Tour de France 2020 is certainly looking to put a fox amongst the chickens with the unveiling of one of its most unconventional routes in recent memory. Having seen the course for the 107th instalment of the iconic cycling race, and following back-to-back years of somewhat unexpected victors taking the general classification, people have started to rub their palms together at the prospect of a course that may no longer suit the ever dominant Team Ineos – formerly Team Sky.
The most poignant statement to make is that the mountainous path, as detailed by The Local, France, appears to suit the likes of Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, both of whom hail from France. It’s unconventional, it moves away from a controlled format, and it’s set to be unpredictable – all of which could play into the favour of Saint-Amand-Montrond native Alaphilippe.
Understanding the challenges ahead
Julian Alaphilippe was one of the stars of the 2019 Tour de France. The Frenchman had initially outlined that he wanted to win some stages but ended up donning the yellow jersey just two days away from the finish line. While the aggressive rider did eventually end up in fifth in the general classification, he became one to watch, especially following the reveal of next year’s route.
Alaphilippe admitted that many of the stages suit his style and abilities. He said: “On paper, yes, there are plenty of stages that suit me – that suit me very well, even.” He also alluded to the unpredictability of the stages, saying that “it’s a route that will have surprises in store.”
Many outlets have also seen Tour de France 2020 as being favourable for Alaphilippe, with Eurosport seeing the mountain range stages as favourable for the 27-year-old. The race will take riders through the Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges, Massif Central, and the Alps but will only feature four hill-top finishes, suiting the wearer of the yellow jersey for 14 days in 2019 to a tee.
Over the summer, and long before this rather surprising route was announced, Alaphilippe did, however, state that he wouldn’t be focussing on the 2020 Tour de France. As reported by Cycling Weekly post-Tour, the Frenchman wants to take his chances in the Tour of Flanders, with a focus on the general classification perhaps being something that he does in the future.
Despite his former disinterest, 2020 does look to be a year when yet another underdog, specifically Alaphilippe, could usurp the favourite.
Vacuum left by Froome’s struggles
In one of the biggest sporting stories of 2018, British rider Geraint Thomas best teammate Chris Froome to claim the Tour de France. Thomas wasn’t anywhere near the early favourites in the eyes of bookmakers, with Froome being the clear-cut leader after winning four of the last five Tours. The Welshman received a hero’s welcome in Cardiff, but much of the focus then turned back to Froome for 2019.
Now under the Team Ineos banner, Thomas was expected to move back into a supporting role to help Froome equal history with a fifth Tour de France. However, during the Criterium du Dauphine, Froome crashed into a wall outside of the town of Roanne, according to the report from The Guardian, which broke a leg, an elbow, and ribs, forcing him to miss the 2019 Tour de France.
So, up stepped the enigmatic 22-year-old Egan Bernal, who inadvertently won his chance as the co-team leader due to getting injured and missing the Giro d’Italia, thus remaining fresh for the prestigious race through France. The Colombian became the youngest champion of the post-World War II era despite reigning champion Geraint Thomas also being in the team.
Thomas was at long odds to win the 2018 Tour de France and Bernal was a few points down on Thomas as the 2019 edition approached, but both came out on top. This year, As of 15 October, Bernal is the favourite at 5/2 with Betway, and Chris Froome very close behind at 7/2, but that doesn’t mean that a different rider, someone along the lines of Julian Alaphilippe can’t claim the victory at 20/1.
After coming up short in 2018 and missing 2019 with serious injuries, many doubt that the 34-year-old Froome has what it takes to win the next Tour de France. But Froome has other ideas on the matter and has claimed that Bernal is prepared to support him in 2020.
The team has shown a great willingness to act as a team in previous years, and the 22-year-old could take a year back to allow Froome to cement himself among the race’s finest in history, so it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if Team Ineos sets up with the intention to push Froome to his fifth Tour de France triumph.
Despite there being three winners over the last three years, it has been the same team taking the crown in each of the last five Tours. Their dominance as a unit is what propels their great riders to victory, and as Alaphilippe is with Deceuninck–Quick-Step, him and his team will need to overcome the all-conquering Team Ineos if he wants to win the general classification in 2020.