With the Tour de France 2023 just one month away, attention is inevitably turning to the red-hot favorites for the yellow jersey.
However, if we know anything about trying to predict the Tour de France, it’s that we don’t know anything.
All it takes is one misjudged corner on a descent or disastrously-timed bout of illness to derail a cyclist’s campaign – and there are a whole host of riders looking to disrupt the established order and pick up the pieces if that happens.
So, join us as we assess what we can expect as the epic clash between last year’s top two resumes, and which riders in the crowded field behind might be able to force their way onto the podium or beyond.
Let’s dive in!
#1. Tadej Pogačar
- Age: 24
- Team: UAE Emirates
- Best Tour de France Result: Champion (2020, 2021)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 6/4
Two riders stand head and shoulders above all others on this list: Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard.
The rivalry between the pair dominated last year’s Tour, and we look set for a high-octane repeat in 2023.
The BikeTips writing team have had plenty of arguments between ourselves picking a winner between the two – and recent events could arguably push the dial a little toward the Dane – but we still can’t look beyond all-conquering two-time champion Pogačar as our top pick.
The Slovenian was imperious early in the season, obliterating the competition with victories at the Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice, Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, and La Flèche Wallonne.
That was until a nasty tumble at Liége-Bastogne-Liége in April, which threatened to derail his season with a fractured wrist.
For a time, there were question marks over whether Pogačar would even recover in time to ride Le Tour – but with a return to pre-Tour training camps confirmed, such fears have receded.
That the injury was only to his wrist also means he should have been able to continue with indoor riding while he recovered. While far from ideal, a period off the bike entirely would have been far more damaging to his Tour de France preparation.
With his return to racing approaching at the Slovenian national road race and time trial, we’ll soon get a better idea of Pogačar’s fitness in the warm-up events.
If he can recapture even a shred of his early-season dominance, the Slovenian is going to be very, very difficult to beat.
#2. Jonas Vingegaard
- Age: 25
- Team: Jumbo-Visma
- Best Tour de France Result: Champion (2022)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 5/4
Casting our minds back a year to Vingegaard and Team Jumbo-Visma crushing Pogačar on the Col du Granon, it might seem like madness to plump for anyone but the defending champion.
However, the Dane’s troubles since winning the 2022 Tour and the blistering form of Pogačar have muddied the waters.
Vingegaard struggled a little towards the end of the 2022 season having poured so much into his Tour victory, and was then bulldozered by Pogačar at Paris-Nice in March.
Since then, though, his form appears to have turned a corner.
Back-to-back titles in prestigious week-long stage races Itzulia Basque Country and O Gran Camiño, the latter of which had a particularly strong field and brutal course, set the cycling world on notice that Vingegaard is back and means business.
Most importantly of all, Vingegaard has just won the Critérium du Dauphiné – a key Tour de France warm-up race – with the biggest margin in over three decades.
Meanwhile, the 2023 Tour de France route might just have Vingegaard licking his lips ever-so-slightly more than Pogačar with its litany of altitude finishes and dizzying mountain passes, and minimal time-trialing kilometers.
One of Vingegaard’s greatest assets last year was the strength of his Jumbo-Visma teammates, and this year key deputies Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte are strongly in the frame to join him at Le Tour.
However, having just won the Giro d’Italia, Primož Roglič is unlikely to ride the Tour this year despite his vital role as a super-domestique for Vingegaard in 2022 after an early crash derailed his own chances.
Pogačar, on the other hand, was often left badly isolated last year, but his hand has been strengthened by the additions of Adam Yates and Tim Wellens.
Even so, with Vingegaard continuing to build insatiable momentum through June, he’ll be in a great position to go toe-to-toe with Pogačar at the Tour once again.
#3. David Gaudu
- Age: 26
- Team: Groupama-FDJ
- Best Tour de France Result: 4th Place (2022)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 50/1
Make no mistake, Pogačar and Vingegaard are in a class of their own – but there are plenty of riders who’ll fancy themselves to stake a claim for “best of the rest”.
Frenchman David Gaudu will certainly be one of them.
At 26, he’s entering the peak of his career, and put together one of his finest performances to finish runner-up to Pogačar at Paris-Nice this spring.
Gaudu just missed out on the podium last year, finishing fourth overall, but the limited time trialing this year is a massive bonus for the Frenchman, who is relatively weak against the clock but is an excellent climber with a sharp sprint finish.
With his consistency and experience developing, perhaps this is the year Gaudu will force his way onto the podium – or more – and finally give the long-suffering French fans something to cheer about.
#4. Jai Hindley
- Age: 27
- Team: Bora-Hansgrohe
- Best Tour de France Result: 2023 Debutant
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 24/1
An earlier draft of this favorites list saw Jai Hindley significantly further down this list, but a stellar performance at the Critérium du Dauphiné sees him bumped up to fourth as a prime contender to seal the final podium spot.
