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Tour de France: Who are the riders to watch?

By Steve SutcliffeBBC Sport
Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar & Geraint Thomas
Tadej Pogacar is aiming to win his third consecutive Tour de France
Tour de France
Dates: 1 July-24 July
Coverage: Live text commentary of each stage on the BBC Sport website and app

The Tour de France starts in Copenhagen on Friday and concludes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday, 24 July.

Along with Denmark and France, the 109th edition of the race travels through Belgium and Switzerland as the peloton covers 3,353km.

The route contains a mix of flat sprinter-friendly days, time trials, hilly terrain and some punishing mountain climbs.

Here, BBC Sport looks at the riders hoping to shine and those with their sights set on the yellow jersey.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)

Tadej Pogacar
Pogacar remains eligible for the young riders' classification for another two years

Pogacar, 23, enters the race as the overwhelming favourite to win the yellow jersey for a third consecutive year.

The Slovenian has collected six stage wins at La Grand Boucle and looked untouchable in the 2021 edition once the race reached the mountains.

Pogacar has already impressed in 2022, dominating the early part of the season as he retained the UAE Tour and won Tirreno-Adriatico and Strade Bianche.

He also went close at Milan-San Remo and was edged out in a sprint finish at the Tour of Flanders.

While he sauntered to victory at the recent Tour of Slovenia, the field was notably weaker than at the Criterium du Dauphine or Tour de Suisse and his rivals will hope he is slightly undercooked for cycling's greatest race.

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

Roglic (left)
Roglic (left) is a three-time Vuelta a Espana champion

Roglic appears the most likely challenger to Pogacar, two years on from being on the wrong end of one of the Tour's most dramatic turnarounds at the top of the general classification.

Stage seven's finale on La Planche des Belles Filles may offer a painful reminder of what might have been for the Slovenian who saw last year's Tour ruined by an early crash.

Roglic arrives at the Tour arguably in better shape than in 2020, and with victories at the Dauphine and Paris-Nice he can justifiably set his sights on the yellow jersey.

The 32-year-old possibly has the best supporting cast of any of the main GC riders with the likes of 2021 Tour runner-up Jonas Vingegaard, Wout van Aert, Steven Kruijswijk and Sepp Kuss all lining up alongside him.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

Geraint Thomas
Thomas recently became the first Briton to win the Tour de Suisse

Thomas may have just turned 36 but he comes into the Tour on the back of a fine victory at the Tour de Suisse - arguably his best performance since finishing second at the 2019 Tour.

On paper the Welshman appears suited to a tricky opening week likely to be underscored by crosswinds, undulating terrain and cobbles, while a time trial on the penultimate stage could work in his favour.

Finding his best form in the mountains will be key to his aspirations, but if he can avoid the sort of unfortunate crashes that saw him abandon the 2020 Giro d'Italia and labour to 41st in 2021, the 2018 Tour champion cannot be discounted.

Should Thomas falter, Ineos will likely turn their hopes on one of their two other protected riders [leaders]: Britain's Adam Yates and Colombia's Dani Martinez.

Resurgent Thomas ready for 'big summer ahead'

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)

Vingegaard
Vingegaard is yet to win a stage at the Tour

If things once again go wrong for Roglic at the Tour, Jumbo-Visma will almost certainly divert their GC efforts towards Denmark's Vingegaard.

A second-place finish on his Tour debut underlined his potential and the 25-year-old has shown he is an assured climber, as well as being more than capable on the time trials.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Vlasov
Vlasov joined Bora-Hansgrohe from Astana

Since Peter Sagan's departure Bora-Hansgrohe's shift in focus has already seen Jai Hindley record a famous win at the Giro.

And the German team will hope that Russian debutant Vlasov can deliver more GC success.

The 26-year-old has enjoyed the best start to a season of his career so far, winning the Volta a Comunitat Valenciana and the Tour de Romandie.

He was also leading the Tour de Suisse before testing positive for Covid-19 after five stages.

Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies)

Sagan (centre)
Peter Sagan is looking for his first stage win at the Tour since 2019

When it comes to star quality there are few riders that can rival Slovakia's Sagan. The three-time world champion has picked up 12 stage wins on the way to a record seven green jerseys at the Tour.

While he finished a distant second to Sam Bennett in the points classification in 2020, and saw his hopes curtailed by a heavy crash and knee injury 12 months later, he looks closer to his best this time around.

The 32-year-old won stage three on the Tour de Suisse and made a quick and successful recovery from Covid to win his eighth Slovakian National Road Race Championship.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

Wout van Aert
Van Aert is capable of winning on any terrain

While all-rounder Van Aert will dutifully carry out his domestique duties, he is still widely regarded as the favourite for the green jersey.

The Belgian's vast array of talents were on full display in the 2021 Tour, where he won the sprint on the Champs-Elysees having already triumphed on an individual time trial and a brutal mountain stage that included a double ascent up Mont Ventoux.

Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl)

Fabio Jakobsen
Jakobsen is one of 39 debutants in the 176-man field

Jakobsen's selection for the Tour came at the expense of Britain's Mark Cavendish.

And while it deprived Cavendish of the opportunity of surpassing the great Eddy Merckx on stage wins, few could argue that his Dutch team-mate does not deserve his bow at the Tour.

With 10 victories this year Jakobsen has proved to be of the fastest and most reliable finishers in the peloton and a victory at the Tour would complete a remarkable comeback from the horrific injuries he sustained at the 2020 Tour of Poland.

Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech)

Froome
Froome will be competing in his 10th Tour de France

Froome may not be the force of old but he has looked closer to full fitness this season as he continues to recover from the serious injuries he sustained in the Dauphine in 2019.

The four-time champion, 37, was routinely dropped by the peloton during races in 2021 following his transfer from Ineos Grenadiers.

However, an 11th-place finish at the Classic Alpes-Maritimes and a solid display at the Dauphine before withdrawing due to illness suggests he could be capable of hunting stage wins.

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