2019 Tour De France - What to Look Out For

As the most prestigious of the Grand Tours, the Tour de France can be considered the pinnacle of cycling. With the 2019 race about to get underway, cycling fans from all over the world will be descending on France to be a part of the action.

Grand Tour cycling is about the riders, the fans and the gruelling 3,460 km (2,150 mi) course, but it is also about the technology, with each mechanical advancement designed to eek precious seconds out of every stage.

Winning bikes

The bikes used in the Grand Tours are not your standard road bikes. These carbon fibre machines can cost in excess of $12,500 (£10,000) and are tweaked every year to try and improve performance. Beyond the bike itself, every rider has their own set up with different seats, stems, handlebars, groupsets, cassettes, brakes, wheels and tyres to name just a few customisable items. Some items are off the shelf and available to any rider while others are bespoke.

Over the past few years, Italian manufacturer Pinarello has dominated the Tour de France with six wins in the last seven editions of the event, including last years' when Geraint Thomas was victorious aboard a Pinarello F10 X-Light. Chris Froome also rides bikes made by the Italian marque.

Riders to watch

Despite his win last year and the absence of Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin due to injury, Geraint Thomas will not start as favourite in the Tour de France odds. That honour falls to 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal who has really made his mark on the professional scene over the last two years, during which he signed for Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky).

Bernal has already won four major stage-based races, including the 2018 Tour of California and the 2019 Tour de Suisse, and of course, he will be riding a Pinarello bike on this year’s Tour. If he does win, he will be the youngest winner since Laurent Fignon won the title back in 1983.

However, with just one Grand Tour ride under his belt (last year’s Tour de France), some feel that it is still too soon for the youngster, especially as he will be up against the likes of Thomas and the in-form Jakob Fuglsang who will ride a Canadian-built Argon 18 machine.

Quintana eyeing comeback

Also in contention will be Bernal’s compatriot and fellow climbing specialist Nairo Quintana who burst onto the scene in 2013, aged just 23, to finish second in the Tour de France behind Chris Froome. That was only Quintana’s second Grand Tour ride, and although his form has dropped off a bit since, he will surely have been a source of inspiration for Bernal. Quintana will be on board a Canyon Ultimate CF SLX running a Campagnolo groupset, the same machine that carried Richard Carapaz to victory in this year’s Giro D'Italia. Could it be back-to-back wins for the German brand?

This year’s race looks set to be one of the most open in modern history. With some big names missing and some exciting new talent looking to make their mark, the 2019 Tour de France is one of the must-watch sporting events of the year.

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