The world’s biggest bike race is almost here, and with not long before the Tour de France finally gets underway, the chatter as to who will be in contention for the prestigious yellow jersey has already begun.
The 110th edition will start in the hilly Basque Country, meaning the GC action could get going from the very start. The route then heads to the Pyrenees in the west of the Alps, through the Massif Central to the Jura and Vosges mountains in the east of France, before the traditional processional ride into Paris and sprint finish on the Champs-Élysées.
This edition is a climber’s paradise with eight mountain stages, boasting a record-breaking 30 climbs and only one time trial. But who will be able to climb their way to the top of the podium after 21 days of racing?
Odds correct at time of publishing
Jonas Vingegaard - 21/20
Jonas Vingegaard won last year's Tour de France (Image by SWPix.com)
After winning the Tour last year, Jonas Vingegaard is back looking to defend his title and starts the race as the outright favourite according to the bookmakers, with the best odds available the extremely short 21/20 to win.
While this year’s Tour has one less time trial than last year’s edition, the Dane has regularly displayed his ruthless quality at blasting away the competition in the mountains, most recently in his emphatic Critérium du Dauphiné victory. His favourite status is also bolstered by the sheer strength of his Jumbo-Visma squad, which should include Wout van Aert, Christophe Laporte, Dylan van Baarle, and super-domestique Sepp Kuss.
It’s been a three-year battle between Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar at the Tour. Vingegaard placed second in 2021, then trumped Pogačar last year after cracking him the Alps. Both riders will have their eyes firmly on winning another Tour title, so this year will be another Pogačar versus Vingegaard show.
The two have come head-to-head already this season at Paris-Nice, but Vingegaard was comprehensively beaten by Pogačar and missed out on second place to David Gaudu. However, at the Itzulia Basque Country, he came back with a vengeance to win three out of six stages and a clear overall victory. That form seemingly hasn’t dipped, securing two stages and the biggest winning GC margin in decades in the Dauphiné this week.
Pogačar's injury (see more below) may be a key motivation for the bookies to make Vingegaard the narrow favourite, but judging by the odds on offer, there's very little to separate them.
Tadej Pogačar - 13/8
Tadej Pogačar at this year's Paris-Nice (Image by James Startt)
A two-time Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) will be going into this year’s Tour as many people's firm favourite. At the time of publishing however, Pogačar remains behind his main rival Vingegaard in the bookmakers' opinion.
The 24-year-old has consistently proved he is a force to be reckoned with at the Tour, finishing first on his debut in 2021 and then defending his title the year after. Only last year did someone put an end to his reign, with Vingegaard taking the yellow jersey from the Slovenian in the mountains of stage 11 and defending it to Paris.
Pogačar has already had a glittering career, continually adding the most prestigious of race titles to his palmarés at a ridiculous rate. This theme continued in this year’s Classics season, where he absolutely dominated, taking first place at the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne. So far this year, he has only missed out on one podium spot at Milan-Sanremo, where he placed fourth. But when it looked like nothing could stop his run, an unfortunate crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège left him with a fractured wrist and prevented him from securing the Ardennes treble as well as putting an abrupt pause on his 2023 racing season. That break in racing may be why he's currently trailing Vingegaard in the odds.
However, Pogačar is on the mend and has his sights set firmly on July, documenting his rehab sessions and gruelling kitchen roller rides on Instagram. Back on the roads in late May, he joined the rest of the team at a camp at altitude in preparation for the Tour and is set for one final camp at Sestriere before the race.
Pogačar would usually race the Tour of Slovenia before the Tour, but has opted to skip his home race and only compete in the road and time trial races at the Slovenian National Championships instead. Victories there may not be enough to make him the race favourite ahead of Vingegaard, but we should be able to ascertain exactly how he’s faring after his injury.
This year’s Tour route will suit him well with mountain after mountain. There is also a 22.4km individual time trial on stage 16 where he could boost his chances, although there is very little between him and Vingegaard against the clock.
A man for making the unbelievable happen, even an injured Pogačar is a strong favourite to win the Tour de France.
