Tour de France 2024: Analysing the contenders

After Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, we take a look at the key potential protagonists and their prospects in the hunt for yellow

ClockUpdated 17:12, Monday 11th March 2024. Published 10:52, Thursday 26th October 2023
from left to right: Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel, Tadej Pogačar, and Primož Roglič

© Getty Images

from left to right: Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel, Tadej Pogačar, and Primož Roglič

The racing season is well underway and all of the major contenders for the 2024 Tour de France have begun their campaigns and their journeys to July.

After early-season skirmishes across various continents, things stepped up a notch in early March with two of the most prestigious week-long races: Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.

Between those races and Strade Bianche, where two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar soloed to a sensational victory, we’ve had a good chance to see how the yellow jersey hopefuls are shaping up.

When the route for the 2024 Tour de France was revealed back in October, we issued our initial analysis of the main protagonists. Now, we revisit them, assembling them into an early-season ranking based on form and prospects for July.

1. Jonas Vingegaard

  • Team: Visma-Lease a Bike
  • Tour pedigree: Winner in 2022, 2023 and runner-up in 2021. Three stage wins.
  • Recent results: Overall winner with two stage wins at Tirreno-Adriatico, overall winner with three stage wins at O Gran Camiño
  • Previous ranking: 1

Vingegaard was top of our rankings back in October of last year when the Tour de France route was first announced and there’s been little evidence since then that the Danish rider will be stopped from winning this third straight title in July.

His number one rival in Tadej Pogačar will be battle-weary from the Giro come the summer, and Vingegaard himself has started the season in astonishing form. When the race organisers themselves, in this case Tirreno-Adriatico - are calling you out as ‘from a different planet’ there can be no doubt as to who the favourite for the Tour is.

Vingegaard has bludgeoned the opposition this season in his opening races and he’s firmly established himself as the Chris Froome of his generation. Seven victories in just 11 race days, including two wins from two in O Gran Camino and Tirreno, make Vingegaard the rider to beat.

Can anyone stop him? Possibly. Will they? No.

2. Tadej Pogačar

  • Team: UAE Team Emirates
  • Tour pedigree: Winner in 2020, 2021 and runner-up in 2022, 2023. 11 stage wins.
  • Recent results: A staggering solo victory at Strade Bianche.
  • Previous ranking: 2

Despite not clipping in for a single stage race this season Pogačar remains second on our list. That says as much about the separation between the top two riders in the world as it does about the demolition the Slovenian rolled out at Strade Bianche just over a week ago.

The 25-year-old will race the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya later in March, at which point we’ll have a better view of his pre-Giro d’Italia condition but the likely scenario is that he burns through the field in Spain before a rinse and repeat at the Giro d’Italia in May.

Of course, there’s an awful lot of road between now and the first Grand Tour of the season, and least we forget that an injury in the spring of 2023 massively shaped Pogačar’s form at the Tour, but the most pressing question remains: How much will he have left in the tank for Vingegaard after the Giro?

3. Remco Evenepoel

  • Team: Soudal Quick-Step
  • Tour pedigree: Yet to make his debut.
  • Recent results: Runner-up with a stage win at Paris-Nice, overall winner with a stage win at the Volta ao Algarve
  • Previous ranking: 4

The Belgian press can barely keep it together right now with one domestic publication calling Evenepoel the Belgian Bernard Hinault after his second-placed performance at Paris-Nice. In the next few months that hype, bordering on hysteria, is only going to swell, and while Evenepoel has moved up one spot on our list since last October, he remains some way behind the top two contenders.

Yes, he’s won a Vuelta a España and no one at GCN would dispute the rider’s phenomenal talent and pedigree but there’s a big difference between flashes of brilliance and three-week consistency at the biggest race in the world. It’s been written before, and it’s still true, that Jai Hindley has a better Grand Tour record than Evenepoel, and while that doesn’t impact deciding who is a better rider, it is worth contemplating when comparisons are made with five-time Tour winners like Hinault.

4. Primož Roglič

  • Team: Bora-Hansgrohe
  • Tour pedigree: Runner-up in 2020. Three stage wins.
  • Recent results: 10th overall at Paris-Nice
  • Previous ranking: 3

Most onlookers probably expected a little more from Roglič in his season debut at Paris-Nice. 10th overall is far from a disaster but that’s the lowest placing he’s had in stage races he’s finished since the same race back in 2021.

Read more: 'A good base to build on' — Primož Roglič and Bora-Hansgrohe react to Paris-Nice

Of course, context is vital, and there have been a handful of major DNFs during that period. It’s also worth stating that Roglič is still getting used to his new surroundings at Bora-Hansgrohe, having admitted earlier in the race that his instinct is to follow Visma-Lease a Bike in the bunch. That’s not as bad as calling your new partner by your ex’s name but it does imply that work needs to be done and that someone needs to up their game between now and the Grand Départ.

