In jubilation, Copenhagen opens the hunt for the yellow jersey

In jubilation, Copenhagen opens the hunt for the yellow jersey

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The Tour de France starts Friday from Copenhagen, stunned by the fervor of the race for the yellow jersey of which the double title holder Tadej Pogacar will be the big favorite, with to start a time trial of 13.2 km in the streets of the Danish capital.

In the city which prides itself on being the most cycle-friendly in the world, and where the race had never come, the presentation of the teams on Wednesday set the tone for the Grand Départ: enormous enthusiasm accompanied the 176 riders in the peloton.

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This one is however deprived this year of some big names, from the French world champion Julian Alaphilippe, insufficiently recovered from his fall in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, to the Briton Mark Cavendish, co-holder with Eddy Merckx of the record of victories of stage (34), passing by the Italian veterans Vincenzo Nibali, 37, winner of the Tour in 2014, and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, 42, world champion 2018, or the young Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel (22), still judged a little tender for the Tour by his team.

The Shadow of Positive Controls

But the main shadows on the board of this great Danish departure are those of doping, reactivated by a search Thursday morning in the Bahrain team hotel, and that of Covid-19, which has resurfaced in recent days.

Not enough however to question at the time of departure the list of contenders for the final victory, in which Slovenia takes the lion’s share: small country in size but great sporting nation, it saw the birth of the favorite Tadej Pogacar , and his main rival, Primoz Roglic.

Obviously, Pogacar has the full panoply to win if we trust the agility of the young Slovenian (23 years old) during the spring classics. He is undoubtedly the best equipped to thwart the pitfalls and become the first rider since Eddy Merckx half a century ago to win his first three Tours.

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“As long as we work together, we think we can beat him,” said Roglic, however, associated with Dane Jonas Vingegaard, who caused a sensation last year by finishing second. For his part, Pogacar was impatient to throw himself into battle: “I can’t wait to start, I’m very impatient. It’s going to be a great day,” he said Thursday.

The Alps, with two crucial finishes at the Col du Granon and Alpe d’Huez, then the Pyrenees will be as many opportunities to overturn the table before the final parade, on July 24, on the Champs-Elysées after a few 3,350 kilometers.

But before the altitude, place in the time trial which will award the first yellow jersey, Friday at the beginning of the evening (around 7:10 p.m.).

Two Swiss dream of the first yellow jersey

Double reigning world champion in the specialty, Filippo Ganna hopes to receive it for his big debut in the Tour. Italy has won five of the six times on its program this year, but the formidable Belgian Wout van Aert, his runner-up in the last two Worlds, lost only 2 seconds during the recent Dauphiné, over a much greater distance ( 31.9km).

The Thurgovian Stefan Bissegger, who beat Ganna at the UAE Tour in February, and the Saint-Welshman Stefan Küng are two other credible candidates with, why not, the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, son of Adrie van der Poel and small -son of Raymond Poulidor.

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The other major focus on Friday will be the gaps between the riders aiming for the general classification, with Pogacar as a benchmark. In 2022, the Slovenian only ran two times without ever being very far from the first places (4th in the UAE Tour, 3rd in Tirreno-Adriatico).

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