Jai Hindley - 20/1
Jai Hindley won the Giro d'Italia last year after taking the pink jersey from Richard Carapaz (Image by Getty Images)
Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley’s odds have shortened since a strong performance at the Dauphiné in which he finished fourth overall. He may have missed out on the podium, and finished some way behind winner Vingegaard, but the 27-year-old looked like one of the strongest amongst the other contenders and secured one of his best ever week-long stage race results.
After winning the Giro last year, Hindley is making his debut at the Tour de France, preferring the route at the Tour which focused on mountain stages rather than the time trials which dominated this year’s Giro. Having raced the Giro four times and the Vuelta a España twice, Hindley’s racing season has had to alter slightly to ensure he is in peak shape for July. His last race before the Dauphiné was in April at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, placing 83rd, and from there, Hindley went to altitude to train like many of his other rivals.
His results in one-week stage races and one-day Classics don’t often reflect how the Australian rider will perform in a Grand Tour. Even when he won the Giro last year, he’d achieved mediocre results in the lead-up. So while, on paper, his season has looked a little lacklustre with no victories, Hindley remains the bookies' favourite outside of Vingegaard and Pogačar.
Enric Mas - 28/1
Mas has proved a much more potent threat at the Vuelta than at the Tour so far (Getty Images)
Enric Mas (Movistar) has had consistently good results in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, having placed second twice in the Spanish Grand Tour and fifth and sixth at the Tour. The Spaniard continued this consistency through to this year, where he has achieved top-10 finishes in the first three stage races he completed, but was unable to get close to Vingegaard when he faced him at Itzulia Basque Country.
That consistency came to an abrupt end at the Dauphiné last week where he uncharacteristically struggled through the mountain stages to finish more than eight minutes down on the winner. Despite that, the bookies still think Mas is fourth favourite to win the Tour, albeit with long odds of 28/1.
For all his relative success of placing highly in stage races, Mas has lacked the winning punch that's been needed to convert his efforts into victories, often putting him in the shadows of first place. Nonetheless, in his best form he should thrive on the difficult climbing parcours of the Tour, so we'd expect to see him in the top 10 and possibly even on the podium if things go better than they did at the Dauphiné. Whether he'll make the top spot, we're unsure, and the bookies seem to agree.
Richard Carapaz - 50/1
Richard Carapaz at this year's Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (Image by Getty Images)
Of every member in this list, Richard Carapaz has had the biggest slip in odds since the Dauphiné. Originally a 33/1 shot, he’s considered even more of an outsider since finishing over 35 minutes down in GC.
Carapaz’s first season with EF Education-EasyPost will see him as the overall contender for the American team at the Tour. The 30-year-old has had plenty of experience as a successful GC rider having won the Giro in 2019 and placed third at the Tour in 2021 behind Pogačar and Vingegaard, A punchy and attacking climber, over the course of his career he's only finished outside the top-five in four of the nine Grand Tours he's finished.
Having spent a lot of time at a training camp in the Pyrenees, Carapaz hasn’t really displayed encouraging results in stage races since joining EF, and it was perhaps his recent victory at the Mercan’Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes that placed him at shorter odds to begin with.
A podium place could still be possible considering his record, and he may look to work his way into form during the race while trying to avoid losing too much time early on.
David Gaudu - 50/1
David Gaudu was in excellent form at Paris-Nice this year (Image by James Startt)
Any hope that David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) could replicate his stunning Paris-Nice form at the Tour this year looks like a very long-shot right now. Since ousting Vingegaard into third place to finish second behind Pogačar in March, Gaudu has struggled to follow that up with something similar, with a particularly terrible Ardennes Classic campaign that followed a respectable fourth place at Itzulia Basque Country.
At the Dauphiné the Frenchman looked miles off having the necessary form to challenge the big two, and it’s hard to envisage he’ll be able to make a dramatic turnaround in the next three weeks to correct that.
Things were bad, but not disastrous for the 26-year-old even after the Dauphiné’s time trial, where he lost over two minutes to Vingegaard. Seven minutes down by the end of the key summit finish to the Col de la Croix de Fer, it was stage eight where things fell apart, ending the race over 25 minutes down on GC.
Gaudu has never seemingly thrived at the Dauphiné, even last year finishing down in 17th before his fourth place overall at the Tour, which may inspire some hope of a turnaround in fortunes. But there were at least glimpses of form that year, including his stage win ahead of Wout van Aert, which were starkly lacking last week.
