
Aggressive rider Deceuninck-Quick Step, 28, eventually ran out of gas after fighting valiantly for every second through battles in the Pyrenees and the Alps, and stunned the field by winning a technical time trial in Pau to put his references to the GC. in full screen as he sought to secure his country’s first Tour victory since 1985.
Victorious or not, there will surely be sparks if Alaphilippe is in the mix again.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)
A heartbreaking conclusion to Thibaut Pinot’s 2019 Tour saw the tearful French hopeful forced to abandon the race due to injury on Stage 19 when he placed fifth.
Pinot scored an impressive victory over the Tourmalet as he seemed to gain strength last year, and in the 35th year since a French driver won the overall standings, the 30-year-old looks set to support again the hosts’ GC hopes. .
A second place at the Dauphine – usually the last warm-up race of the Tour – leaves room for optimism, although perhaps it should have been better for Pinot, who inherited the lead after the withdrawal of Primoz Roglic but conceded 41 seconds to the winner. Daniel Martinez on the last leg.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Primoz Roglic from Jumbo Visma enters the Tour de France 2020 as the best men’s road rider in the world.
The 30-year-old Slovenian has been in good shape since returning from cycling after the coronavirus pandemic, winning the Tour de l’Ain de Bernal and leading the Criterium du Dauphine before retiring with accident-related injuries.
If the 2019 Vuelta a Espana champion – who also took third place at the Giro d’Italia last year – fully recovers on time, Roglic, supported by a strong Jumbo-Visma team also victorious at Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche, is perhaps in a better position to ruin Ineos’ best-laid plans.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
While the absence of Froome and Thomas means British interest is somewhat reduced for this year’s tour, Adam Yates is well placed to provide entertainment as part of the Mitchelton-Scott on-stage hunting team .
With a move to Ineos In confirmed 2021, Yates, 28, will seek the first Grand Tour stage victory of his career on a course that should play out his climbing titles without any apparent distraction from the GC.
Best young rider four years ago when he placed fourth overall, and winner of the UAE Tour in February, Yates could find himself in the mix for the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey as riders compete in eight stages mountain on a course. encompassing the five major French mountain ranges.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Slovakian Peter Sagan will look to add a record-breaking eighth green jersey to the Tour de France, having won the points competition a staggering seven times in the last eight editions of the circuit.
The 30-year-old three-time world champion, whose only failure to win the green came in 2017 after being disqualified for his role in an accident with Mark Cavendish, is the undisputed king of points competition and will be on a mission to add to his 12 previous stage victories.
It’s almost certain that the all-rounder from Bora-Hansgrohe will once again be a disconcerting presence among sprints and hard-hitting climbs.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
While Sagan is so often a certainty of success in the green jersey competition, 25-year-old Belgian Wout van Aert could very well push him in 2020.
While he ruled out an attempt to dethrone Sagan in favor of supporting Jumbo-Visma’s very realistic aspirations in the GC, it’s not hard to imagine Van Aert’s scorching form – winning Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo this year – also collecting a considerable staff. reward.