August 4, 2021

The runner who throws his bottle in the wrong place, the favorite who will miss … Our bets for the Grande Boucle

Nine months that we wait, and that’s it, in a few hours, the Tour de France will leave. Some will say that the wait has been shorter, or even less, since we know that Tibopino and Bardet are angry with the Grande Boucle, but when it comes to polishing the casseroles one last time, the thrill is there. As a friend summed it up yesterday, “in the year, there are 49 useless weeks, the rest is devoted to the Tour de France”. Here we are. And before dozing off each afternoon counting the seconds ahead of the breakaway, let’s dream a little about what this Tour could be like. We’ve done a bit of a brainstorming to offer you some not-so-far-fetched scenarios. In the saddle !

The first to wear the yellow jersey: Mathieu van der Poel

The final of the stage at Landerneau, with this painful bump (3 km at 5.7%), is clearly cut out for a member of the Alaphilippe – van Aert – van der Poel trio. But the Frenchman is not yet fully up to speed and will find a better field of expression the next day. As for van Aert, he will be too busy accompanying Roglic. The field is therefore free for an attack by Raymond Poulidor’s grandson at the foot of the Fosse aux Loups hill, where he has pitched his tent for four days.

The one who will be disqualified for throwing a can: Jakob Fuglsang

It is well known, the Dane is a fishman on the roads of the Tour. In 9 participations, he finished only twice in the top 20 of the general classification, never won a stage and had to retire in 2017 and 2019. The stage is set. Sorgues – Malaucène, Wednesday July 7. Under a blazing sun, Jakob tries to catch up with the part of the breakaway that left without him at the exit of Chalet Reynard. With sweat in his eyes, he swings his canister just before passing the sign. Bad luck, it ricochets on the sidewalk before descending the ravine. At 3.37 p.m., while he was pedaling in semolina on the Ventoux, Radio Tour stopped him.

The French winner at the top: David Gaudu

No Tibopino on this Tour, so it’s his talented lieutenant who will take over. The two most beautiful finishes are in the Pyrenees, where the FDJ is used to shine: the 17th at the Col du Portet at the top of Saint-Lary-Soulan, the 18th at Luz Ardiden after a passage through the Tourmalet. In the chic resort of Saint-Lary, on July 14, where Poulidor, Van Impe, Armstrong and Quintana have won, the opportunity is too good. Gaudu prince of France.

David Gaudu as leader of the FDJ. – jeep.vidon / SIPA

Stage with borders: Tours – Châteauroux (6th stage)

A very flat stage, the banks of the Loire on the first half, and above all a doggy weather forecast at present by Météo France. This plain stage promised a final sprint, it could quickly become a quagmire. Obligatory vigilance not to mess up on a roundabout and say goodbye to the Yellow Jersey even before the first mountain stage.

The stage we won’t watch: Vierzon – Le Creusot (7th stage)

Just the names of the departure and arrival towns are enough to make you fall into a nervous breakdown, between the postcard image of the 1940s and the abandoned industrial wasteland (sorry if you live there, we are big snobbishers). The longest stage of the Tour (248.5 km) since 2000, the first 150 terminals are all flat, before a few 3rd and 4th category passes to slow down the breakaway. At a pinch, we will turn on the TV for the Signal d’Uchon, in 2nd category with bonus seconds at 18 km from the end, before skipping the quarter-final of the Blues at 6 p.m. on TF1.

The most beautiful straw structure filmed by France TV: Aspiran (Nîmes – Carcassonne, 13th stage)

To make the most of a straw structure, you need a transition stage, so that the peloton stays together and that the director gets bored, and not too many architectural, historical or geological curiosities, unless you have just come from there. chain five and that makes it possible to silence Frank Ferrand. For that, the small village of Aspiran, placed 10 km before the intermediate sprint of the stage, is perfect. The “specialist in history” will need to regain some saliva after the Roman arenas of Nîmes and before discussing the Cathars, the breakaway will have a good lead, and the corner is fairly flat. Ideal for making a large bales bike and putting the people of the village in a circle instead of the wheels.

In 2016, this structure near Montauban won the palm for ugliness.
In 2016, this structure near Montauban won the palm for ugliness. – Peter Dejong / AP / SIPA

The team still in the break: Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux (yes it’s one and the same team)

Well, we don’t take too many risks on this one. If the names of Jan Bakelants and Louis Meintjes are relatively familiar to our ears, the rest of the team is made up of merry strangers who will still hit 3400 km with the wind in their teeth. Unable to play a victory on a regular basis, they will try every day to slip into the breakaway to show a little their jersey. Unlike the B & B Hotels, which will operate at home in Brittany and will have the same strategy, not a single Frenchman at Intermarché-Rudy-Gobert, so no one will be remembered.

The team excluded because of the Covid-19: Lotto Soudal

All these Belgians (6 out of 8) in the same team, at the time of the Delta variant, things can quickly turn into a cluster. The setting aside of a mechanic on the evening of the third stage will not have been enough; during the rest day in Tignes, two runners tested positive. Sorry for my friend Philippe Gilbert, but everyone is going home to isolate themselves.

The favorite that will disappoint: Geraint Thomas

Ineos comes in with four leaders (Thomas, Porte, Carapaz and Geoghegan Hart), and it’s hard to say who will take the lead. But the Welshman is the one who will be able to perform the best in the two stages, so we can imagine that Dave Brailsford is trying to help him a little. Except that there is. Last of the four leaving Brittany, because of jumps by young Carapaz and Geoghegan Hart, Thomas died at the foot of the Alps. Nothing serious, a debour of a minute in Le Grand-Bornand. But the winner of the 2018 Tour lacks oxygen in the Ventoux before falling on the descent to Andorra la Vella. A Tour completed beyond 20th place.

The final winner: Primoz Roglic

After his big disappointment last year on the slopes of the Planche des Belles-Filles, Primoz has revenge to take. The Slovenian arrives fresh, has not been out in competition for two months and benefits from a foolproof armada (van Aert, Kruijswijk, Kuss, Martin, Gesink…) to carry him towards the final victory. He has been sleeping for three weeks in Tignes and knows the Ventoux like the back of his hand after having climbed it three times in May. On the two lap times, carefully recognized, he can scratch more than seconds on most of the other favorites. The Jumbo-Visma has inflicted military preparation on itself, and its leader is in commando mode. It deserves a parade on the Champs at the end. Finally if Pogaçar allows it.