The 106th edition of the Tour de France is well underway, with the race currently in its 12th stage: Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre. One of the much-earlier pre-tour favourites to win the coveted yellow jersey was four-time winner, Chris Froome. However, a high-speed crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné left him in intensive care with multiple fractures, which not only ruled him out of the Tour de France but other events this season.
With Froome out, it is believed the Tour will become more open, with plenty of riders fancying their chances. But who will fill the void and rise to the top? Here, we take a look four of the favourites for the yellow jersey.
Defending champion and Ineos rider, Geraint Thomas will be looking to retain the yellow jersey and history is in his favour, with British riders having won six out of the last seven races. He was a surprise champion last year, with Froome favourite to take the title for a fourth consecutive year – and despite a far from the ideal build-up to the tour, it’s hard to look past Thomas again.
He avoided serious injury at the Tour de Suisse when he crashed during the fourth stage of the race and says he feels no pressure to defend his title: “It’s actually less pressure. If a rider hasn’t quite fulfilled their potential in Grand Tours, they might be too eager to attack too soon, or too much, to get too emotional, but I think I can be more chilled, more calculated.”
In Tour de France winner odds, Froome’s Ineos (formerly Team Sky) teammate Egan Bernal is one of the favourites for the yellow jersey. Last year was his first Tour de France and the Columbian was the youngest participant in the race. Riding as a domestique for both Froome and Geraint Thomas, Bernal finished a respectable 15th.
This year, the 22-year-old has already won two major stage races: the Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse, with a third-place finish at the Volta a Catalunya. What he may lack in experience, he certainly makes up for in form and should he be successful, Bernal would become the third-youngest Tour de France winner in history.
Adam Yates will be leading the Mitchelton-Scott team and will be surging a charge for a podium finish this year, after finishing fourth in 2016, while also winning the young rider classification.
Yates finished a disappointing 29th last year, so will be out to prove a point in this year’s race. Despite pulling out of the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this year due to illness, he recorded runner-up places at the Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya – and with twin brother Simon acting in support, the duo could prove deadly.
Danish cyclist, Jakob Fuglsang may be entering his ninth Tour de France, but he arrives at this year’s race in some of the best form of his life. In 2019 so far, the 34-year-old has won the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, as well as recording a number of top-three finishes, notably at the Tirreno-Adriatico.
There’s no doubt that Fuglsang, who rides for Astana, will be buoyed by the absence of Froome (and Tom Dumoulin, who finished second in last year’s race), but whether or not he can mount a challenge remains to be seen.