CYCLING NEWS - In a coronavirus shortened season, the 2020 Tour de France promised to be highly competitive and unpredictable. Here AFP looks at the potential overall winners after an uncertain build up.
The 30-year-old Slovenian, a former ski-jumper, looks physically stronger than the other contenders. The Jumbo leader is vulnerable when isolated and can be easily bamboozled, as happened in the 2019 Giro d'Italia but he rebounded by winning the Vuelta. Ineos will aim to wear him down and take him out in week three.
Still only 23, Egan Bernal is the defending champion, the Ineos team leader and the man to beat. The Colombian's only weak point would be the time trial, which is on stage 20 this year but a mountainous route plays to his greatest strength. With Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas left out of the Ineos team, Bernal will be accompanied by three Spanish speakers on the team that has won seven of the last eight Tour de France.
In 2018 Dumoulin came second on the Giro, the Tour and in the world championships time-trial. Those near misses contributed to his decision to switch to powerful Dutch squad Jumbo this season where he will provide a second threat behind Roglic. The media savvy the 29-year-old former medical student is a wily three-week operator and the penultimate day time-trial culminating at la Planche des Belles Filles could be perfect for him.
No Frenchman has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault claimed his fifth in 1985. The charismatic FDJ captain Pinot appeared to have the upper hand early in the 2019, before Ineos caught him out as the pack was broken up by a cross-wind, leaving him in tears at the finish line. He struck back boldly, winning a mountain stage but injury ended an his challenge. He will be in the full glare of the French media spotlight again on a route could have been tailor-made for his strengths.
The reigning Giro champion was a late addition to the Ineos roster. Picking the Ecuadorian climber may prove another tactical masterstroke from team principal Dave Brailsford. Thomas in 2018 and Bernal last year both rolled out from Le Grand Depart as Brailsford's 'plan B' but climbed the top step of the final podium on the Champs Elysees.
Once seen as Froome's closest rival the 30-year-old Colombian climber quit Spanish outfit Movistar and is now based in France with Arkea-Samsic. His form and morale seem to have leaped and he was cycling's form man before being run over in training in June. He has won both the Vuelta and the Giro and twice won the best young rider jersey at the Tour. He has also come second on the Tour twice and won celebrated mountain-top finishes. He has the potential to play a major role in an uncertain 2020.