This year will be his fifth appearance at the Tour and, with the weight of French expectations on his shoulders, it’s going to be a huge ask for Gaudu to manage his way to the podium at this year’s Tour.
Ben O'Connor - 66/1
O'Connor will be looking to rectify a difficult 2022 Tour in which he was forced to abandon (Getty Images)
In contrast to the likes of Carapaz, Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) has had his odds trimmed since the Dauphiné, dropping from 75/1 to 66/1. That's thanks to his third place finish overall behind Vingegaard and Adam Yates, but an almost three-minute deficit has meant he’s still being classed as a long-shot by the bookmakers.
A stage winner in both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, O'Connor's GC aspirations have perhaps not matched his stage winning ability at Grand Tours, and a podium finish at this year’s Tour would be a dream result.
He valiantly finished best of the rest in 2021 as he sealed fourth overall, three minutes off the podium, while an eighth place at the Vuelta 2022 is best GC result since. The Australian talked up his ambitions last year before an early crash spoiled his ambitions, but at his very best he certainly has what it takes to be in the mix for the overall podium.
It just looks like a reach too far for him to deny either Pogačar or Vingegaard the win if they remain in the race.
Mikel Landa - 80/1
Mikel Landa will be one of the more experienced GC riders going into the Tour this year (Image by Getty Images)
Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) cemented his 80/1 odds for the Tour at the Critérium du Dauphiné with a performance off-kilter to the form he’s shown so far this year. Landa ceded almost 13 minutes in the GC, despite having proved he’s capable of remaining within touching distance of Vingegaard with his second place at Itzulia Basque Country in April.
It means the Spaniard continues to have never won a WorldTour stage race overall and it currently looks unlikely he’ll be able to reverse that trend.
Landa is also yet to crack the podium at the Tour, having placed fourth in 2020 and (very narrowly) in 2017, but has lacked the winning formula, which is why his odds were so long even before the Dauphiné despite being remarkably consistent.
The 33-year-old will no doubt continue to inexplicably attack at inopportune moments, but it still feels like the chances that he'll be able to turn a top-10 into a podium at this year’s Tour remain slim.
Romain Bardet (Team DSM) has flown under the radar somewhat this year, but seems determined to have another crack at the Tour. At 100/1 he's considered a real long shot, but a strong display at the Tour de Suisse could propel him up the favourites list.
Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) remains at 66/1 despite his runner-up finish at the Dauphiné. That will largely be down to his place on the same team as Pogačar, automatically dropping him into a supporting role. It seems unlikely he'll get his chance unless UAE's main man can't finish, but even if that is the case, he wasn't able to match Vingegaard on the climbs at the Dauphiné and a podium finish seems a more likely outcome in that instance.
Adam's brother Simon remains at 80/1 despite not racing since abandoning the Tour de Romandie in April, but the Jayco-Alula rider's form remains a mystery.
Romain Bardet will be going into his 10th Tour de France this year (Image by James Startt)
Ineos Grenadiers will potentially have Daniel Martínez as the team’s leader, but the Colombian isn't considered a real challenger for victory at 80/1. He even trails behind his team-mate Tom Pidcock at 40/1, but with almost no GC experience and with no indication he'll be aiming for yellow, we've not yet included the Briton in the main list. The team's other possibility could be Carlos Rodríguez (125/1) after is his top-10 finish at the Dauphiné. A replication of that result at the Tour would be a huge success for the 22-year-old Spaniard.
Tom Pidcock won his first Tour de France stage last year (Image by Getty Images)
There's plenty of big names further down the bookmakers' list. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) sits at 100/1; unsurprising considering his return from injury after his horrific crash last year.
The imperious Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) isn't far behind at 175/1, as is Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal–Quick-Step), despite never properly contemplating a GC bid.
A remarkable return to form for four-time winner Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) is deemed unlikely, the Briton sitting at 600/1.
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) should perhaps be rewarded with shorter odds considering his stage win and 11th in GC at the Dauphiné, but the Italian still sits at 500/1.
Home favourite Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is considered more of an outsider than you might expect, offered at 500/1 by some bookmakers.
Cover photo by James Startt