Immutable summer rite, the Tour de France is back on Friday July 1st.

This year, the 476 runners in the running will have 3,449.8 kilometers to cover from Copenhagen to reach Paris during the last stage, on July 24.

For three weeks, they will compete on the roads and in the passes of France to seize the different distinctive jerseys or simply win a stage.

France 24 offers you a selection of nine runners who should lead the race.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar celebrates his victory as he crosses the finish line of the Italian Strade Bianche race on March 5, 2022. © Marco Bertorello, AFP

Never two without three for Pogacar?

After winning the last two editions of the Tour de France, the 23-year-old Slovenian intends to triple the bet to continue to fill his already well-filled list.

Indeed, since his last victory on the Grande Boucle, the protege of the UAE Team Emirates team has not been idle: he has slipped into his backpack the Tour of Lombardy, his second monument, and the prestigious Strade Bianche.

He also rode the Tour of Flanders for the first time, finishing in fourth place.

A track record that has already earned him the nickname "new cannibal".

>> To read also: "Tour de France: Tadej Pogacar, a winner who (r) arouses suspicion"

"Our ambition is to win the race," said manager Joxean Fernandez Matxin.

"Every year the challenge of winning the Tour gets harder, all we can do is prepare as best we can."

Tadej Pogacar knows it: he will be the man to beat this year.

To support him, he can count on four of his teammates already present last year: the Polish climber Rafal Majka, the Danish rider Mikkel Bjerg, the American Brandon McNulty and the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen.

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Just before the Tour de France 2022, Primoz Roglic won the Critérium du Dauphiné.

© Marco Bertorello, AFP

The Tour de France, Primoz Roglic must think about it every morning while shaving.

It must be said that the 32-year-old Slovenian has seen victory escape him more than once when it seemed promised to him: in 2020, he must give up the yellow jersey in the last time trial at the Planche des Belles Daughters to his compatriot Pogacar.

In 2021, despite the heavy armada deployed by the Jumbo - Visma team to support him, he suffered one of the huge falls of the first week and was forced to retire.

A "French curse" which has long extended to other stage races in France.

The Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné have often been the scene of insane twists and turns that have deprived him of victory.

However, in 2022, Primoz Roglic seems to have warded off bad luck.

In March, he won for the first time Paris-Nice then, in June, also won the Critérium du Dauphiné for the first time.

Two victories that allow him to approach the Tour with full confidence, in particular thanks to an unstoppable statistic: the four previous riders who won these two events in the same season (Louison Bobet in 1955, Jacques Anquetil in 1963 and 1965, Eddy Merckx in 1971 and Bradley Wiggins in 2012) immediately won the Grande Boucle when they participated in it.

What could stop Primoz Roglic this year?

Perhaps the risk of scattering the Jumbo-Visma.

For the first time, the Dutch team has announced that it is coming to the Tour with several objectives, including that of winning the green jersey for Wout van Aert, Roglic's luxury teammate in recent years.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

Belgian Wout van Aert dominated the time trial of the 20th stage of the Tour de France in 2021. © Philippe Lopez, AFP

On the 2021 Tour, Wout van Aert showed off his versatility by signing an improbable hat-trick of stages: in a time trial, on the double ascent of Mont Ventoux and in a massive sprint on the Champs-Élysées.

All-terrain performance that necessarily encourages them to be a serious contender for the green jersey, rewarding the points classification.

So far, however, his team has not let him hunt down the precious tunic.

He was present on the Grande Boucle above all to support Primoz Roglic.

But not this year: "Wout (van Aert) also deserves sufficient support in his hunt for stage victories and the green jersey. This team is in good shape and it is able to best meet our ambitions", estimated the team sports manager, Merijn Zeeman, who added the services of Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot to support him.

If Wout van Aert won the green jersey on the Critérium du Dauphiné at the same time as two stages, winning it on the Tour could make you forget the frustration of his season: 8th in Milan-San Remo, 2nd in Paris- Roubaix, 3rd in Liège-Bastogne-Liège… Despite victories on the Circuit Het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Wout van Aert did not score any prestigious successes in the first part of the season.

If most runners would already be satisfied with these results, the Belgian aspires to more.

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)

Jonas Vingegaard has established himself as the revelation of the 2021 Tour. Will he confirm this year as the Tour leaves his native country?

© Marco Bertorello, AFP

Sometimes in cycling, the danger comes from your own team.

Revelation of the Tour de France 2021, the young Dane Jonas Vingegaard wore the colors of the Jumbo-Visma loud and clear on the Great Loop last year after the fall and abandonment of its leader, Primoz Roglic.

He had finished the Tour in second place.

This year, he impressed on the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Although visibly stronger than his leader Primoz Roglic, the Dane was "content" with second place and a stage victory.

At the end of the race, he indulged in a sincere confidence about his abilities: "I think I have a good chance of winning the Tour de France", he declared while the race is setting off this year from his country of origin.

For the moment, he plays model teammates, but for how long?

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)

David Gaudu is the next generation of French cycling.

© AFP

"The objectives of Marc Madiot (manager of the Groupama-FDJ team, editor's note) is to go for a podium in the general classification, and if I am the leader of the team, I will go for what the team announced at the start of the season.

David Gaudu has confidence.

At 25, the "Little Prince of Brittany" has every intention of being worthy of the great hopes placed in him.

Since his young years, observers have made him the next generation in French cycling but, while the Pogacars and other Bernals already have a Grand Tour to their credit after an early outbreak, he is struggling to impose himself.

The season has not been rosy for him.

A nasty fall in the 2nd stage of Paris-Nice fractured a vertebra.

