There’s a number of big stories on the general classification of this year’s race. Obviously Pogacar is going for his third straight Tour all before turning 24. He’ll get another showdown with Primoz Roglic after their tight battle in 2020 and Roglic crashing out of the race in 2021. Jumbo-Visma also has another contender beyond Roglic in the form of last year’s 2nd place Jonas Vingegaard. And a bit under-the-radar, but INEOS Grenadiers haven’t gone more than three grand tours without winning GC since 2015 (a time period during which they’ve won 9 of 21 GC titles).
Pogacar vs Roglic?
Pogacar is the bookmakers favorite – significantly – with a price of about 1.77 for/1.90 against at Pinnacle (implied about 52% to win the Tour). Both Roglic and Vingegaard are implied around 12-14% based on odds of about 5.0. Vingegaard has shortened significantly since a strong performance in the warmup Dauphine race as Roglic used to have roughly two thirds of the win probability among the two in March, but that has shortened to about 50/50 or even advantage Vingegaard in the last two weeks. So while this race will certainly be billed as Roglic vs Pogacar, Vingegaard is coming in very strong to have equal odds – especially given the team will certainly defer to Roglic a bit.
Of course the question must be asked whether Pogacar deserves to be the massive favorite? He is likely the biggest Tour de France pre-race favorite since Chris Froome in 2013 (I’ve seen about equal odds for Froome 2013 as Pogacar this year). In fact, that’s still true looking at all grand tours back to that 2013 TDF, so Pogacar’s as big a grand tour favorite as we’ve seen in 26 straight races.
If you average each rider’s top 7 GC performances in the last three years – using Pro Cycling Stats points system – Roglic and Pogacar come out well ahead of the competition, but close to one another. The 300+ points accrued by this scale is approximately what Roglic entered last year’s race at and similar to where Chris Froome entered the 2017 edition. Froome entered the 2018 Tour at over 400 points on this scale.
|Rider||Average PCS Points of Top 7 GC Performances|
In fact, whatever way you slice and dice it, Roglic and Pogacar have gained points in GC races at nearly identical rates. So why is Pogacar such a massive favorite?
My hypothesis is that Pogacar has shown himself more capable of putting out truly dominant performances. I’ve generated a quick method to find the most dominant stage race performances in recent years. What I’ve done is strip out riders in the breakaway, and then take the average seconds gained over other top riders in the stage. We’re trying to identify performances like Chris Froome’s multi-mountain raid in Stage 19 of the 2018 Giro where he won by 180 seconds over 2nd place.
Indeed, among grand tour stages since 2018, Froome’s victory in that stage rates #1 with a weighted average of 273 seconds over the chasers. Pogacar’s Stage 8 victory in last year’s Tour ranks #2, and Richard Carapaz on Stage 14 of 2019 Giro ranks #3. That’s a pretty good short-list of dominating efforts – basically multi-climb mountain raids.
Expanding out from grand tours, Pogacar also has >60 seconds gained dominant performances on Stage 6 of 2022 Tirreno Adriatico, Stage 20 of 2019 Vuelta, the Stage 20 Time Trial in 2020 Tour de France, Stage 5 of 2021 Tirreno Adriatico, and Stage 9 of 2019 Vuelta. That’s a total of six massive efforts in three years which won him four races and produced his shock podium at 2019 Vuelta.
In the same time period, Roglic has just three similar efforts – all in the final week of the 2021 Vuelta on Stages 17, 20, and 21 (and that Stage 20 effort was a group effort with other riders). Roglic just has not shown the ability to produce massive race-winning efforts nearly as often as Pogacar relying more on a very strong time trial and late attacks on climbs.
Of course, looking physiologically it’s also possible Pogacar just has more watts available for longer than Roglic. CronosWatts.com produced a phenomenal article comparing the two riders over their careers back in March, looking at their best climbing performances and the times and watts per KG they produced. I’ve overlayed their two graphs showing the two riders with Roglic represented by the green trend line and Pogacar in blue.
Frederic Portoleau’s conclusion:
The 2 Slovenians have a very similar level in the mountains for durations of effort of less than 25 minutes. For the long climbs, a small advantage for Pogacar. On a climb like Alpe d’Huez Pogacar must be able to achieve a time of 38min30sec or a little less in the event of maximum effort. Roglic for his part, has the potential to climb Alpe d’Huez in 39 min.Frederic Portoleau from https://www.chronoswatts.com/news/203/
Perhaps you can argue Roglic is faster on the sub 10 minute climbs which might allow him to steal some time on the finishes of stages 6, 8, 9, and 14, but overall they are even on efforts like those faced on Planche de Belles Filles on Stage 7 and Peyragudes on Stage 17. Pogacar has the advantage on climbs like Col du Granon (Stage 11), Alpe d’Huez (Stage 12), and Hautacum (Stage 18) – at least using these historical values.
