2023 Tour de France Preview

The biggest race of the year is fast approaching. Last year, we were treated to one of the best Tours in living memory, hopefully it’s not too greedy to expect another. The organisers have done their bit, the route looks amazing, now it’s over to the riders to do their thing. 

My God, I don’t recall ever seeing an opening stage like this in the Tour de France. The race kicks off in the Basque Country and we have a brilliant looking stage, full of typically Basque climbs. The final cat 2 climb is 4.2km at 7%, which is followed by a wall of 2km at 10%, before an uphill finish. The GC riders will be in the action right from the start.

Scenario – late attack from a non-GC rider takes the day, first round of the Van Aert/van der Poel/Pidcock battle. 

The second stage finishes in San Sebastian, and it’s another hilly day. The final climb is 7.8km at 5.2%, which isn’t hard enough for GC riders, the breakaway boys will sniff an early chance of going for a stage win.

Scenario – depends on who’s in yellow. If it’s a GC rider like Pogačar, they’ll give it away in this stage, but someone like van der Poel would want to hold onto it. I’ll say break.

After a crazy start to the race, everyone can take it a bit easier in this stage and recover for what’s to come.

Scenario – bunch sprint.

Another easy day.

Scenario – bunch sprint.

The 5th stage sees the first big mountains, with Col du Soudet (HC) and the brutally steep Col de Marie Blanque (Cat 1), which crests with just under 20km to go. It’s the first real opportunity to see who won’t be fighting for yellow.

Scenario – GC day.

Another hilly day in the Pyrenees, with the Tourmalet (HC) and the final climb up to Cauterets-Cambasque (Cat 1). The final climb isn’t the hardest in the race, it’s unlikely we’ll see gaps between the best.

Scenario – breakaway day.

Sprint stage to Bordeaux.

Scenario – bunch sprint.

The first of the tougher looking sprint stages. This isn’t ridiculous, but it’s enough to put some of the quick men out the game, especially as the final kilometre averages 4%.

Scenario – one for the uphill sprint specialists. 

The final week ends with the much-anticipated climb of Puy de Dôme, with the final 4.1km averaging 11.8%. Remember, as the race started in the Basque Country, this is the 9th consecutive stage, something that doesn’t happen very often anymore. With fatigue in the legs, this stage will see big gaps between the best GC riders and will have a significant impact on the fight for yellow.

Scenario – GC day.

We have a hilly start straight after the rest day, one that the pure sprinters will not be confident of surviving.

Scenario – reduced sprint.

A standard sprint stage.

Scenario – bunch sprint.

Another hilly day which is too hard for the fast men. 

Scenario – breakaway day.

Back to the mountains with a stage finishing on the Grand Colombier, all 17.2km at 7% of it, and it’s Bastille Day! It’s also the start of five consecutive stages which will determine the winner of the yellow jersey.

Scenario – breakaway day, and it better be full of French riders.

A huge day with Col de Joux Plane, 11.5km at 8.4%. This is a climb to be feared.

Scenario – depends on the race situation, I’ll say GC day.

Another big day in the mountains with three cat 1 climbs and a finish at Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc. This stage takes place on a Sunday, the day before the rest day, expect to see fireworks.

Scenario – breakaway day.

It’s the start of the final week and the only ITT in the race. 22km is quite short by grand tour standards and it contains a lot of climbing, one for the GC men.

It’s the Queen stage! There is 5114m of climbing over just 166km, and lots of high altitude. The riders have to tackle Col des Saisses, Cormet de Roselend, Côte de Longefoy and Col de la Loze. It’s a huge day in the saddle, hopefully the yellow jersey is still up for grabs.

Scenario – GC day.

A sprint day for the fast men who have survived the mountains.

Scenario – bunch sprint.

A classic sprint versus breakaway stage in the 3rd week, one that is fairly unique to the Tour de France. I love these stages.

Scenario – breakaway day.

One last chance to shake up the GC. It’s one of those short stages where anything could still happen.

Scenario – depends on the GC position.


Scenario – bunch sprint.


Jonas Vingegaard – the defending champion is here to try and win his second yellow jersey. His 2023 season has followed a similar trend to 2022, he started a little off his best but grew as the year went on and hit a very impressive peak at the Dauphiné. He won last year thanks to him and Roglič working Pogačar over, but that strategy won’t be available this time round, Kelderman isn’t as good as Roglič. In fact, roles could well be reversed as UAE have both Pogačar and Adam Yates, something that Jumbo-Visma will be a little worried about. This different dynamic will have a big impact on how they approach the race, I’m looking forward to seeing the tactics they employ to win. After the Dauphiné, we all know that Vingegaard is in brilliant form, he’s timed his peak to perfection for the second year running, but will it be good enough to retain his crown?

