Tour de France cycle race to start from western city of Brest

·2-min read

The three-week Tour starts on Saturday, with little hope of a home victory. The opening four stages in Brittany will be followed by an individual time trial and then the shortest and longest of 21 stages as the race crosses the Loire valley with its celebrated chateaux. The 3,414 km event will end in Paris on 18 July.

Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar with Team UAE Emirates is the man to beat.

The defending champion won last year's edition, overhauling long-time leader and fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic on the 20th stage time-trial, producing the sporting upset of the year.

Twelve months on, Pogacar arrives at the start-line in Brest with two major victories already notched up this year . . . the one day Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Italy's coast-to-coast Tirreno-Adriatico.

Comfortable under the pressure of time trials Pogacar is also a competent climber. He'll be hard to catch, much less beat.

Primoz Roglic will certainly try. He knows he blew a comfortable lead on that tricky individual time trial last year, having led the Tour imperiously for the previous fortnight. But he picked himself up and went on to win the Vuelta a Espana six weeks later.

He has the team, he has the physical ability. The course, with its double ascent of the legendary Mont Ventoux mountain in the south of France, will suit his style.

Welshman Thomas well placed to challenge

The 2018 champion Geraint Thomas is a major contender for several reasons.

Firstly the Welshman rides for the mighty British Ineos Grenadiers team, formerly Sky, which has won seven of the previous nine Tour de France.

The Ineos line-up is an embarrassment of riches.

Thomas has the backing of Australian Richie Porte, who was third in last year's Tour, and Equador's Richard Carapaz, either of whom could have led Ineos this year. So he has the backing on the team itself and in the back room in terms of strategy.

He is a solid time-triallist and, with three stages against the clock on this edition, Thomas can survive the lower mountains without breaking sweat. He has the sherpas for the giant out-of-category slogs that make the Tour de France so enthralling.

Expect a close race. And plenty of surprises.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting