LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON (FRANCE) – With three days of action still to unfold on the world’s greatest cycling race, there are still plenty of opportunities for the legendary yellow, green, white and polka-dot jerseys to be won or lost in the fascinating multi-faceted Competition of 21 stages.
At the top of the list, two Slovenes, Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar, are locked in a tight generational fight for the overall victory of the Tour.
The cycling world is holding its breath to see the end of this war of attrition on the hillside in the Vosges in eastern France during Saturday’s individual time trial.
But first, an ever more confident race leader, Roglic, will once again don the yellow jersey to stage the first Grand Tour of the year north on stage 19 for a 166.5km race described as ” a break ”by course designer Thierry Gouvenou.
In sports parlance, it could be described as “an active day of rest” for climbers.
The tension will however increase for Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett who compete for the green sprint jersey with 20 points offered for the intermediate sprints along the course and 50 for the stage winner, as will also be the case on Sunday.
Bennett from Deceuninck-Quick-Step has 298 while the seven-time champion Peter Sagan from Bora-hansgrohe hides with 246. Italian Matteo Trentin has an outside chance with 235.
“I would love to win for the people back home in Ireland,” said the 29-year-old, pulling the hotly contested shirt for the first time.
However, any tuck sprint will likely feature both Jumbo-Visma giant Wout van Aert and current Australian art ace Caleb Ewan, both seeking a third stage victory on this Tour. .
“When you have one you want two, now I have two, I want three,” Ewan warned. “I want to win on the Champs Elysées. ”
The relatively meager selections of 25,000 euros ($ 29,000) to win the sprint points standings will do nothing to stop the intensity of the two highly anticipated 70 km / h sprints still on the menu.
– The Board awaits you –
21-year-old Pogacar lit the Tour on his own, constantly attacking 30-year-old rival Roglic, whom he trails by just 57 seconds with a complicated 36km time trial on the penultimate day , a perfect platform to launch a devastating attack. .
“I can’t wait,” said Pogacar, who beat Roglic by nine seconds on a similar but much shorter course as the two clashed recently in their national time trial.
If Roglic has one weakness, it’s isolation.
His judgment seems toned down without his Jumbo teammates dressed in yellow and black around him.
So this one-on-one event could see David kill Goliath on Saturday in a contest that also has implications for the polka dot jersey, with youngster Pogacar in second place.
After a 30 km rolling race where the runners descend a ramp at regular intervals, the time trial tackles the 6 km of tracks of the popular Planche des Belles Filles just beyond the border between Germany and Switzerland.
This relatively new feature of the Tour is a Category 1 mountain, where the majority of the remaining climb points now reside.
In the past three days, Richard Carapaz has attacked through three alpine stages and holds the polk dot.
“It looks complicated, but we’ll see what we can do,” said Ecuadorian Carapaz who must be considered due to his victory at the Giro d’Italia 2019.
He has 74 points, Pogacar 72 and Roglic 67.
This 6 km ascent to “La Planche” will however be timed on its own, while the Slovenes will have to concentrate on the entire time of the 36 km time trial in their fight in the yellow jersey.
Carapaz can save his legs in the first part of the effort.
In his first Tour, Pogacar is 3 minutes and 22 seconds ahead of his contender for the closing in Enric Mas of Movistar for the Under 25 prize.