The same site has published summaries of 2020 and 2021 Tours with major climbs. Unfortunately they don’t include the Planche de Belles Filles time trial in 2020 or the full Ventoux ascent where Pogacar was dropped by Vingegaard and lost 40 seconds in 2021. They also include non-competitive climbs like Stages 6/16 in 2020 where GC riders were not riding full gas. Looking at the summary Average Standard Watts Pogacar beat out Roglic by maybe 0.5% in 2020 and Vingegaard by about 2% in 2021. The missing data works against us here, but just using their times in lieu of power estimates, Pogacar rode 8% faster than Roglic on Planche de Belles Filles and Vingegaard rode full Ventoux ascent 1% faster than Pogacar. Combining those values with other climbs says Pogacar has been about 1.5% better over the last two Tours. That seems like enough to call him a clear favorite.
The Pogacar vs Jumbo-Visma battle won’t just be confined to those three riders; depending on tactics we could see one of Jumbo-Visma, UAE Team Emirates, or even INEOS Grenadiers try to control the race by leveraging their teams. In fact, we could see this early on potentially windy stages like 2, 3, and 4 or the cobbled stage 5.
I’ve ranked team quality on x-axis of who has the better time trial riders and y-axis of who has the better classics/one day riders. This might give us an indication of who is best setup to support their riders on the flat or hilly days where there is wind or cobbles in play.
Jumbo-Visma is the clear leader here as they have very strong time trial riders supporting Roglic like Van Aert and Vingegaard while also having strong classics riders like Laporte and Benoot. UAE is one of five strong teams behind Jumbo-Visma along with INEOS, Quick Step, and Bahrain, and BORA. Advantage Jumbo-Visma, but this isn’t a chasm like between Jumbo and Movistar.
Moving to the mountains, during the last two Tours there’s been a lot of talk about Pogacar’s team not being strong enough to support him, while Jumbo-Visma has been seen as a super team with multiple GC contenders lining up to support Roglic. Measuring a climbing domestique’s ability to support GC riders is still definitely not a solved problem, but I’ve tried leveraging my rider ratings which identify how good riders are at racing certain parcours based on their finishing position. Lower values below indicate better expected finish positions across the top 4 support riders on each squad.
|Team||Average of #2-5 Climbers||Team Climbing Rank|
In 2020, Jumbo-Visma had by far the best climbing domestiques to back up Roglic and they rode a defensive race which delivered Roglic to the final time trial with a minute advantage. Roglic’s teammates could only watch as Pogacar made up the difference and won the Tour.
Last year, Jumbo-Visma again had a wide advantage over UAE, though INEOS was strongest, but a strong team was less important after Pogacar’s incredible first week and the team had an easy job to protect a five minute lead after nine stages.
This year, Jumbo-Visma will again have an advantage over UAE, but only because of how much stronger their lineup is this year. Both squads have improved vs 2020 and 2021. Sepp Kuss is likely the best pure climbing domestique in the race – ranking 14th in my climber rating – which will allow Jumbo-Visma to have something like three of the final 15 riders in the lead group. UAE added veterans Marc Soler and George Bennett over the offseason which should give Pogacar’s team something like 5 riders in the last 40 riders in the lead group compared to just two in 2021.
Based on betting odds and making reasonable assumptions about where the vig is on the GC winner market, books are pricing Pogacar, Roglic, and Vingegaard at something like 80% for one of them to win. That leaves about a 20% chance of a big surprise whether from a former winner like Geraint Thomas, a perennial contender like Yates or Quintana, or one of the younger crowd of podium contenders like Vlasov or Enric Mas.
|Contenders other than Roglic, Pogacar, Jonas||Implied Probability of Winning|
|Daniel Felipe Martinez||2.5%|
|Jack Haig, Damiano Caruso, Adam Yates||<1%|
|Jakob Fuglsang, Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana||<1%|
|Alexey Lutsenko, David Gaudu, Rigoberto Uran||<1%|
This gives INEOS perhaps a 6-7% chance of winning their first Tour in three years. Thomas has just won the Tour de Suisse – one of two big warm-up races, but only after the favorite Vlasov left with a positive Covid test. Martinez had an incredible spring with a win in the Tour of the Basque Country and podiums after two other big races, but looked undercooked at the Suisse warmup and has a best grand tour GC result of just 5th. The final INEOS rider Adam Yates ranks as the third best performing rider on climbing stages in the race, but has just two 4th places in his GC career largely due to a poor time trial and big drop-off in performance in later stages of races.
Of the remaining riders, Mas, O’Connor, and Haig will likely be done in by the 40km time trial on stage 20 where they could easily lose two minutes plus to the Slovenians/Vingegaard. O’Connor was the final rider dropped by Roglic/Vingegaard on the final stage of the Dauphine tune-up race and while he finished 4th last year, he benefitted from gaining 6.5 minutes on other GC riders in a breakaway and likely wasn’t the 4th best rider in the race.
Vlasov has a string of strong week-long GC performances in the spring including a massive win in the Tour de Romandie mountain time trial, but he left Tour de Suisse with Covid. If he’s back on form he has a decent podium chance as his team support ranks 3rd best in the mountains with a strong squad of Austrian/German climbers.