The 2021 Tour de France starts on Saturday with Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic set to repeat last year’s duel that saw Pogacar win in one of the race’s most spectacular finals.
But there are plenty of other riders hoping to compete with the Slovenian duo for the yellow jersey for three grueling weeks, which will end in Paris on July 18.
Green points, polka-dot mountains and white youth jerseys as well as stage victories are up for grabs.
BBC Sport is watching which riders to watch.
Tadej Pogacar – UAE-Team Emirates
The defending champion revised Roglic in stunning style in the penultimate stage time trial in last year’s rescheduled race and has kept that form superbly this season.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider has already won this year the prestigious Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, the classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège “monument”, the UAE Tour and his native Tour of Slovenia.
At just 22 years old, Pogacar could become one of the Tour’s all-time greats and appears to have a stronger squad around him this year, with another star of the year 2020 – Marc Hirschi – having joined him.
Primoz Roglic – Jumbo-Visma Team
Roglic, 31, responded impressively to his grief on the Tour last year by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and defending his title at the Vuelta a Espana.
He hasn’t run much this year, preferring to train at altitude, but has had success – including beating Pogacar to win the Tour du Pays Basque title.
Jumbo-Visma also has an accomplished Tour roster including Steven Kruijswijk, Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert and Tony Martin, but how many scars from last year remain?
Geraint Thomas – Ineos Grenadiers
After a poor season that saw him excluded from the Ineos roster last year, 2018 British winner Thomas returns in search of his second title in much better form.
The Welshman, 35, won the Tour de Romandie in May, won a stage victory and a third overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné and finished third at the Volta a Catalunya earlier in the season.
While Thomas is likely to be the leader of Ineos, the British squad usually have no shortage of other options, with former Giro d’Italia champions Tao Geoghegan Hart, 26, and Richard Carapaz, 28, as well than the third of last year – 36 years old Dauphiné Champion Richie Porte – all posing a threat to the general classification.
David Gaudu – Groupama FDJ / Julian Alaphilippe – Deceuninck-Quick-Step
It has been 36 years since a Frenchman won the Tour title and while this streak is unlikely to end in 2021, there are two home riders in particular who could liven up the race. .
While Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet should miss the race, look for David Gaudu, 24, to step forward as an overall contender after an impressive eighth place in last year’s Vuelta, which included two stage wins.
World champion Alaphilippe, 29, flirted with the end of France’s hoodoo in 2019 before being finally revised by Egan Bernal.
Mark Cavendish – Deceuninck-Quick-Step
After a knee injury to Irishman Sam Bennett from Deceuninck-Quick Step, comes one of the most successful cyclists. No one expected a 36-year-old Cavendish to be reborn on the Tour this year, but now he has a chance to add to his total of 30 Tour stage wins – just four less than Eddy Merckx’s all-time record.
Bennett, 30, had only become the second Irishman after Sean Kelly to claim the green jersey last year – breaking the record seven-time points winner Peter Sagan and winning two stages, including the final in Paris.
Sagan has had impressive victories this season, Caleb Ewan could prove to be the fastest sprinter in the race and all-round talent Wout van Aert and debutant Mathieu van der Poel could make the points classification a thriller this year.
But nothing will trump Briton Cavendish’s return, so fans are hoping age hasn’t picked up too much speed in the pocket rocket’s legs.
Simon Yates – Team Bike-Exchange
After a stage victory and a third overall at this year’s Giro, Simon Yates will head to the Tour in search of stage wins rather than overall victory.
It’s a tactic that has worked very well before, with the 28-year-old winning two stages in 2019.
Chris Froome – Israel Start-Up Nation
Briton Froome won’t win a record-breaking fifth Tour title this year – the man himself said so and he will ride in support of Michael Woods instead of being a leader.
But there will still be a lot of intrigue around Froome – he has lost a lot of time in most races this season as he continues to recover from serious injuries sustained in a 2019 crash and, at 36. , one wonders if he will ever rediscover form. to compete at the highest level.