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PORTE KEEPS THE FLAG FLYING

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FOUR stages in, the Tour de France is starting to shake itself down. JOHN TREVORROW puts the contenders under the microscope:

PRIMOZ Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) stamped his authority on the Tour de France with a dominant win in the stage 4 finish into Orieres–Merlette. He has thrown out the challenge to all his rivals and laid to rest any doubts as to lingering problems from his crash and withdrawal two weeks ago in the Dauphine. 

Fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finished second and was also very impressive and race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) challenged the pair but faded in the final 50 metres and had to settle for fifth, behind Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic).

Richie Porte is still proudly flying the Aussie flag and finished 14th but on the same time as Roglic. Caleb Ewan finished well back as expected but looked to save as much energy as possible as he is a big chance for stage win number two in stage 5 to Privas.

The race went to script with an early breakaway not given much leeway and dangled out there until the final climb. Then Deceuninck-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma, the teams of race leader Alaphilippe and race favourite Roglic, took control. The peloton of approximately 80 riders, was quickly reduced by half and then soon halved again.

 The 168 km first mountain top stage to may not have split the race as many predicted but it certainly answered many important questions around who’s form is right on the money and who needs to lift their game.

 Let’s look at how my top contenders before the Tour are shaping up now.  

Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) – The Slovenian looks to be the man at the moment. His team look the strongest and seem to have the most depth when the road heads upwards. All doubts about injuries from recent crash put to rest.

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Prediction – top of the podium

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)  – The Colombian defending champion. Looks slightly underdone and, like Roglic, did not finish the lead up Dauphine race. He says the very tough final week will decide the race but his team do not look as strong as last year. Richard Carapaz, the Ecuadorian bought in to replace Thomas, cracked near the top of stage 4 and novice Russian climber Pavel Sivakov, seems to still be struggling from his crash on stage 1. At only 23 years of age the Colombian will be put to the test over the coming week.

Prediction –  second overall 

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)– The great French hope seems to have escaped injury from his first stage touchdown and is looking better each day. David Gaudu his right hand man will need to recover from his stage 1 crash. Pinot is a genuine chance to become the first French winner in 32 years.

Prediction – Third overall

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – Current leader and darling of France. I just love watching this super aggressive Frenchman race. He is super talented and can sprint, time trial and climb but he won’t win this bike race. He is riding superbly but not quite as good as last year. And his team, although very talented, are not good enough to support him in the high mountains.

Prediction – will wear the yellow jersey for a few more day and win at least one more stage but won’t get near the final podium. 

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) – The 21 year old Slovenian seems too young to be touted as a potential winner but his current form says differently. He finished an amazing third overall in his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta, last year and has not looked back. He recently beat Roglic to take the Slovenian time trial title and finished fourth in the Dauphine. But it’s his brilliant second to Roglic on stage 4 that shows that he will be one of the main threats this year.

Prediction – It’s a toss up between Pogacar and Pinot for third overall.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton Scott) – The aggressive Englishman is in fine form. He looked very impressive in stage 2 and again on stage 4. His team have said that he and Esteban Chaves are not going for GC overall but hunting stage wins. But if either of them is still near the pointy end approaching the final week then that could all change.

Prediction – both to collect stage wins but not feature in the overall GC.

Richie Porte (Team Trek) – The diminutive Aussie is looking good. Richie has been robbed of podium finishes in the past and it might be a stretch for him to do it this year. But he looked very strong on the mountain finish stage 4.

Prediction – a real chance to match his best fifth overall in what looks his last chance at the GC. Five to 10

Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)  – The powerful Dutchman should not figure in the final placings. Although a former Giro winner and runner up in the Tour de France, his teammate Roglic will need him to sacrifice his own ambitions for Roglic to win this Tour.

Prediction – will bury himself for Roglic

Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) – The talented Colombian Climbing specialist has seriously challenged for the Tour in past. He is a former winner of the Giro and the Vuelta plus three times on the podium in the Tour de France but he won’t win this year. Prediction – top five to 10.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) – The 26 year old Colombian super climber is riding his first Tour de France. Third overall in the Giro and Vuelta in 2018 show he can go the distance and fifth in the recent Dauphine says he’s on form. He looked very good on stage 4.

Prediction – Five to 10

Rigoberto Uran (EF Education) – Second in the Tour in 2017 and twice second in the Giro. The Colombian climbing specialist looks to be coming into form.

Prediction- Five to 10

Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) – Third overall in the recent Dauphine, the 27 year old Frenchman is showing the best form of his career. His strong third place in stage 4 suggest he will be in the mix all the way to Paris.

Prediction – Five to 10

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Author: John Trevorrow

JOHN TREVORROW is a multiple Australian champion road racer and Olympian who has been doing media commentary at the Tour de France for more than 20 years.

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