The cycling world is not quite the same when Slovenia leaves it for a while. It might have seemed incongruous two years ago, but it is obvious when you realise that the winners of the last two Grand Tours have chosen unusual routes to prepare for the race of all races, the Tour de France. As mountains and pelotons hate emptiness, there will be several contenders for the title in the final weekend, first in Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse and then in La Plagne and Les Gets. The 2021 entry list shows that the Ineos Grenadiers team intends to get this race that it last won in 2018. That summer, Geraint Thomas won both the Dauphiné and the Tour. The recent winner of the Tour de Romandie comes into this year’s edition with the same desire as his teammates, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte.

The strong position of the dark blue jerseys on the start line should not stifle the temperament of their rivals, on the contrary. A lot of attention will also be paid to the Spanish-speaking riders, whether they come from Colombia like Miguel Ángel López and Nairo Quintana or from Spain like Ion Izagirre, Enric Mas, the indestructible Alejandro Valverde and up and comer Alex Arranburu. The context is also favourable for the breakthrough of a star in the making, like the Americans Brandon McNulty and Sepp Kuss, winner of the last stage in Megève in 2020. The French clan can’t be overlooked either: David Gaudu was on top form in the Tour of the Basque Country as well as in his Ardennes campaign, Guillaume Martin’s regularity paid off with the win in the Mercantour Classic, where he was followed in the general classification by Aurélien Paret-Peintre, whereas Warren Barguil has made a speciality of creating a surprise when he is least expected to do so. An even bigger surprise could come from the only three-time winner of the Dauphiné present in the peloton, now sporting the jersey of Israel Start-Up Nation. Chris Froome still has a score to settle with this race. This is the moment.

21 teams, the main contenders (on 26 May)

Team BikeExchange: Bookwalter (Aus), Grmay (Eth)

Bahrain Victorious: Poels (Ned), Colbrelli (Ita), Teuns (Bel)

Deceuninck – Quick-Step: Sénéchal (Fra), Asgreen (Den), Jakobsen (Ned)
Lotto Soudal: Wellens, Gilbert (Bel)
Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert : Meintjes (Zaf), Vliegen, Bakelants (Bel)

AG2R Citroën Team : Paret-Peintre (Fra), Van Avermaet (Bel), O’Connor (Aus)
Groupama-FDJ: Gaudu, Madouas (Fra)
Cofidis : G.Martin, Perez (Fra), Geschke (Ger)
Team Arkea-Samsic: Barguil (Fra), N.Quintana, Anacona (Col)
B&B Hotels P/B KTM : Rolland, Gautier, Pacher (Fra)

Bora-Hansgrohe: Kelderman (Hol), Kämna (Ger)
Team DSM: Haga (Usa)

Great Britain
Ineos Grenadiers: Thomas, Geoghegan Hart (Gbr), Porte, Dennis (Aus), Kwiatkowski (Pol)

Israel Start-Up Nation: Froome (Gbr), Impey (Zaf)

Astana Premier Tech: I.Izagirre, Aranburu (Spa), Lutsenko (Kaz)

Jumbo-Visma: Kruijswijk (Ned), Vingegaard (Den), Kuss (Usa)

South Africa
Team Qhubeka-Assos: Aru (Ita), Gogl (Aut)

Movistar Team: Lopez (Col), Mas, Valverde (Spa)

United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: McNulty (Usa), Kristoff (Nor)

United States
EF Education – Nippo : Craddock (Usa), El Fares (Fra)
Trek-Segafredo: Pedersen (Den), Stuyven (Bel), Elissonde (Fra)