That said, as Roglič keenly pointed out, he’s not been hired to win Paris-Nice and his main focus is on July, with every stepping stone between now and then an opportunity to learn and build those bonds with his new teammates.

They’ve clearly taken to him at Bora, and he’s already their lynchpin, no matter what Aleksandr Vlasov achieves over the coming months, but a meek showing in the race to the sun sees the veteran drop a spot on our list. As with most things in early March, that’s unlikely to matter come the summer.

5. Simon Yates

  • Team: Jayco-AlUla
  • Tour pedigree: Fourth in 2023. Two career stage wins.
  • Recent results: Overall winner with a stage win at the AlUla Tour
  • Previous ranking: 6

The British climber is another rider who has moved up a spot despite not racing either Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico. Yates was, however, decent enough at the Tour Down Under and then took a sponsor-pleasing win at the AlUla Tour a few weeks later.

We’ve not seen him in action since then but we’ll have a clearer indication of his form later this month in Catalunya, where he will take on a host of Tour rivals. Fourth in the Tour last year, following three DNFs in Grand Tours, the 31-year-old doesn’t draw the hype and attention that some of the other top-10 contenders receive but his palmarès speaks volumes.

It’s a contract year too, which means there’s slightly more incentive to put in a memorable ride at the Tour.

6. Juan Ayuso

  • Team: UAE Team Emirates
  • Tour pedigree: Yet to make his debut
  • Recent results: Runner-up with a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico, winner of Faun Ardèche Classic
  • Previous ranking: New entry

Best of the rest in Tirreno, the Spaniard has grown in stature and confidence this season with two wins and a gaggle of well-ranked placings to his name. He’s yet to make his Tour debut but two highly regarded outings at the Vuelta a España more than suggest that the 21-year-old is ready.

Read more: Spain’s next Tour de France champion? Juan Ayuso prepares for debut in 2024

If Adam Yates has another stumble, or João Almeida endures another health setback, then Ayuso looks ready to step into the void and be Pogačar's last man in the mountains.

7. Carlos Rodríguez

  • Team: Ineos Grenadiers
  • Tour pedigree: Fifth in 2023. One stage win.
  • Recent results: 28th at Paris-Nice, 31st at O Gran Camiño
  • Previous ranking: 5

The weather at both O Gran Camino and Paris-Nice was atrocious, so there’s some leeway to be had with these early season results but so far Rodríguez has underwhelmed. 31st in Spain, 28th in France, these aren’t the results of a rider starting the season on the right foot and with the Tour in mind.

If he were on another team, perhaps it might not matter so much, but when Tom Pidcock and a resurgent Egan Bernal are both outshining you in March then everything takes on a new dynamic because Rodríguez certainly isn’t guaranteed Tour leadership this year. He’ll need to raise his game in the next few months or risk dropping down the pecking order at both Ineos and on our list.

There’s still time but the 23-year-old can’t afford to sleepwalk through the spring and early summer.

8. Adam Yates

  • Team: UAE Team Emirates
  • Tour pedigree: Third overall in 2023.
  • Recent results: Winner with a stage win at Tour of Oman
  • Previous ranking: 10

This list always runs the risk of being dominated by riders from two teams but there’s no way of omitting Yates given his podium finish last year and the questions over Pogačar's post-Giro condition. Solid, reliable and proven, Yates has the edge over the likes of João Almeida and Juan Ayuso, who have yet to race the Tour, and although the British rider is currently sitting on the sidelines due to concussion, he remains UAE's most consistent plan-B.

Read more:

9. Enric Mas

  • Team: Movistar
  • Tour pedigree: Two top-10 finishes but two DNFs in the last two years.
  • Recent results: 12th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico
  • Previous ranking: 8th

We know the drill with Mas, we’ve seen it plenty of times when it comes to the Tour de France and his pre-race shape. Twelfth overall was solid but far from spectacular in Tirreno-Adriatico but as with other riders on this list, it’s difficult to gauge that performance given the weather and the fact that it was the Spaniard’s first outing of the campaign.

In 2021, he was similarly average before a couple of better results in the spring spawned some of the best Tour performances of his career, including a stellar ride to Luz Ardiden. Come July, assuming he’s not beset with the same bad luck that’s disrupted him over the last two years, Mas will be in the mix for another top-ten.

A top-five does look out of his reach these days, especially with younger riders continuing to come through, but unlike several riders on here, Mas has the entire backing of a squad at his disposal. When you have eight riders all pulling for seventh overall that makes a difference.

