Le Tour Takes On Added Importance In 2020

15
Sep
2020

The discipline of cycling has gone through a tumultuous year and with the threat of the Tour’s existence being called into question, the mere sight of pedals being turned in Nice would have offered a collective sigh of relief for all.

None more so than for race director Christian Prudhomme and although he will be able to give himself a pat on the back after making sure the race did get underway, he, unfortunately is not immune to the pandemic that has swept across the world in 2020.

With a positive diagnosis being returned, the 59-year-old will now have to take on an additional struggle and although this fight will be personal, his efforts beforehand will have given joy to so many cycling fans.

Were it not for the countless hours that have been sunk into trying to get the event underway and the subsequent clearing of almost insurmountable hurdles, there is every chance that this year could have been a blank one in the history books.

Of course, just because we are underway and the race for general classification is heating up, does not offer a cast-iron guarantee that the Champs-Élysées will be reached on Sunday, September 20th.

If anything, the illness of Prudhomme signifies just how fragile cycling’s current ecosystem is and although supporters have been cordial in the main, there have been some instances when they’ve also been put themselves and the competitors at needless risk.

Going into the late August start, the message was clear, and it was one that suggested far fewer supporters than before and although the numbers have certainly dwindled, their overall behaviour has not been perfect.

With the itinerary taking this year’s schedule to its first set of mountain stages, the usual set of twisting hairpins had to be dealt with ever-narrowing roads and although in previous editions this would have been far less of an issue, close proximity is far from welcomed this time around.

As the roads morph into a single file and the path up the treacherous climbs become tapered to just one entry and exit point, the sight of fans running past the likes of Egan Bernal or Primoz Roglic is enough to make you wince.

Anything that increases the risk of virus transportation is not to be encouraged and the last thing that anyone connected with the sport wants to see is any rider having to abandon because of coronavirus.

There’s always been a feeling that the show must go on and the now illness-stricken Prudhomme will want to exude that from long distance, which means if things can continue unscathed (at least from a competition point of view), a tussle between Bernal and Roglic is set to unfold.

With the first week now firmly behind us, the business will certainly pick up and even though Ineos’ Bernal has the experience of winning this event in 2019, the odds at Sportsbookreview.com have his Slovenian rival as a current favourite.

Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 9/4

Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 11/4

Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 15/2

Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 8/1

Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 14/1

Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers 14/1

Nair Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic 28/1

Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step 28/1

Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren 33/1

Emanuel Buchman (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 33/1

A standing that is perhaps reinforced by his current number one ranking with the UCI and with the 30-year-old entering this year’s Tour De France with a clean bill of health, he looks ready to claim the top step of the Paris podium next weekend.

Unfortunately for Bernal, the same injury-free preparations could not be afforded to him and with complaints of a back problem becoming rather vocal in the build-up, that slight weakness could be the one thing that stops him from winning back to back yellow jerseys.

There’s almost a feeling that 2020 signifies a new era for cycling and with the likes of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome not a part of this year’s French festivities, there is a genuine opportunity for new stars to be created.

Which is why it is of utmost importance, that this year’s edition of such a classic event reaches a rightful conclusion and does not deprive any kof the 176 entrants the chance to get over the finishing line in just over a week’s time.

At the same time, it is just as important for fans and they have as big a part to play in all of this. If they can lend their support from a safe distance, the chances of the big finish in Paris increase and only then can the true celebrations begin.

Photos c/o Hejsa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93691969

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93710008

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