PARIS: A showdown at Mount Fuji adds an Olympic golden glow to a 2021 cycling season in which Tadej Pogacar must expect a fierce counterattack from the big guns aiming for the main prize, his Tour de France title.
Defending Ineos champion Egan Bernal faded during the delayed edition of the Tour in September and Jumbo star Primoz Roglic choked, leaving the door ajar for the superb smash-and- grab from Pogacar.
Although Ineos won the Giro ‘d’Italia with Tao Geoghegan Hart and Roglic won the Vuelta a Espana, they felt like little consolation. Bernal returns to the fray stronger, his back problem resolved, Chris Froome’s shadow has disappeared from the squad and powerful rookies Richie Porte and Adam Yates are ready to back him up.
“The truth is that we are preparing for the Tour de France, it is the most important race in the world,” said Bernal during a break after altitude training in Colombia this week.
The Tour de France starts a little earlier than usual on June 26 and ends at the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Giro d’Italia will take place from May 8 to 30, the Vuelta a Espana will start on September 15 and the world championships will take place in Flanders from September 18.
Pogacar’s incredible last-breath victory in last year’s Tour de France proved that ‘gung ho’ tactics, even without a strong team, can be effective. “I’ve never seen such a good generation,” Bernard Hinault, five-time winner of the Tour, now 66, told AFP.
“(Remco) Evenepoel, (Mathieu) van der Poel, Bernal, Pogacar… there are a lot of them! Deceuninck Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere told AFP he agreed with Hinault. “Who can say why the wine of one year is better than another? “Lefevere told AFP.
His team have won more races than any other over the past two seasons and the Belgian said 2021 could offer as many surprises as 2020. “Who knows what can happen in 2021? “He said of his Giro star, Joao Almeida, who wore the Giro leader. pink jersey for 15 days in 2020.
“No one saw it coming. At 20, doing that on his first Grand Tour and finishing fourth in the GC isn’t just great, it’s absolutely fantastic. The praise from Lefevere who has world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Irish Tour de France sprint points champion Sam Bennett and veteran 30 Tour de France winner features Mark Cavendish on his list of stars.
In the midst of this group of talents, the prodigy Evenepoel would still be only 20 years old if he won the Tour, the Giro or an Olympic gold medal in 2021. Winner of all the races in which he participated in 2020, his season ended in disaster, however, with a gruesome plunge into a ravine during the Tour of Lombardy last August.