Tadej Pogačar – gunning for his third yellow jersey, losing last year hurt. Pogačar changed up his 2023 schedule, looking to ride different races, and he started with a bang and held that peak for months. This is the main difference between the big two, Pogačar can hold his peak for months, while Vingegaard grows into the season. Pogačar ticked off all his targets in the opening months of the season, including dominating Vingegaard in Paris-Nice. Unfortunately, he crashed in Liège and required surgery on his wrist, which put him off his bike for several weeks. This leaves a small question mark against his name; does he have enough training in his legs to perform at his very best? He certainly looked good enough in the Slovenian nationals, but that is a different level to this race. For the good of the race, I hope he’s at his best.

Ben O’Connor – brilliant at the Dauphiné, hopes will now be high, he has a genuine chance of challenging for the podium. His season hasn’t been perfect, lots of injury and illness stopped him from performing at his best, but he’s now there. It would be huge for AG2R if he could be on the podium in Paris., and I think he’s got a great shot.

Adam Yates – 2nd to Vingegaard in the Dauphiné, which was a good result. His move to UAE has been a success, but it’s all about winning back the yellow jersey. The goal will be for Yates to stay high on GC for as long as possible, giving the team a tactical advantage in the mountain stages. Of course, if required to work for Pogačar he’ll do it, but the team will hope that won’t be required and Yates can challenge for the podium.

Jai Hindley – he was good in the Dauphiné, but still not great. This isn’t a surprise; Hindley rarely performs at his best outside of grand tours. After winning the Giro in 2022, he would love to challenge for the yellow jersey, and given the way he performed last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him fighting all the way to Paris.

Enric Mas – was poor at the Dauphiné, but he often is. The next couple of months is where Mas comes alive, he always tries to peak for the Tour/Vuelta double. Cast your mind back to last year, he was incredible at the end of the season, riding better than ever before. He would love to find those legs, Pogačar found it impossible to drop him in Lombardia. He’ll probably start slow and grow throughout the race. 

Richard Carapaz – after winning the Mercan’Tour, he would have approached the Dauphiné with confidence, but it was a disaster for him. He’s another who seems to find a different gear in the grand tours, his bosses at EF will be praying it happens again. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him at his best, but then again, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him out the back in the first week.

David Gaudu – another who had a disastrous Dauphiné, he was miles off the pace. After finishing 4th in 2022, most expected him to be challenging for the podium, but that looks impossible unless he can find out what was wrong just a couple of weeks ago and put it right. The good news is that he performed well in the French Road Race, hopefully a sign that he’s ready to fight for the podium.

Simon Yates – hasn’t raced since Romandie, where stomach problems forced him to quit the race. Due to this, I have no idea how he’ll perform. 

Dani Martinez – another who’ll be shaking his head after the Dauphiné. Ineos will have him as team leader, he needs to step up and deliver for the team. At his best, he could win a stage and fight for the podium, but will he be at his best?

Pello Bilbao – would love to win one of the first two stages in his homeland. Longer term, he’s the type of rider who’ll float through the race without anyone noticing him, then pop up in the top 10 in Paris.

Romain Bardet – top 10 challenger, but he’d want much more than that. Finishing in the top 10 won’t be a goal, Bardet will be targeting a stage win, then see what happens on GC.

Guillaume Martin – brilliant in the Dauphiné, he approaches the Tour with confidence. He was 8th in 2021, he’d love to challenge for the top 5. He’s the type of rider who doesn’t mind losing a bit of time and then going for the breaks, especially as the main GC riders don’t see him as a threat.

Louis Meintjes – 7th last year, favouring the Guillaume Martin approach! His form is moving in the right direction, he’ll be looking to win a stage and finish in the top 10 on GC. Don’t worry if he loses a bit of time, he’ll jump in a break and gain “easy” time back.

Giulio Ciccone – he was brilliant in the early part of the season, but COVID stopped him from racing the Giro. He returned in the Dauphiné, where he took a brilliant win from the break in the final stage. If he finds his legs from the first part of the season, he could win a stage and challenge for the top 5.

Prediction Time

I hope that Vingegaard and Pogačar are both at their best, and we have no injury or illness throughout the race for either of them.

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I think we’ll see a brilliant fight and another yellow jersey for Tadej Pogačar.