©A.S.O. /Alex Broadway

Making predictions for the Tour de France has rarely been as much fun, or as difficult, as it is proving to be in 2020. Following its unprecedented postponement until September, the favourites will enter the race with little in the way of a form guide on their rivals, let alone any certainty over their own capacity to last the distance. Yet despite the uncertainty, most observers would happily bet their bottom dollar on the winner of the Yellow Jersey coming from the field of riders who will compete for the Critérium du Dauphiné. A quick analysis of recent podiums reveals that a total of 23 riders have finished in the top three of a Grand Tour on at least one occasion over the last five years. If we discount those who have since retired, or who have decided to set their sights on Italy later in the year, we are left with 16. Of that select bunch, no fewer than 14 will be present in Clermont-Ferrand for the start of the most intense of mountain challenges, held over a shortened five-day period and featuring four stages clearly aimed at the climbers. And while most sprinters quickly concluded that this week would not be for them (with the exception of Sagan, Van Aert and Colbrelli, who will be on hand try their luck and flex their thigh muscles), the peloton will contain no shortage of serious contenders for the mountain showdowns on the Col de Porte (Stage 2), in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville (Stage 3) and up the climbs to Megève on the final weekend.

A glance at the recent winners of the Dauphiné and the Tour only heightens the intrigue surrounding the line-up selected by Team Ineos, who have chosen to field all three of their superstars: Egan Bernal (winner of the queen stage at the Tour d’Occitanie), Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. Another dream team has been confidently assembled under the Dutch flag, in the form of a Jumbo-Visma team led by Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk. And while other teams may not be blessed with quite the same depth of quality, the peloton will contain an array of talents and personalities who will be jostling for position and attacking in the mountains. The Colombians will be out in force, both at Education First (Uran, Higuita, Martinez) and in the familiar figure of Nairo Quintana, so dominant before the season was brought to a standstill in March. Meanwhile, the Spanish should be well represented by Mikel Landa, who displayed stronger form than compatriots Enric Mas and Marc Soler at the recent Vuelta a Burgos. The race could also serve as a springboard for French success: Thibaut Pinot and Warren Barguil have both laid down promising markers in the South-West, and the Dauphiné has often been known to smile upon Romain Bardet and Julian Alaphilippe. Lastly, if his early-season performances are anything to go by, there is no reason to believe that youngster Tadej Pogacar has lost any of the drive that took him to a podium finish at last year’s Vuelta. The Slovenian won in Valencia before finishing second in the UAE Tour, where he was edged out by Adam Yates. Speaking of whom, guess where the British rider will be next Wednesday?

23 teams, the main contenders (as at 04/08)

Mitchelton-Scott: A.Yates (GB), Impey (RSA)

Bahrain-McLaren: Landa (ESP), Colbrelli (ITA), Teuns (BEL)

Deceuninck Quick Step: Alaphilippe (FRA), Asgreen (DEN), Jungels (LUX)
Lotto-Soudal: Wallays (BEL)
Circus-Wanty Gobert: Bakelants (BEL), Pasqualon (ITA)

AG2R La Mondiale: Bardet, Latour, Cosnefroy (FRA)
Groupama-FDJ: Pinot, Gaudu, Madouas (FRA), Küng (CH)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: G.Martin, Edet (FRA)
Total Direct Energie: Calmejane, Cousin (FRA)
Team Arkea-Samsic: Barguil (FRA), N.Quintana, Anacona (COL)
B&B Hotels-Vital Concept: Rolland, Gautier (FRA), Slagter (NLD)

Team Sunweb: Benoot (BEL), Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roche (IRL)
Bora-Hansgrohe: Sagan (SVK), Grossschartner (AUT), Buchmann (GER)

Great Britain
Team Ineos: Froome (GB), Bernal (COL), Thomas (GB), Sivakov (RUS)

Israel Start-Up Nation: D.Martin (IRL), Greipel, Politt (GER)

Astana Pro Team: Lopez (COL), G.Izagirre (ESP), Lutsenko (KAZ)

Team Jumbo-Visma: Dumoulin, Kruijswijk (NLD), Roglic (SVN), Van Aert (BEL)

CCC Team: Pauwels (BEL), Masnada (ITA)

Movistar Team: Mas, Soler, Valverde (ESP)

South Africa
NTT Pro Cycling Team: Boasson Hagen (NOR), Meintjes (RSA), Pozzovivo (ITA)

United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Pogacar (SVN), Formolo (ITA), Kristoff (NOR)

EF Pro Cycling: Van Garderen (USA), Uran, Higuita, Martinez (COL)
Trek-Segafredo: Porte (AUS), Skujins (LVA), Elissonde (FRA)