This year’s Tour de France will be like no other.
Having been delayed by a month due to coronavirus, the biggest bicycle race in the world is due to get started August 29, and will see twists, turns and exciting cycling action!
How does the race work?
22 teams of eight riders take part in the race, with each team typically riding for one leader.
To win the Tour’s famous Yellow Jersey, a rider has to complete the race in the lowest cumulative time over the 21 stages. Every day, one rider wears the Yellow Jersey if they lead the ‘General Classification,’ which is the ranking of riders by time.
There are also separate competitions for sprinting and climbing.
The Green Jersey is worn by the best sprinter. Every sprint finish offers the opportunity to win points, with first-place gaining the most points and lowering points being awarded for lower positions. The rider with the most points at the end gets a Green Jersey!
The iconic Polka Dot jersey is for the best climber. Riders can gain points for being the first to the top of pre-determined mountains along the route, with harder climbs attracting more points.
Lastly, there’s a White Jersey for the best rider under 25-years old. Like the Yellow Jersey, this is given to the rider with the lowest cumulative time.
Where does the route go and what’s going to happen?
This year’s Tour de France is more mountainous and even tougher than ever!
As a basic overview, the race starts with three days in the beautiful French Riviera, with stages based around Nice.
From there, the Tour de France moves west towards the Pyrenees mountain range. After stage 9, riders get a well-earned rest day and fly north ready for stage 10 on the west coast of France. The race then heads back inland, through the wild and rugged hills of the Massif Central as it approaches a big block of high Alpine climbing.
And to finish off, as always, it’s the traditional ceremonial stage around Paris, where riders race on the historic Champs-Elysees in view of the Arc de Triomphe.
Just to make the lives of cyclists who have had to train through lockdown even harder, the Tour de France organisers have filled this year’s race with tough climbs.
Rather than putting the mountains into a few condensed days in the French Alps and Pyrenees – as is the normal approach – there’s an added level of challenge this year as the climbs are sprinkled at random over three weeks, giving riders no rest!
That’s not to say that the sprinters won’t have their opportunity to battle it out in the frenetic high-speed charges that make for such great viewing. There are a number of stages set to see a big sprint showdown, and there is a strong field of fast men set to challenge in the action.
Who’s going to win?
Just as 2020 is a crazy year, it could also be a Tour of crazy racing!
There are more genuine contenders than before, and teams are on the rise that could put an end to Team Sky / Ineos’ long-time dominance over the race.
To name all the possible winners would need a whole blog, but there are a few notable non-starters.
Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome and his Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas have both been left out of their squad’s selection for the Tour after the pair didn’t prove themselves fit enough. Steven Kruijswijk, the Jumbo-Visma rider who placed third at the Tour de France last year, is injured.
There are perhaps two key contenders for this year’s race – young Colombian and defending champion Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), and last year’s Vuelta a Espana winner, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma also have some of the race’s second-tier favourites, with Ineos rider Richard Carapaz in with a shot and Tom Dumoulin of Jumbo-Visma also in contention. With those two teams boasting such super-strong riders, the race is likely to come down to a big battle between the two squads.
Who else is in the mix? There are plenty of others who could spring a surprise and beat Ineos and Jumbo-Visma.
Established names such as Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) should be at the pointy-end of the race, as well as young hotshot Tadej Pogacar, who is just 21 years old!
What about Coronavirus?
The COVID-19 pandemic will mean that life around the cycling will be very different at the 2020 Tour de France. Although the bike racing itself will carry on as usual, all riders, fans, team staff and media will be subjected to a range of restrictions.
The cyclists and teams will all undergo daily COVID tests, and will not be cleared to race unless they can prove they are clear of the virus.
When the likes of Team Ineos, Trek-Segafredo and Quick-Step are presented before every stage, they will be clad in masks, and the winners on the podium will, of course, be wearing masks. No winner’s grins here!
To be a fan at the Tour de France is typically an autograph-hunter and photographer’s dream, with crowds normally able to visit the stage starts and finishes to speak to their heroes and take pictures of super-fast bikes.
Not this year – all the start and finish zones will be totally restricted, meaning getting a photo of Egan Bernal drinking his post-race coke or talking to Peter Sagan is a no-no. Access to media will be similarly very limited, with journalists largely relying on video conferences and zoom meetings with riders.
- The race starts Saturday August 29th and finishes Sunday September 20th
- This year’s Tour is nearly 3,500km (2,200 miles) long!
- The 21 stages take place over 23 days, allowing riders two rest days
- 22 teams of eight riders will race – that’s 176 riders in total!