Tadej Pogacar emulated Eddy Merckx with his historic Tour de France victory last year and could face an epic battle with compatriot Primoz Roglic this time around.

Tour debutant Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the race last September, on the eve of his 22nd birthday.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider is the favourite as he attempts to go back-to-back in a race that starts in Brest on Saturday, but Roglic is a man on a mission after missing out on the 2020 title to his countryman in dramatic fashion.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, will go in search of a second Tour triumph and Richard Carapaz could also mount a challenge, with Egan Bernal not in the INEOS Grenadiers line-up following his Giro d'Italia triumph.

Chris Froome, winner of the general classification on four occasions, will play a support role in the Israel Start-Up Nation team for Michael Woods, while Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the big stories and standout Opta facts ahead of the 108th edition of the prestigious Grand Tour race, which finishes in Paris on July 18.

 

REFRESHED ROGLIC BIDS TO TURN TABLES

Pogacar went down as the second-youngest winner of the Tour last year behind Frenchman Henri Cornet way back in 1904.

A sensational time-trial ride on the penultimate stage up the Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogacar snatch the yellow jersey from Roglic.

Pogacar won the Tour of Slovenia this month, while Roglic should be refreshed as he will line up for the Grand Depart having not raced for two months.

The defending champion was the first rider to win the yellow jersey, polka dot jersey (mountains classification) and white jersey (young rider classification) in the same Tour de France and will have to deal with a weight of expectation over the new few weeks.

Roglic looked to have the title in the bag last year until Pogacar produced the ride of his life to leave his fellow Slovenian shellshocked.

 

DAUNTING MONT VENTOUX DOUBLE, TWO TIME TRIALS

There will be six mountain stages, three of which will end with high-altitude finishes in a race that will see the riders head to Andorra.

A double climb of Mont Ventoux during the 190-kilometre stage 11 from Sorgues to Malaucene will provide a huge test.

There will also be two individual time trials, on stage five from Change to Laval and the penultimate stage from Libourne to Saint-Emilion.

A 249.1km stage seven from Vierzon to Le Creusot will be the longest in the Tour for 21 years, finishing with a demanding ascent of the Signal d'Ucho and with 3,000 metres of elevation to tackle overall.

 

WORLD CHAMPION ALAPHILIPPE TO FLY THE FLAG

Julian Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to compete in the Tour as world champion since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The world champion was one of the main protagonists at the Tour de Suisse this month but does not expect to mount a challenge to become the first French winner of the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Alaphilippe said: "The main goal at Le Tour will be to get a stage victory. To raise my hands there, at the biggest race in the world, with the world champion jersey on my shoulders, would be something really special.

"The first week is going to be an important one, with several opportunities. We will give our best there, as we always do. A successful Tour for me would be a beautiful victory and to show some good things together with the team."

 

LATE CALL FOR CAVENDISH

Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up to end a three-year wait to compete again in the Tour.

The 36-year-old was on Monday named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter after 2020 green jersey winner Sam Bennett was ruled out due to injury.

Cavendish hinted that he might be ready to retire after the Gent-Wevelgem last year, but he has been resurgent in 2021.

Only the legendary Merckx (34) has more Tour stage victories than Cavendish's tally of 30.

 

Mark Cavendish will return to the Tour de France following three years away after he was named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter.

Cavendish has been in fine form in 2021 but was expected to miss out on a place at the Tour as team-mate Sam Bennett won the points classification last year.

However, Bennett will not get the opportunity to defend his green jersey due to a knee injury.

Deceuninck-QuickStep could hardly call on a more experienced replacement, as Cavendish has 30 Tour stage wins to his name.

That haul trails only Eddy Merckx's 34 in the all-time standings and sits well clear of Peter Sagan's 12 – the next-best among active riders.

"I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep," said Cavendish, who claimed the green jersey in 2011.

"Obviously, the circumstances with Sam could be better – he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey.

"But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history.

"It is the biggest bike race in the world, and I am going to do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands."

 

Bennett said: "Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year's Tour de France.

"I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which effected my knee.

"While the injury I sustained is very short term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.

"Le Tour deserves me at my best and it would do my team, and myself, an injustice to race in my current condition. I wish the whole Wolfpack a successful three weeks on the road of France."

Cavendish is joined in a talented line-up by, among others, Julian Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to wear the world champion's rainbow jersey at the Tour de France since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The 29-year-old is also the most recent Frenchman to have worn the yellow jersey, having done so for three days in last year's Tour. He previously led the race for 14 days in 2019.

The 2023 Tour de France will start in the Spanish city of Bilbao.

Organisers of the most prestigious Grand Tour race on Friday confirmed the event in two years' time will get under way in the Basque Country.

It will be the second time the Grand Depart has been staged in Spain, with the riders having set off in San Sebastian back in 1992.

The Tour will get going in Bilbao on July 1, with an opening loop stage before a second day within the borders of the Basque Country.

A big crowd will be expected for the start of the race on a day which will mark the 120th anniversary of the race.

As many as 21 Tour de France stage winners have hailed from the Basque Country, almost a third of the 66 Spanish riders to have achieved that feat.

Reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar has signed a contract extension to stay at UAE Team Emirates until 2026.

The 22-year-old, then 21, became the youngest Tour winner in 116 years with a thrilling triumph in September, overhauling fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the individual time trial in the penultimate day of the race.

And Pogacar will continue to ride for UAE Team Emirates after committing his future to the outfit.

The deal was announced after Pogacar claimed his first victory of the season at the UAE Tour.

"I feel at home in this team – there is a special atmosphere between the management, riders and staff and it's a good environment to be in," he said.

"The team shows a lot of trust and confidence in me, which I am thankful for, and I work hard to show that when I'm racing alongside my team-mates.

"I hope we can have many more successful seasons together in the years ahead."

Reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar has signed a contract extension to stay at UAE Team Emirates until 2026.

The 22-year-old, then 21, became the youngest Tour winner in 116 years with a thrilling triumph in September, overhauling fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the individual time trial in the penultimate day of the race.

And Pogacar will continue to ride for UAE Team Emirates after committing his future to the outfit.

The deal was announced after Pogacar claimed his first victory of the season at the UAE Tour.

"I feel at home in this team – there is a special atmosphere between the management, riders and staff and it's a good environment to be in," he said.

"The team shows a lot of trust and confidence in me, which I am thankful for, and I work hard to show that when I'm racing alongside my team-mates.

"I hope we can have many more successful seasons together in the years ahead."

Page 3 of 3
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.