After being delayed from its traditional July start thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Tour de France got underway last week, bringing plenty of joy to fans of pro cycling. At a time when sports have been cancelled or postponed across the globe, one of the biggest annual athletic spectacles got underway in southern France in the town of Nice. And while we can continue to debate whether or not the race should be taking place as COVID infections continue to rise, anyone who has watched Le Tour this year will tell you that it has indeed been an exciting one. We’re currently less than a week in, and already we’ve seen unlikely stage wins, difficult climbs, strong competition for all four of the jerseys, serious controversy, and three cyclists in yellow.
One of the big draws for this year’s Tour is the promise of watching a new generation of young, extremely talented riders go head to head in a battle for the famed maillot jaune. Last year’s winner Egan Bernal remains amongst the favorites even though he is just 23-years old. He’ll be challenged by the likes of Primož Roglič, Julian Alaphilippe, and Nairo Quintana, all of which have shown flashes of brilliance so far. Roglič has looked the most impressive when it has counted on the tough climbing stages, but it is still very early and anything can happen. Just ask Alaphilippe, who had worn the yellow jersey for several days, but had it taken away after suffering a 20 second time penalty for taking on a water bottle in an illegal feed zone. Now, he sits further back in the top ten, with Adam Yates currently wearing the leader’s jersey.
Elsewhere, the battle for the Green Jersey that goes to the sprinters looks like ti could be a good one for the first time in 7 or 8 years. Peter Sagan has dominated that competition over that span, but now has a fight on his hands to see if he can win it for a record-setting 8th time. The Polka Dot Jersey for the King of the Mountains competition has been surprisingly spirited as well, while the White Jersey—worn by the best young rider under the age of 25—will likely be contested all the way to Paris.
As usual, the French countryside has been one of the highlights of the television coverage. The rolling hills, lovely scenery, and historic architecture are always a joy to watch. They make the long daily coverage interesting, even when the riders themselves aren’t actively attacking one another. It also serves as a nice reminder of the travel experiences that are waiting for us once the pandemic lifts.
Heading into the weekend, the Tour will have some good stages planned, making it very fun to watch I’m sure. But the first big test will come early next week, when the riders get their first rest day of the race. During that time, they’ll all be test for COVID-19 and depending on the results, we could see some riders—or entire teams—sent home. It is also possible that we could see the race halted altogether if there is a widespread infection. Right now, though, there is a sense of optimism amongst the riders, staff, and race management. So far, everyone is staying relatively healthy and enjoying a spirited race that has been far more exciting than most first weeks of a traditional Grand Tour.
Cycling fans, if you’ve forgotten that the TdF is taking place, now is a good time to jump in and start following. If you’re not a fan, now might be a good time to give it a go however, as the drama that is playing out on the roads of France is already starting to heat up. It should be an incredibly fun race to watch unfold, with some of the best riders we’ve seen a long time going head to head.