Whatever Paris-Tours may hold in store, the joy of raising one’s arms aloft on the Avenue de Grammont is a privilege reserved only for the very strongest riders. This is true when the race culminates in a sprint – be it one contested by a small group or a bigger peloton – and even more so when a rider succeeds in eliminating the competition with a solo break, a scenario that has unfolded twice since the vineyard tracks were first introduced in 2018. On that occasion Soren Kragh Andersen, who had already claimed notable successes including stage wins in the Tour of Oman and the Tour de Suisse, demonstrated a potent blend of racing instinct and strength as he rode to victory in Tours. Two years down the line, his formula continues to bear fruit, as shown in his two wins at this year’s Tour de France, and the Dane’s style appears once more to be perfectly suited to the challenge presented by the autumn vineyards. Having claimed an imperious victory ahead of Stefan Küng in the time trial stage at the recent BinckBank Tour, the Danish rouleur arrives in fine form and with the favourite’s tag firmly attached to his No. 1 bib. He nonetheless faces stiff competition from Valentin Madouas, in impressive form at the World Championships and in the Ardennes, Evaldas Siskevicius, a rider built for Roubaix-style challenges, and Romain Bardet, who is no stranger to descending from the mountains in search of the classics (3rd at Liège and 2nd in the Strade Bianche in 2018), like Warren Barguil, 4th of Flèche Wallonne and 9th in Liège last week. Alternatively, any prospect of a sprint for the line, regardless of the number of riders involved, could play into the hands of Bryan Coquard, who finished in the top ten at each of the seven sprints contested by the peloton at this year’s Tour de France (including 3rd place in Lavaur) or Nacer Bouhanni, who would dearly love to follow up his overall triumph in the Coupe de France series by claiming victory at one of the crucibles of sprinting.

The main contenders:

Alpecin-Fenix: De Bondt (BEL), Vakoc (CZE)
Circus-Wanty Gobert: Vliegen (BEL)
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Deltombe (BEL)
Bingoal WB: Vanendert, Ista (BEL)

Riwal Readynez Cycling Team: Jensen (NOR)

AG2R La Mondiale: Bardet, Godon (FRA)
Groupama-FDJ: Madouas, Molard (FRA)
Cofidis: Vanbilsen (Bel), Berhane (ERI)
Total-Direct Energie: Hivert (FRA)
Team Arkea-Samsic: Bouhanni, Barguil (FRA), McLay (GB)
B&B Vital Concept P/B KTM: Coquard (FRA), Slagter (NLD)
Nippo Delko Provence: Siskevicius (LIT), Combaud (FRA)
St Michel-Auber 93: Maldonado, Hurel (FRA)
Natura4ever-Roubaix Lille Métropole: Vermeulen, Levasseur (FRA)

Team Sunweb: Kragh Andersen, C.Pedersen (DEN)

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team: M. Hoelgaard (NOR)

Gazprom-RusVelo: Canola (ITA), Kuznetsov (RUS)

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA: Aberasturi (ESP), Aular (VEN)
Burgos-BH: Gibson (GB), Molenaar (NLD)
Euskaltel-Euskadi: Aristi (ESP), Zhyhunou (BLR)

Team Novo Nordisk: Planet (FRA), Kusztor (HUN)
Rally Cycling: Carpenter, Colin (USA)