The Belgian’s form is flawless, and with already two top-five finishes in this year’s race, across varying terrains, the 35-year-old will no doubt be on the attack in the coming days.
He also won in the Massif Central, after having won one of the most significant victories of his career at Lioran in 2016, and the route de Sarran en Corrèze is perfectly suited for the Olympic champion, with its hilly terrain and its 218 km of ideal length for a diesel with a powerful punch after a long day in the saddle.
Van Avermaet has an eye for the right break, but if Stage 12 doesn’t work then Stage 14 in Lyon has the right profile for his skills as well. Basically anything other than pure alpine stages, time trial and sprinting in Paris are options, and Van Avermaet will desperately want to close his long association with Contiuum Sports – the operation behind BMC and CCC – with a decisive victory.
With Emanuel Buchmann’s yellow jersey challenge over and Peter Sagan now seems unlikely to keep his green jersey, Bora-Hansgrohe will look to stage wins.
They have a number of potential suitors in this regard, and Sagan could be one of them, but Schachmann is a runner to watch. There were doubts on his shoulder at the start of the race after an elderly lady decided to slow down her car in front of the German during Il Lombardia, but ninth place on the stage in Nice suggests he is recovering
The Paris-Nice winner knows how to handle rough terrain, and his stage victory at the Giro d’Italia in 2018 came late in the race, and at Prato Nevoso, nothing less.
Stage 12 at Sarran looks tough enough to keep the sprinters and their teams away, but if the 26-year-old pulls the right move, then almost all of the stages offered in the second half of the race could be potential targets.
Like Schachmann, the Frenchman saw his leader fall by the wayside in the battle for the yellow jersey, and like the German, the 23-year-old climber is a prime candidate for a breakaway on one of the mountain stages remaining if he recovered from his own injuries in a Stage 1 accident.
Marc Madiot’s side are all about stage wins at this point, as they look to save their race after the back injury and Pinot’s surrender, and Gaudu has already shown some intention in Stage 9. when he infiltrated the movement that was trying to catch Marc Hirschi.
This break seemed provisional to say the least, but there will be times – particularly in week three – when GC teams will be reluctant to run for a half-stage, and that’s where Gaudu could benefit from it.
He sits pretty far away on GC and he won a demanding stage against some of the best riders in the world, including Primoz Roglic, at the Tour de Romandie last year.
The winner of the 2016 Tour de l’Avenir also finished second in the white jersey last year, and although this boat has sailed another 12 months, she can enter the second half of the Tour with great freedom.
As for Pinot, who knows? If his back improves, then a stage win is possible, but putting hope in his performance only leads to grief.
With Adam Yates now out of the yellow jersey, Mitchelton-Scott can return to his pre-race goal of winning stages.
It could still happen with Yates, who clearly has enough form to challenge if he steps further away from the overall ranking battle, but Mikel Nieve is probably the safest bet given he hasn’t had to. spend several days on the defensive to maintain a slim lead. in GC.
He also has a formidable stage hunting record, with three victories in the Giro and one in the Vuelta to his name. Granted, the form wasn’t exactly great at first, but he works for Yates, and if there’s one thing you can guarantee with Nieve, it’s that he’s still doing well in week three of the day. ‘a Grand Tour.
All of his Grand Tour stage wins came from stage 13, and he just has an incredible eye for the right break. We also shouldn’t forget Daryl Impey, who looks in good shape, but we limited ourselves to one rider per team.
EF Pro Cycling won’t just focus on Rigoberto Uran’s top 10 in Paris. This is a team that is still full of talent, and after a day of rest and two days better suited to sprinters, the American team may find themselves facing more trying ground.
The USA squad has plenty of options when it comes to the potential for a stage win, but Dani Martinez doesn’t quite have the legs to live up to his desire after his early crash, and Sergio Higuita is still too much. close to the GC to be granted too much leeway. within the peloton.
Neilson Powless has come close twice, and cannot be ruled out, but the only rider who clearly has good legs but has drifted over GC is Hugh Carthy.
He makes his first Tour, but entered the second half of last year’s Giro before finishing 11th on GC, while his Tour de Suisse stage victory a few weeks later was arguably the best race. of his life.
Unlike Powless, it’s hard to imagine Carthy taking multiple breaks in the second half of the race, but if he has a ball then wise old Charly Wegelius – EF’s chief athletic director – will make sure to use it. wisely. The only doubt lies in the injuries he bears after a fall that saw him hit his left elbow.
The obvious choice for Deceuninck-QuickStep would be Julian Alaphilippe, and he could win yet another stage, but as Andy Schleck alluded on the rest day, few riders are going to give the Frenchman a lap if he takes a break. He’s too fast and too good to ride, and frankly too dangerous to collaborate.
Alaphilippe has a better bet – potentially – to jump away from the GC squad in the final stages before the overall contenders start bumping into each other.
Step forward Jungels. He traveled most of the Tour to defend his teammates, but in Stage 11 he showed glimpses of power under the hood with a late attack. Unlike Alaphilippe, he will have a lot more freedom in the peloton.
Jungles doesn’t have the climbing legs that helped him secure a stage victory at the Giro d’Italia in 2017, but every now and then the 27-year-old puts on a performance that reminds everyone his class. Why not at the Tour de France?
You didn’t think we would leave De Gendt off our list, did you?
There is no guarantee of winning a stage in a race like the Tour de France, and De Gendt’s reputation is such that he has to work twice as hard to break free, as almost every time he is even a few inches from the front, a dozen runners are fighting. for his wheel, but the 33-year-old is a sure thing when it comes to coming off.
However, with Caleb Ewan having already won two stages and with little prospect of a sprint in the days ahead, De Gendt can put aside his babysitting duties and start having fun.
Like Van Avermaet – who beat him after a hiatus in 2016 – De Gendt can aim for a number of stages between here and Paris, although he may also fancy a crack on some alpine stages. He has revealed he suffered from back pain in the early days of the Tour, but is surely waiting for the right time to attack.
Pavel Sivakov of Ineos Grenadiers was nominated for the last place on our list. His condition appears to be improving, but Ineos is unlikely to throw him out on the road unless he works for Egan Bernal deep in the mountains. At one point, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) will surely make long-range moves, but Marc Hirschi gets the nod for our last magical escape 8.
His teammate Søren Kragh Andersen is another potential candidate, but anyone who has seen Hirschi on the Laruns stage will have seen the depths of his class as a cyclist. Whether on flats, climbs or descents, it is irresistibly smooth.
He’s never run longer than a Tour de Suisse or a Tour de l’Avenir, and week three could see his loss to some extent, but we probably haven’t seen the 22-year-old’s last. which already has a second and third place to its name in this year’s race.