The Yellow Jersey
Okay so any fan of the Tour de France, and the Yellow Jersey, especially in recent years will know how this race goes. In week one we have a couple of crashes, a few sprints, some breakaways and a time trial. We see people jostling for position, and time gaps begin to open, but nothing significant happens and the race is still all to play for. Yellow moves around quite a lot, and the Polka Dot jersey is locked in a game of hot potato, with young climbers attempting to grab a day in it during the week. There is a script and we all follow it, however it seems this year something happened, and Tadej Pogacar did not receive his script.
He finished the last edition of Le Tour by overcoming insurmountable odds, overturning his compatriots advantage and winning by nearly a minute over the rest of the race. We knew at this point he was for real, however this year, it seems, Pogacar has decided to win this race before it has even begun. He already has a 2 minute gap over Ben O’Connor, who while extremely talented, came to the race as an outsider at best. His nearest GC rival sits at over 5 minutes behind him already. Unless his wheels literally fall off, we might as well crown him now.
So, for maybe the first time in history, the GC is basically tied up already. The minor places seem to be available to whoever can last the longest against what will now be constant attacks. The most terrifying thing for the other riders though, is Pogacar looks like his is riding in the free element role, hunting for stages. The largest winning margin of the *modern day tour* is 28 minutes and 17 seconds, and based on current form, there is no reason why Pogacar cannot beat that.
*Modern day meaning from 1947 onwards following the second world war*
The Green Jersey
Well, well, well… When this edition of the Tour de France started did anyone expect to say these words. ‘Mark Cavendish is back’. I am a huge Mark Cavendish fan, as you can see here but even myself as one of his biggest supporters thought it could be the end of the road for the Manx Missile. With 1 significant victory on his resume since 2018, he was not picked for the team, however became a late inclusion following a team drama with fellow sprinter Sam Bennett. He rewarded Deceuninck-Quick-Step with two stage victories and the Green Jersey, a jersey they have actually held since day 1 of the Tour with Alaphilippe being the only other wearer of the points leaders kit.
He has some serious competition, but not necessarily from where you would think it would be coming. Mr Green himself Peter Sagan is nearly 100 points behind already, and further back than both Pogacar and Alaphilippe. His two main rivals are Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews, two men who while they have not been able to match his speed in the bunch finish, can both climb much better than Cavendish and have picked up points as a result. With seemingly 5 more days with a potential sprint finish to go, Cav is record hunting as he is 2 wins away from the Merckx record, and right now he is extremely fast. If Matthews or Colbrelli hope to unseat him, it will need to be at the intermediates.
The King of the Mountains
I wrote an article earlier this week congratulating Ide Schelling of animating the King of the Mountains competition and making it seem like a worthy jersey to chase. It is my favourite jersey in the race and it really shows who is climbing best at the Tour de France. It is unfortunately now usually another jersey given to the overall winner of the race as winning individual stages in the mountains is the best route to overall victory. Schelling however had other ideas, chasing the line like it was the only thing that mattered.
This year it is changing hands almost daily with 5 riders taking control of the jersey in only 9 days of racing. Schelling, Mathieu Van Der Poel, Matej Mohoric, Wout Poels and now Nairo Quintana have all had their hands on the jersey, and for all his animation in the competition, Schelling now finds himself outside the top 10. Going into the rest day we have Quintana on top with an 8 point lead over Michael Woods in second place. This competition may have a new favourite, with Quintana coming out to say that he is focused on Polka Dots. When he is at his best, he can climb with anyone, and with no GC pressure, expect to see him chasing points.
The White Jersey
This classification is a fantastic way to signify the rise of the next wave of serious cyclists on the UCI Tour. This can be a significant jersey for a young gun proving his worth in an incredibly competitive world and really show his team leader he is ready to take the next steps. Unfortunately however, especially at Grand Tours, this jersey is tied to time, which means when you have a phenom like Tadej Pogacar re-writing cycling, the significance of the jersey gets lost in the shuffle. Currently only 2 riders, Jonas Vinnegaard and David Gaudu sit within 10 minutes of the leader with Brent Van Moer in 10th over an hour behind him. If Pogacar wins the GC, he will also take this title. If however someone can beat him in the GC, he probably still wins this title.
This Tour de France is unlike any other I can remember, where the racing is exactly that. It is an actual bike race, with most people in the first week treating it like it was one day and not the *hardest* 21 days of racing on the calendar.
*The Giro and The Vuelta may have something to say about this statement*
Even so it is a proper old fashioned bike race and therefore there has never been a time like this to chase stages. Usually as the weeks go on, we watch the GC favourites take over the race chasing each others tails to try to attack and counter attack every move. The flats races will probably still end in bunch sprints, but any hint of a hilltop finish should have the peloton salivating. Breakaways have been the theme of the first week, and I cannot see that changing, but more so than normal I expect new and exciting racers to come to the forefront of world cycling.