The Tour de France is back for the 109th time and with it comes some of the sport’s biggest names, all set to battle it out for cycling’s grandest prize.
This year sees the race take in Scandinavia for the very first time, as Denmark hosts the Grand Départ, with a trio of stages that make it the furthest north that the race has ever been.
The Tour de France 2022 route travels through four countries in total, thanks to brief forays into Belgium and Switzerland. Countless iconic climbs will be tackled, including a mouth-watering return to Alpe d’Huez on Bastille Day. Two time trials and even cobbled sections from Paris-Roubaix making a cameo appearance will hopefully create a memorable edition of the Tour de France.
But who are the men battling it out for the right to ride up the Champs-Élysées with the yellow jersey on their back?
Odds correct at time of publishing
Tadej Pogačar – 4/5
Tadej Pogačar at the 2022 Strade Bianche (Cor Vos/SWPix)
The obvious favourite for the maillot jaune is the man who has donned it at the end of the Tour’s last two editions. Going for a hat-trick of victories at the tender age of 23, Tadej Pogačar is a force to be reckoned with alongside his UAE Team Emirates mountain train.
Pogačar, with that now iconic tuft of hair peeping through his helmet, comfortably retained his crowns at both the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico during the early months of the season. A blistering performance on the white gravel roads of Tuscany at Strade Bianche, in which the Slovenian talisman attacked alone with 50km left, shows that he isn’t just a three-week racer either.
However, he didn’t have it all his own way during his maiden Spring Classics season, throwing away what looked like a certain podium place at the Tour of Flanders.
Similarly to last year, he has prepared for the Tour riding his home roads at the Tour of Slovenia – where he took two stage victories and the overall win – avoiding his rivals at the usual warm-up events, the Tour de Suisse and the Critérium de Dauphiné.
The 2022 route should suit Pogačar well, with five mountaintop finishes, including a visit back to where he burst on the scene – or at least just a bit further up the hill, La Super Planche des Belles Filles. 53km of time-trialling boosts his chances further, with the Slovenian winning stage five’s time-trial last year and setting him on the way to taking the maillot jaune just days later.
Primož Roglič – 17/4
Primož Roglič at the 2022 Paris-Nice (Alex Broadway/SWPix)
Primož Roglič has three Tour de France stages on his palmarès, yet since his compatriot Pogačar burst onto the scene in 2020, it has not been a happy hunting ground.
The infamous image of the Slovenian, with his time trial helmet askew, dragging himself up La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 20’s time trial two years ago will live long in the memory.
Ten months on, redemption was on Roglič’s mind, but it all came crashing down – quite literally, on stage three of last year’s Grand Boucle. The Jumbo-Visma rider bravely carried on until stage nine when he abandoned to let his wounds heal ahead of the impending Tokyo Olympics.
Roglič won time trial gold in Japan before adding a third Vuelta a España to his palmarès five weeks later.
He may have taken overall victory at Paris-Nice this year but the 32-year-old has had a stunted start to this year, with Milan-Sanremo the only Monument that he featured in, finishing 17th.
Roglič looked out of sorts at the Tour of the Basque Country, where he struggled on the hilly parcours and finished eighth overall due to an ongoing knee injury. His recent win in the Critérium du Dauphiné, though, proved that he is coming back in to form, but it's worth keeping in mind that the field at this race wasn't of the calibre that we will see at the Tour de France.
Geraint Thomas – 28/1
Geraint Thomas’s recent win at the Tour de Suisse firmly laid his claim on a leadership position for the Ineos Grenadiers at the Tour this year. The Welshman finished over one minute ahead of Sergio Higuita in second place after a strong performance in the mountains backed up by a second place in the final time trial in Vaduz, ahead of seasoned time-trial specialists such as Stefan Küng.
This year’s Tour de France route is well-suited to Thomas with an opening time trial and a potentially decisive 40km ITT on the penultimate stage. The main challenge for the Ineos Grenadiers rider will be to get through the race without the crashes and mishaps that have plagued his attempts at the Tour in recent years.
