Of course, there is no guarantee that all of these superstars – or any of them, for that matter – will be riding the Tour next year. Preparations are often disrupted by crashes or illness, as illustrated by Pogačar’s bad luck in last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But all four have said in public that they want to ride the 2024 Tour and intend to win it, which means the race has the potential to be one of the greatest Tours ever. That prospect was only enhanced by the route chosen by Tour organizers ASO. According to sprinting legend Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan), who has postponed his retirement to try and win one more Tour stage, the 2024 Tour will be very hard. “It’s so hard I’m actually in a bit of shock,” he told journalists. “It might be the hardest route I’ve ever seen at the Tour de France.”
One reason it is so hard is that there will be one more stage of racing than usual, and that stage will be a 35km time trial from Monaco to Nice to conclude the race. It comprises two climbs, one of which – La Turbie (8.1km @ 6.5%) – is quite difficult, and it comes after three difficult mountain stages, including two summit finishes in stages 19 and 20. Stage 19 has three long climbs – the Col de Vars (18.8km @ 5.7%), the Cime de la Bonnette (22.9km @ 6.9%) and a summit finish at Isola 2000 (16.1km @ 7.1%). Stage 20 includes four ascents, and two of them are especially difficult, the Col de Turini (20.7km @ 5.7%) and the summit finish on the Col de la Couillole (15.7km @ at 7.1%).
Let’s assume that the race will be decided in that monstrously hard final week. We looked into the future and evaluated our four stellar protagonists, based on their past performances.
The Dane remains the best climber in the world and, until further notice, Visma–Lease a Bike will still be the best team in the world, regardless of what it is called. They are the only team to ever win each Grand Tour in a single calendar, and they placed three riders on the Giro d’Italia podium. The winner of that race, Sepp Kuss, will be riding in support of the Vingegaard, which is a big plus. And he has the great Wout van Aert as well.
Vingegaard also seems to be physically superior to his rivals. As his trainer Tim Heemskerk said, “[His] greatest quality is that he can also pedal the power he produces during training at the end of the race. This happens even in a three-week race. … He can also do this at altitude or in hot climates.” I can’t remember Vingegaard ever cracking on a climb, as Pogačar did in the 2022 and 2023 Tours and as Evenepoel did at this year’s Vuelta. All things being equal it will be his Tour to win or lose. And he believes the route suits him. “It seems super hard, especially the third week,” Vingegaard said. “I think it’s a good parcour for me.”
The Slovenian will probably be the biggest obstacle to Vingegaard making it three Tour wins in a row. Pogačar’s training this year was disrupted by a crash, which could have been responsible for his loss of legs on the Col de la Loze. But he also faded the previous year on the Col de Granon, when he didn’t have an excuse. He told L’Equipe, “The time trial between Monaco and Nice is super interesting, I’m really looking forward to it but you will have to arrive at this final stage with good legs to win.” He was also optimistic about his chances in the final week. “Just seeing the profiles [of the stages], this end of the parcour makes me smile,” he said. “It’s really full of promise.”
The Slovenian moves to BORA – hansgrohe next year with the firm intention of finally winning the Tour. “It’s no secret that we want to win the Tour of France,” he said. “That may sound absurd, but we believe in it and will do everything we can to achieve it.” The Tour remains the only Grand Tour he has never won, having ridden in it five times. He finished second in 2020 when he cracked in the final ITT and surrendered a substantial lead to give Pogačar his first Tour yellow jersey.
Roglič has had a great season and looks, at age 34 (on October 29) to be in the form of his life. No one can question his work ethic or his commitment, and his bike handling has greatly improved, as he has reduced the crashes that had hampered his career (he had to abandon the Tour twice because of crashes). We have never seen him go head-to-head against former teammate Vingegaard. That should be worth the price of admission itself. But the eight-year difference in their ages may be crucial to the outcome. Road racing has become a young person’s sport.
It will be great to see Remco Evenepoel ride the Tour de France at last. His explosiveness and his passion enliven every race he rides in. But he has yet to prove he can climb the high mountains as well as his three rivals. He cracked in the Vuelta, but that may have been because of the effort he expended in the World Championships, which took place not long before. I think he will be in contention, if not in the yellow jersey, until the final week.
Fortunately for him, Soudal-QuickStep has brought in the strong climber Mikel Landa to serve as support. If Landa can help him make it over the mountains in stages 19 and 20 and be within shouting distance of the GC lead, Evenepoel has a chance, given his formidable time trial ability. But I think the 23-year-old Belgian is more of a one-day Classics rider than a Tour de France winner.
In any case, let’s cross our fingers and hope that all four make it to the 2024 Tour healthy and in great form, because that will be a can’t-miss sporting event. As Vingegaard said, “If we all four go there it’ll be a huge battle. I’m looking forward to it!”