Until recently, the Australian had failed to recapture the purple patch that saw him win the 2022 Giro d’Italia, but he now appears to be peaking at just the right time with his performances in the weeks building up to his debut Tour.
#5. Richard Carapaz
- Age: 30
- Team: EF Education-EasyPost
- Best Tour de France Result: 3rd Place (2021)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 50/1
Richard Carapaz has had a quiet start to life at EF Education-EasyPost after his transfer from Ineos Grenadiers, but he finally made a statement of intent with victory at the Classic Alpes-Maritimes in May.
His form may not be as impressive as some on this list, but he’s one of only a handful of riders on the start list with Grand Tour-winning pedigree with his 2019 Giro d’Italia title. The Ecuadorian also boasts an Olympic Road Race Gold Medal among his impressive credentials.
That experience may prove invaluable in the mayhem of the Tour de France, especially if injury or illness decimates the field as it did at this year’s Giro.
Carapaz sealed out the podium last time he raced a Grand Tour alongside Vingegaard and Pogačar (Tour de France, 2021), which will put his fellow “best of the rest” contenders on notice.
#6. Mikel Landa
- Age: 33
- Team: Bahrain Victorious
- Best Tour de France Result: 4th Place (2017, 2020)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 80/1
Mikel Landa is many pundits’ favorite for the final podium spot at the 2023 Tour de France, and for good reason.
The Spaniard has looked ominously consistent so far in 2023, racking up two podiums across five stage races, with a lowest finish of 7th.
It’s not dynamite form, but it certainly suggests Landa might be lurking close behind should misfortune befall the two usual suspects at the head of the race.
#7. Romain Bardet
- Age: 32
- Team: Team DSM
- Best Tour de France Result: 2nd Place (2016)
- Bookmaker’s Odds: 100/1
Rarely has Romain Bardet looked closer to replicating his podium finishes in 2016 and 2017 than at last year’s Tour.
Though the Frenchman ended up a respectable 6th, at times he was looking even more dangerous during the middle week. Following Vingegaard’s Stage 11 demolition job, Bardet cashed in on Pogačar’s collapse to fire himself into 2nd place overall.
That said, his form hasn’t set the world alight this season, with his best performance a 7th place among a strong field at Paris-Nice.
Moreover, Bardet himself has cut a disheartened figure in recent months, conceding he has no expectations of ever claiming that elusive Tour de France title.
“I don’t think about winning the Tour de France anymore… If Tadej Pogačar accelerates, I just can’t keep up. I hope there is still room for improvement, because otherwise I won’t be cycling for long.”Romain Bardet
It’s not the most inspiring self-assessment we’ve ever heard, but the flashes of form Bardet showed in 2022 give him an outside chance of threatening the podium – even if he’s not in the mood for saber-rattling just yet.
Enric Mas suffered a shocking loss of form during the 2022 Tour de France before COVID-19 ended his race, but restored confidence with impressive 2nd-place finishes at the Vuelta and Giro di Lombardia late in the season.
The Spaniard’s form has dipped a little at the start of this season, but in previous years he’s demonstrated a helpful habit of peaking at just the right moment – so don’t be surprised to see him among the action at the business end of the Tour.
That being said, his performance at the Critérium du Dauphiné was massively disappointing, losing shedloads of time not just on the time trial – as was expected – but also in the mountains, which was much more alarming.
Don’t rule Mas out, but he’ll require a major turnaround to haul himself back into contention for the Tour.
Primož Roglič has been in the headlines of late with his dramatic Giro d’Italia win via a final-day time trial, finally putting the demons of that 2020 Tour de France defeat to bed.
The field was significantly weakened by the loss of Remco Evenopoel to COVID-19 in the first week, but it was an outstanding performance from the Slovenian to overhaul former Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas right at the death.
However, all the noises coming out of the Jumbo-Visma camp suggest he will sit the Tour out after his Giro exertions. However, a stroke of misfortune for Vingegaard before July 1st might yet see Roglič drafted in to lead the team’s yellow jersey tilt and make the battle at the front an all-Slovenian affair.
Simon Yates has struggled for form so far this year, but a decision to properly target the Tour over the Giro for the first time in several years might yet spark a reversal in fortunes.
Egan Bernal, Tour de France champion in 2019, could well be a dark horse as his recovery from the crash that almost killed him in January 2022 continues.
A troublesome knee injury has exacerbated doubts as to whether the Colombian can ever recapture his world-beating form, but if he needs inspiration he need only look to Greg LeMond’s astonishing win in 1989 in the wake of his infamous near-fatal hunting accident.
An against-all-odds comeback victory from a former Tour de France champion lucky to be alive, let alone competing at the highest level? It’s an unlikely fairytale – but stranger things have happened.