Where Thomas might struggle in the mountains against some of the purest climbers, he is likely to excel on the cobbles of stage five – the 36-year-old has plenty of experience in the Classics and could put some time on his rivals here. Potential crosswinds in the earlier flat stages of the race will suit Thomas as well, but we will have to wait and see if his team puts full trust in him as a leader.
Daniel Martínez – 20/1
Dani Martínez at the 2022 Paris-Nice (Getty Images)
Picking the leader of the Ineos Grenadiers at this year’s Tour de France will be tough. However, after a promising spring, Dani Martínez looks like another candidate who could try and deliver the British team with an eighth title, and their first in three years. Geraint Thomas proved to be the stronger of the two in the Tour de Suisse – Martinez was tasked with helping the Welshman to the overall victory, rather than going for his own chances.
The Colombian, who spent last year as Egan Bernal’s super-domestique at the Giro d’Italia, has been given chances in a leadership role so far in 2022. Third place finishes at the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice respectively were followed by overall victory at the Tour of the Basque Country.
Martinez is certainly behind Pogačar, Roglič and Thomas when it comes to experience battling for Grand Tour crowns, yet he knows he has a star-studded team to keep him in the fight. After all, there’s a reason why Ineos have won seven of the Tour’s last 10 editions. Is this the year that the Empire strikes back?
Jonas Vingegaard – 9/2
Vingegaard descends Mont Ventoux (Image credit: Alex Broadway/SWpix)
As is often the case when a team leader leaves a Grand Tour early, a young talent is given the chance to shine. Jonas Vingegaard did just that at last year’s Tour.
The Dane, although no match for Pogačar over the course of the three weeks, showed his leadership potential along with two strong time trial results to secure an impressive second place finish in Paris.
More leadership opportunities have come his way in 2022, with a second place at Tirreno-Adriatico, once again behind Tadej Pogačar, followed up by sixth at the Tour of the Basque Country. At the Dauphiné, however, Vingegaard was back riding in support of Roglič, proving that Jumbo-Visma put more faith in the older rider.With this in mind, Vingegaard may find himself as a super-domestique in the Alps and Pyrenees for the Slovenian. But if his leader is not up to the fight, the Dane is the perfect back-up and a rider that should not be overlooked by the cycling world.
Aleksandr Vlasov – 66/1
Aleksandr Vlasov at the 2022 Tour de Romandie (Getty Images)
Aleksandr Vlasov was hoping to continue Bora-Hansgrohe’s success in 2022 after the team secured their first Grand Tour victory with Jai Hindley at the Giro d’Italia. The Russian rider had impressed this spring with wins at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Tour de Romandie.
However, his recent diagnosis of Covid-19 puts question marks on Vlasov's participation in the Tour this year. Even if he does recover in time to race, the 26-year-old will have lost valuable training time and it won't have been ideal preparation. If he does come to the start line, it will be Vlasov’s first time on cycling’s biggest stage, having only ridden the Giro and Vuelta in previous years.
The route may suit him, with the former Astana rider climbing well and displaying an improved time trial this year.
Enric Mas (Getty)
Beyond the key contenders for the maillot jaune, Enric Mas will be buoyed on by his second-place finish at the Vuelta a España last September, hoping to deliver for his Movistar team who haven’t had a Tour de France podium since 2016.
Ben O’Connor will want to improve on his stage win and fourth-place finish from last year, although the lengthy time trials may not work in the AG2R Citröen man’s favour.
O'Connor's countryman, Jack Haig, will be confident too after a strong Vuelta result last year but the Aussie may have to share leadership duties at Bahrain-Victorious with Damiano Caruso.
And what about a French winner? It’s now nearly four decades since Bernard Hinault donned the yellow jersey in Paris. A revitalised Romain Bardet looks like the home nation’s best chance, although the Team DSM did have to leave the Giro early due to sickness. Thibaut Pinot returns to the Tour after missing last year's race, but his team-mate David Gaudu looks like the best bet from the Groupama-FDJ team.