Cycling-Pogacar the man to beat as he chases third Tour title in a row

By Julien Pretot

Paris, June 29 (Reuters)Tadej Pogacar will be the gentleman to defeat as he targets his 3rd consecutive Tour de France title when the race sets off on Friday, with the 23-12 months-old Slovenian hunting to become one particular of the sport’s all-time fantastic riders.

Dubbed the “Baby Cannibal” for his similarities to previous five-time winner Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx, Pogacar has by now received the UAE Tour, the Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Slovenia phase races this year as properly as the Strade Bianche 1-day common.

Only the Jumbo-Visma crew armada look capable to dent Pogacar’s armour. The Dutch outfit has two leaders – Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic and previous year’s runner-up Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark – in a team that also boasts the formidable Wout van Aert.

They will be trying to regulate the race and isolate Pogacar, who has presently demonstrated that he fears no-a single on any terrain. He will want to exhibit that fearlessness again in the very first handful of times when the winds in Denmark and the cobbles of northern France might verify treacherous.

He could even gain time on his main rivals on these levels just before the race reaches the mountains, the place he proved just about unbeatable last yr.

“It will be certainly be an remarkable battle among him and the Jumbo Visma staff,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme advised Reuters.

The Tour returns to La Planche des Belles Filles, exactly where Pogacar snatched the total guide from Roglic in dramatic manner in a time demo on the penultimate working day of the 2020 race, when the punishing Col du Granon and L’Alpe d’Huez and its famed 21 hairpins also await.

The two time trials, the inaugural 13.2-km energy in Copenhagen and the last 40.7-km exam in Rocamadour in advance of the ultimate day’s procession to Paris, are not expected to unsettle Pogacar possibly.

Ineos-Grenadiers, who received 7 out of 8 Tour titles from 2012 in advance of Pogacar seized power, will have prospects with Adam Yates, Dani Martinez and Geraint Thomas in the staff, but none of them separately are a match for the formidable Slovenian all-rounder.

France, meanwhile, is nonetheless ready for its initially Tour de France winner because Bernard Hinault in 1985, and there is tiny sign that he will have a successor this year.

Thibaut Pinot, who arrived agonisingly near in 2019 ahead of retiring wounded in the last 7 days, is back to a respectable amount of general performance but he is not envisioned to be a serious contender.

The Groupama-FDJ rider will go for phase wins and possibly the polka-dot jersey for the mountains classification in a very likely duel with fellow Frenchman Romain Bardet, a shock participant soon after he withdrew sick from the Giro d’Italia.

Earth champion Julian Alaphilippe was not picked by his Speedy Action Alpha Vinyl group as he has only just returned to racing next a freak crash in April.

Also absent from the Belgian team’s roster is Mark Cavendish, meaning the British rider will pass up out on a chance to beat Merckx’s history of 34 Tour phase wins, getting matched that record at final year’s race.

The race will get started underneath a further cloud of doping suspicions right after law enforcement searched the households of riders and team of Staff Bahrain Victorious on Monday.

French prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into doping allegations in opposition to Bahrain Victorious just after law enforcement searched the team’s lodge late in previous year’s race, when they received 3 levels.

At the time, the prosecutor’s business office in Marseille said the investigation was into “acquisition, transport, possession, import of a prohibited material or prohibited process for use by an athlete devoid of medical justification”.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot Modifying by Hugh Lawson)

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