The pass of three for Tadej Pogacar? Winner of the last two editions of the Tour de France, the Slovenian from the Emirates team once again puts on the costume of big favourite, according to Richard Virenque, consultant for Europe 1. For the former French cyclist, however, outsiders have the capacity to prevent the defending champion from succeeding himself, starting with his compatriot, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). On the other hand, the ex-tricolor rider believes that no Frenchman is currently able to win the Grande Boucle, especially after the withdrawal of Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step).
As the 2022 edition of the Tour de France (July 1 to 24) kicks off this Friday from Copenhagen in Denmark, Europe 1 goes around the favorites and outsiders with its consultant Richard Virenque.
Tadej Pogacar, “the man to beat”
“We can say that Tadej Pogacar is the great favorite, with his youth, his state of form, his way of asserting himself in big goals”, first assures Richard Virenque, who recalls the two victories of the Slovenian of the Emirates team on the Tour, in 2020 and 2021. “He is still present in the news. Physically, he is fine, so he will necessarily be the man to beat this year”.
Primoz Roglic, the number one outsider
Even if Tadej Pogacar failed to win the Tour of Flanders last April, he therefore comes to Copenhagen crowned with the status of big favorite. And one of the best underdogs to prevent him from winning a third crown could well be his compatriot from the Jumbo-Visma team, Primoz Roglic. “He always stayed at the foot of the yellow jersey”, recalls Richard Virenque. “In my opinion, he is hungry, he really wants to and it may be the year or never for him. It is clear that there will be a duel between these two men”, estimates the cycling consultant for Europe 1.
This year, Primoz Roglic arrives in confidence with his victory over Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné. “Paris-Nice is early in the season, so that means Roglic is focusing on his season. He is really going to be a candidate (for the Tour de France), but we will have to get through the first week and avoid the pitfalls he there may be. The physical duel with Pogacar will start after a week”.
Mathieu van der Poel in yellow the first week?
For Richard Virenque, the route of the 2022 edition, very mountainous, can benefit the two Slovenian riders. But another can still pull out of the game: the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck). “He’s an outsider for the yellow jersey for the first week, but then in the mountains, when it’s in, it’s going to be a little more complicated for him”, explains Richard Virenque. “For the general classification, it will be complicated. On the other hand, we will have to deal with him in the first stages.”
Wout van Aert can “blast” the start of the race
Also, it will be necessary to be wary of the Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). But like his Dutch competitor, “these are runners who will blow up their first week”. Richard Virenque also underlines the role of “lieutenant” that the Belgian rider could play in favor of Primoz Roglic.
The year or never for Nairo Quintana
Among the credible outsiders, for the Colombian Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), it is also the year or never, believes our consultant. “He had a superb start to the season, he is in a good team. We will have to spend the first week”, advances Richard Virenque, who however tempers the chances of the 32-year-old runner: “The years are starting to weigh. For me, it’s his turn or never to win”.
No favorite French riders yet
In this list of potential winners of the Grande Boucle, our consultant does not “yet” place a French rider. “In recent months, in recent years, the only one who has shown skills to the end is Julian Alaphilippe with a yellow jersey that he had lost a few days before the finish (in 2019)”, recalls the ex-climber, who also mentions the good performances of Romain Bardet. “He can be a good asset for the French”.
Finally, Richard Virenque, “there can always be good surprises on the Tour with riders who show up, but it’s going to be a nervous Tour like every year, with pitfalls in the first week.”