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Pogacar favourite as Tour de France set for first Danish start

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Champion Tadej Pogacar is a hot favorite and Covid-19 continues to create a worrisome backdrop, but tension and expectations for this year’s Tour de France, which starts on Friday, are higher than ever.

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The 109th greatest test of cycling starts in Copenhagen, three days in Denmark, and then travels to France where 22 teams of eight riders will begin the 3,350km odyssey.

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The aim, as always, is to reach the legendary final at the Champs-Elysées in Paris on July 24, when UAE team leader Pogacar will look to secure a place in history under the Arc de Triomphe by claiming a third consecutive title at a tender age. only 23.

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The extensive Danish “Grand Departure” includes a 13km individual time trial on opening day, a 20km crossing over a wind-exposed bridge on day two, and narrow roads through verdant countryside on stage three.

– Beer, butter and bacon –

“Everyone in Denmark rides a bike,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, as Danish Cycling Federation chief Jens Peter Hansen and Copenhagen Mayor Sophie Hestorp Andersen chant the mantra that “cycling is in the Danes’ DNA” .

Denmark is a country where five times more trips are made by bike than by car.

The Danish tourism office told AFP that it hopes to promote its sustainable cultural tourism and shed its longstanding reputation of “beer, butter and bacon”.

Italian Ineos world champion Filippo Ganna is the favorite to snatch the overall leader’s yellow jersey after the first round, while Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel could be the man to leave Denmark with it.

The Tour de France caravan will head to France next Monday for a treacherous week on old paved quarry roads.

– Trenches, tunnels and cemeteries –

“The teams will be summing up after the fifth stage,” Prudhomme said of the 11 paved areas that are likely to seal someone’s fate in Arras, a city known for its huge trenches, tunnels and cemeteries from the First World War.

In 2018, Ineos’ Geraint Thomas came out of a similar stage over the cobblestones with a roughly 90 second lead over his key rivals to win the Tour.

“You may find that by the seventh stage, some of the favorites have been trapped or even eliminated,” Prudhomme said of the summit of the Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges Mountains on stage seven of the ascent, notorious for skirmishes between top contenders. .

The race then passes through the Alps, including an epic ascent of the legendary Alpe d’Huez and into the Pyrenees, where the equally formidable Otakami awaits you.

If those mountains weren’t enough to determine the winner, then the 40.7 km race on the penultimate stage should help.

Pogacar won the 2020 race in a similar time trial with its dying breath and has gone from strength to strength since then, defending his title last year and winning three stages this season.

“The man is at one with his bike,” FDJ team director Thierry Bricaud told AFP. “One on one, he’s invincible.”

While Pogacar is the top driver, the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma seems to be the strongest team, with their Slovenian Primoz Roglic accompanied by a strong line-up of top drivers.

“I’m focusing on getting the most out of myself and the team as a whole,” said Roglic, whose co-captain Jonas Vingegaard in his home country of Denmark finished second to Pogacar last year.

The long wait for a champion in France looks set to continue, with top rider Julian Alaphilippe, who didn’t start, still recovering from injury, and climbers Romain Bardet and Thibault Pinault aiming for stage wins.

The Tour is expected to attract more than 10 million roadside spectators, but the number of Covid cases in Europe continues to rise and 30 riders were forced to pull out of the recent Tour de Suisse after testing positive for the virus.

dmk/bsp/jk/mv



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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