A solid time trialist in his own right, Bjerg could make the headlines on the opening day in Copenhagen. The first day is a city prologue around the Danish capital and at just 13 km, it will be a TT for the pure specialists. Bjerg has had two top 10 finishes in his only TTs this year and will be an outside bet for the first yellow jersey of the race. Both courses were short, which suggests he can push it close over these distances. He will be competing against some of the very best, though.
Filipo Ganna has already stated that he is focusing on taking yellow – something that you feel he is a favourite for. Alongside them, Wout van Aert will have his say for sure as well as Stefan Küng, Matteo Cattaneo, and Stefan Bissegger. A Danish yellow jersey in the capital would be a fairytale story and if Bjerg were to do it, it would certainly be a surprise as much as a story for the ages.
For the rest of the race, Bjerg will be in the services of Pogačar who is chasing a third consecutive Tour de France victory. He will be vital in the opening week, protecting the Slovenian on the flat, potentially windy stages. Stage five may provide his biggest test – the cobbles of northern France. From there, he may still surprise many with his work rate and will certainly take up TV time over the three weeks on the front of the peloton.
The 26-year-old is a fun rider. Throughout this year’s Dauphiné, he was on the attack, finishing in third place on stage three and sixth on stage six. He also podiumed in the mountains classification and this is where he could spring a surprise this Tour de France.
Across the first week, Lafay is unlikely to feature too highly as the parkour does not suit him. However, once the race starts going uphill from stage seven, expect him to be more active. From there, the strategy of those in GC contention will shape the battle for the KOM jersey. If they allow breaks to get up the road, Lafay will be in contention for stage wins and points for the polka dot jersey. Again, much like Bjerg, he has other challengers like Esteban Chaves and Bauke Mollema. But he is a great outside pick for both stages and the King of the Mountains classification.
Mark Padun jumped into the consciousness of cycling with two dominant wins at the 2021 Criterium du Dauphiné. He was with Bahrain-Victorious at the time and is now at EF Education-Easy Post, he has had a tough sophomore year. Third place overall at Gran Camiño showed some improvement but he was pretty anonymous in the Dauphiné this year. However, Jonathan Vaughters, his team manager, seems adamant that he will come good. Therefore, it will be a surprise if he does take stage wins at the Tour but it is not unfathomable. He has shown incredible legs in the mountains before and if he can grab a victory, it will surely be incredibly emotive for the young Ukrainian.
OK, so the team with the biggest budget doing well should not come as much of a surprise but what could be different is how they go about it. With the likes of Geraint Thomas winning the Tour de Suisse recently, it shows that they have plenty of cards to play. The Welshman is evidently in good form and the likes of Adam Yates and Dani Martinez are great alternatives in the GC battle. They will be under no illusion that they will struggle to dethrone Pogačar with traditional tactics, so it could be fireworks once the riders start going uphill with consecutive attacks from the trio.
For us viewers, this style of racing could be thrilling and put the UAE Team Emirates as well as Team Jumbo-Visma on the backfoot, opening up the race to unpredictability. This will, of course, be difficult to pull off and, therefore, would cause a huge shock if either Yates, Thomas or Martinez could be in yellow as the race reaches its climax. But with a strong team around them, it could well be a fun watch.
Now, this could be fun. Romain Bardet is probably France’s best hope of ending their near four-decade yellow-jersey drought. And back in May, he looked equal to Richard Carapaz, Jai Hindley, and Mikel Landa in the mountains but he had to abandon on stage 13 through sickness. This has allowed him to recover and hopefully be in contention during this Tour.
If he can continue the form that saw him look so good on Etna and Blockhaus, he could be in the frame for his second podium finish at the Tour. He is also known for devilish descending and canny tactics, so slipping into a break could also be on the menu for Bardet.
The DSM rider will not have the strongest team behind him but that has not been confirmed yet. Even without a strong mountain train, you would expect Bardet to perform well in the mountains and perhaps feed off the bigger teams. Another podium for the 31-year-old would be a welcome surprise for the French nation still waiting for their heir to Bernard Hinault.
Even though we think the Tour could be another Slovenian battle, surprises are surely going to happen and this is what makes a grand tour so compelling. Let us know on social media who you think could spring a surprise this year.