The Tour De France has been dominated for years by teams consisting of seasoned professionals in their physical prime. However, the last two editions of road cycling’s crown jewel have seen the riders in their early 20s steal the headlines and the classifications.
We’re used to seeing Team Sky (then Team INEOS, now the INEOS Grenadiers) claim victories, with the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Geraint Thomas winning the general classification in their late 20s or early 30s.
Now, in back-to-back editions, the general classification is not only being won by much younger racers, but the ever-dominant INEOS look to have a potential competitor on its hands.
The youth revolution tipped to continue
In 2019, 22-year-old Egan Bernal broke rank to sail to the yellow jersey, leaving reigning champion Thomas to land second place. This year, it was 21-year-old Tadej Pogačar for UAE Team Emirates who pedalled to victory. Looking ahead to 2021, three of the four clear favourites are in their early 20s, signalling yet another year of youth dominance.
In the cycling odds from Betfair, Pogačar is the clear favourite to repeat the feat, ahead at 6/5 having won the general classification, mountains, and youth jerseys in 2020. Close behind is seasoned compatriot Primož Roglič of Team Jumbo-Visma. Following the Slovenians, however, are Remco Evenepoel (20-years-old), and Egan Bernal (23-years-old).
There’s a full year of cycling to go before the 108th edition of the Tour de France, with Pogačar and Bernal looking likely to shorten their odds as favourites before the race. Regardless, by the time the race concludes on 24th July, six days before the men’s Olympic road race, per Cycling News, it’s expected to be a battle of youth and vigour rather than experience.
Veterans looking to push the youth in revolt
In his physical prime, having put in a strong showing for Jumbo in 2020, Roglič heads the older crowd looking to stifle the likes of Bernal and Pogačar. The 30-year-old led for 11 stages, slipping to his younger countryman at the final hurdle. Of the veterans who look set to challenge the new order, however, it’s a home favourite who could finally cement himself at the front of the procession. Julian Alaphilippe has put in some truly show-stopping performances over the years, as detailed by Cycling Weekly, and he looked primed to lead the way in 2020.
Having led for much of the way last year, the Frenchman won stage 2 to get at the front of the pack but lost his place in stage 5, due to being given water too close to the finish of the stage. Weighed down by a 20-second penalty, Alaphilippe was out of the running early. But, his aggressive riding and penchant for coming out of nowhere to claim stages make him dangerous each year. Next year, still in his physical prime at 29-years-old, the Centre-Val de Loire native should be considered a favourite to challenge the general classification champions of the last two editions.
More competition between teams and a new generation of superstar riders look to make the 2021 Tour de France a compelling watch, with their inexperience potentially creating openings to seasoned talents.