An injury that tainted his preparation for the Grande Boucle.

If he thought he was reassured at the Critérium du Dauphiné by winning the 3rd stage at the top of Puy de Sancy, he then completely broke down in the last, to finish in 17th place.

He will be supported by a world-class lieutenant: Thibaut Pinot, the team's former leader.

A reversal of roles since in 2019, it was the Breton who was responsible for putting "Thib" into orbit when the slopes rose.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot during the 18th stage of the Tour de France, July 25, 2019, between Embrun and Valloire.

AFP

To be a fan of Thibaut Pinot is to accept suffering.

The Frenchman is a champion capable of making his fans dream by multiplying the ups and downs in his career.

In 2014, we saw in him the successor of Bernard Hinault, the last French winner on the Tour.

That year, the Franc-Comtois finished 3rd overall and best youngster.

Alas, he has since multiplied the abandonments.

The cruellest was in 2019: while that year he seemed able to dream of the yellow jersey with a route favorable to him in the last Alpine stages, he was forced to retire due to injury.

The beginning of a crossing of the desert.

The following year, the Tour is for him a long way of the cross after he is caught in the massive fall of the first stage.

Forcing himself to go to the end of the 21 stages, he has since dragged his injury over two years of doubts.

This season, he finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel by resuming success: a stage victory in the Tour of the Alps then one in the Tour of Switzerland.

Marc Madiot, the team manager, assures that Pinot is ready to make people dream: "It is better to be expected, it arouses interest. He hopes to be at a level that will allow him to express himself well. He has desire, determination, appetite. We are not favorites but good outsiders."

Rather than playing for the general classification, Thibaut Pinot should above all come as a stage hunter.

Two particularly catch his eye: the Planche des Belles Filles, in the Vosges – a climb whose foot is located a few kilometers from his home – on July 8, and Alpe d'Huez on July 14, a another myth of the Tour de France where he already won in 2015.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

Mathieu van der Poel raises his finger to the sky at the finish line of the 2nd stage of the Tour, in tribute to his grandfather Raymond Poulidor.

© Philippe Lopez, AFP

In 2021, he had moved the planet.

He had, admittedly, only contested eight stages before returning home to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics and the mountain bike event, but he had left his mark.

Mathieu van der Poel had won the second stage and put on the yellow jersey, a tunic that had always eluded his grandfather, French legend Raymond Poulidor, who died in 2019. Tears had flowed.

He then valiantly defended it for six days, in particular by surpassing himself in Laval in the time trial.

This year, Mathieu van der Poel has promised to go to the end of the Tour after having already managed to complete the three weeks of the Giro at the end of May.

He announced that he would aim for stage victories above all, not wanting to put the pressure of the regularity necessary to try to snatch the green jersey.

Too bad, everyone was delighted to see his rivalry with Wout van Aert, already his opponent in the youth categories in cyclo-cross, know a new chapter. 

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

Geraint Thomas congratulates his teammate Egan Bernal on his victory in the Tour de France in 2019. AFP

Before Hurricane Pogacar, one team dominated the Tour de France unchallenged: Ineos Grenadiers (ex-Sky) whose riders won seven of the eight Grandes Boucles that took place between 2012 and 2019. An unchallenged domination to which Geraint Thomas participated throughout.

In 2018, he even brought the yellow jersey back to Paris before finishing the following year in second place, behind his teammate Egan Bernal.

So why is his name no longer cited as an obvious Tour favourite?

No doubt because the 36-year-old Welshman has not shone on a Grand Tour since this last podium.

He also multiplied the falls between clumsiness and bad luck.

Something to worry about before a tricky first week, between winds and cobblestones. 

In Ineos' initial plans, Geraint Thomas was certainly only the luxury teammate of Colombian Daniel Felipe Martinez and Briton Adam Yates.

However, his victory in the recent Tour de Suisse led the team to revise their plans and make them a leader alongside the other two.

From there to imagining him in the role of the surprise outsider in the general classification, there is only one step.

Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)

Kasper Asgreen on the Tour of Flanders.

© Dirk Waem, Belgium, AFP

With a start at home in Denmark, Kasper Asgreen has a dream scenario for this Tour de France: a successful inaugural time trial despite a second place behind the world champion in the discipline Filippo Ganna, a second stage with winds over the 18 km of the Great Belt bridge, which split up the peloton and allowed him to take the yellow jersey.

And then a defense of several days on stages corresponding perfectly to his profile as a classics runner, before returning the tunic at the arrival of the mountains on July 7th.

An ideal program which however risks crashing into the wall of reality.

Like his team, the Dane had a complicated first half of the season.

A nasty fall in the Tour de Suisse, a week before the Grande Boucle, cast another veil of uncertainty over his current abilities.

However, the rider is known to sublimate himself, like this Tour of Flanders 2021, won in the sprint against Van der Poel.

And if the yellow jersey is not there, he can always console himself with the multiple adventurer stages that seem cut out for him. 

Do not forget them:

Compatriot of Kasper Asgreen,

Jakob Fuglsang

(Astana Qazaqstan) comes to this Tour with great ambitions overall.

The French

Romain Bardet

(DSM) and

Guillaume Martin

(Cofidis) also.

And the Colombian

Nairo Quintana

(Arkea Samsic) is still on the hunt for a victory in the only Grand Tour he has not won.

In the ranks of competitors to Wout Van Aert for the green jersey, it will be necessary to deal with

Peter Sagan

.

The Slovak, seven times winner of this classification, will try to make him doubt despite a complicated start to the season in his new team Total Energies.

Finally,

Fabio Jakobsen

should be there in most of the bunch sprints, well led by his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.

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