Tour de France 2023 Predictions: Jonas Vingegaard looks to double up for Denmark

Felix Lowe

26 June 2023

The Tour de France gets underway this Saturday with a lumpy 182km opening stage to and from Bilbao. Two days in the hills of the picturesque Basque Country are followed by an undulating coastal slog across the border into France to Bayonne for what should be the first of up to eight sprint finishes.

Last year, Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo Visma) ended Tadej Pogačar’s unbeaten run in a tour that saw an early withdrawal from co-leader Primož Roglič. Double champion Pogačar, of UAE Team Emirates, was unable to secure a third successive win despite an explosive start that saw the Slovenian sensation win two stages and seize the yellow jersey in the opening week.

Now 26-year-old Vingegaard will look to draw level with rival Pogačar on two overall wins in a Tour that features a record number of top-rated climbs and just one individual time trial of 22.4km. The 3,406km route visits all five mountain ranges in France – the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Jura, the Alps, and the Vosges – and includes four summit finishes, although none in the final week.

The first mountaintop test comes in stage six to Cauterets, which follows an ascent of the legendary Col du Tourmalet. Three days later, a return to the historic Puy de Dôme climb – for the first time in 35 years – should play host to another huge battle among the race favourites in stage nine. 

One day after the short and hilly individual time trial comes the race’s “queen stage” in the final week. Stage 17 in the Alps boasts over 5,000m of climbing packed into just 166km and includes the highest point of the race – the Col de la Loze – ahead of a technical downhill run to Courchevel.

An intriguing 133km dash across the Vosges will play host to the final yellow jersey skirmishes in Stage 20, with six punchy climbs on the menu ahead of the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The second edition of Tour de France Femmes also gets under way on the same day, Sunday July 23, in Clermont-Ferrand. 

Vingegaard favourite as Pogačar battles back from injury

A swashbuckling season to date has seen Pogačar take 14 wins from just 21 days of racing, although a wrist injury in April derailed the 23-year-old’s preparations for the Tour de France. When the pair went head-to-head in Paris-Nice in March, Pogačar ran rings around Vingegaard on his way to securing the maillot jaune.

But the Dane has come to the boil nicely since then, winning the Critérium du Dauphiné in June to make himself the favourite to double up in France. Pogačar (2.18) announced his return with solid victories in the Slovenian national road race and time trial events, but in Vingegaard (2.06) he will face a rider in better shape and with the support of a stronger team.

The last rider to win the Tour de France before Pogačar’s breakthrough debut in 2020 – Colombia’s Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers – makes an eagerly anticipated return after a long battle with injury. The 2019 champion Bernal (80) last raced the Tour in 2020, the year before he won the Giro d’Italia, but a terrible training crash in early 2022 almost ended Bernal’s career and the 26-year-old is not expected to be a factor in the GC battle.

With last year’s third-place finisher Geraint Thomas not riding, the fight will be on for the final place on the podium. Spanish duo Enric Mas (25) and Mikel Landa (65), Australians Ben O’Connor (32) and Jai Hindley (15), France’s David Gaudu (40), Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (40) and Britain’s Simon Yates (55) will all fancy their chances. Should Pogacar’s return from injury see him underperform then British teammate Adam Yates (48) could emerge as a valid Plan B for UAE Team Emirates.

Another interesting name to look out for is Vingegaard’s compatriot Mattias Skjelmose (30) of Lidl-Trek. The 22-year-old recently won the Tour de Suisse – overcoming the Belgian world champion Remco Evenepoel in the process – to do his outsider credentials no harm ahead of his Tour debut.

Can Cavendish become the outright record holder?

The Tour may be synonymous with the yellow jersey, but one thrilling subplot for this year’s race will involve Mark Cavendish and his hunt for one last win during his 14th and final appearance in the world’s biggest bike race. 

British sprinter Cavendish, 38, is currently tied at the top alongside Eddy Merckx as the Tour’s record-holder for stage wins. One more sprint success will see him move ahead of the legendary Belgian as the outright leading stage winner with 35 triumphs to his name. Absent last year after being overlooked by his former Soudal Quick-Step team, Cavendish now rides for Astana-Qazaqstan.

While the “Manx Missile” may lack the pure speed of his rivals Fabio Jakobsen, Jasper Philipsen, Caleb Ewan and Wout van Aert, he recently won the final stage of the Giro d’Italia to show that he still has what it takes to win a competitive bunch sprint. With Dutchman Cees Bol as his lead-out man, Cavendish now needs one moment of glory to make the outright record his own and go down as one of the most successful Tour riders in history.

Tour de France 2023 Predictions

Tadej Pogačar @ 2.18
Adam Yates @ 48

Felix Lowe

26 June 2023

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