10. Sepp Kuss

  • Team: Visma-Lease a Bike
  • Tour pedigree: Four appearances in a supporting role, 12th overall in 2023
  • Recent results: 8th overall at Volta ao Algarve, 6th at Clásica Jaén
  • Previous ranking: New entry

If UAE have several riders on this list, then Visma deserve at least another representative outside of the pre-race favourite. Kuss gets the obvious nod given the fact that he won the last Grand Tour on the men’s circuit, and with Roglič plying his trade at Bora, moves up a spot on the Dutch team’s pecking order.

In a straight shoot-out with several contenders, Kuss will come up short, and while the Tour isn’t raced with the same unpredictability as the Vuelta, the American is a respectable second leader. He knows the score – we all do – in that, Vingegaard is the undisputed leader but that shouldn’t stop Kuss from finishing towards the pointy end of the mountain stages. 

11. Jai Hindley

  • Team: Bora-Hansgrohe
  • Tour pedigree: 7th overall on debut in 2023
  • Recent results: 3rd at Tirreno-Adriatico, 5th at Volta Valenciana
  • Previous ranking: New entry

The Australian might just be the best-placed plan B on this list given the fact that his team leader Primož Roglič hasn’t finished a Tour de France since 2020. Hindley put up some admirable opposition at Tirreno, at least challenging Vingegaard’s domination before settling for third place on the podium. He’s been in fine fettle throughout the early skirmishes, and the Basque Country at the start of April will be telling.

It’ll be the first time the Australian has raced with Roglič, and while few would expect any leadership wobbles based on the result from an April race, it could set the tone for a wider internal conversation as to whether Hindley is too good to just be a super domestique and where his future lies in what’s an important contract year.

12. David Gaudu

  • Team: Groupama-FDJ
  • Tour pedigree: Fourth in 2022 but slipped to ninth in 2023.
  • Recent results: DNF Paris-Nice, 18th overall at O Gran Camiño, 6th at Classic Var
  • Previous ranking: 7th

Gaudu drops several places on our list after a tepid showing at Paris-Nice that involved a crash, speculation over his health, and a DNS ahead of stage 8. That fourth place on GC at the 2022 Tour de France feels like an awfully long time ago, and the 27-year-old now hasn’t put together any meaningful results since last year’s ninth at the Tour.

Compare and contrast this version of Gaudu with the one who was beating Vingegaard into second at Paris-Nice last year and one can understand the level of frustration that surrounds the enigmatic climber. On his day he remains a virtuoso talent but like his former teammate Thibaut Pinot, a sense of fragility runs through him. He risks being left behind by some of these otherworldly performances.

13. Richard Carapaz

  • Team: EF Education-EasyPost
  • Tour pedigree: Third overall in 2021
  • Recent results: DNF Tirreno-Adriatico, 11th overall at O Gran Camiño, runner-up with a stage win at Tour Colombia
  • Previous ranking: 9th

The Olympic champion is clinging onto the coattails of this list with his bare fingers after a dogged but ultimately disappointing outing in Tirreno that culminated in a crash. Luckily there were no serious injuries to report but he will need to perform a lot better in Itzulia Basque Country at the start of April if he is to garner the GC mantle at EF for the Tour.

His selection isn’t in jeopardy, far from it, but the American team have told GCN that they’re not interested in riding around for eighth overall. So they’ll either position Carapaz and the rest of the team as stage hunters or hope that their talisman can summon up his best form and regain his top-five credentials for the Tour.

Visit our Tour de France home page for all the latest news, including full details and analysis of the 2024 route.

Related Content

Link to Tour de France 2024 route revealed
The 2024 Tour de France route map

Tour de France 2024 route revealed

The 2024 Tour de France will feature four summit finishes and two time trials, as well as a hilly start in Italy, gravel roads, and an unprecedented finale in Nice

Link to 'I'm in shock' - Mark Cavendish reacts to hard but beautiful Tour de France route
Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France route presentation in Paris

'I'm in shock' - Mark Cavendish reacts to hard but beautiful Tour de France route

Sprinter aims to win a record-setting 35th stage win in the 2024 Tour de France

Link to Does gravel belong in the Tour de France? Off-road stage of 2024 route divides opinion
The riders tackle gravel roads at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes

Does gravel belong in the Tour de France? Off-road stage of 2024 route divides opinion

Tour de France gravel stage receives mixed reviews as Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge insists “Gravel is, for me, not necessary. I would not put it in a race such as this"

Link to 'A good base to build on' — Primož Roglič and Bora-Hansgrohe react to Paris-Nice
Primož Roglič was making his first appearance in Bora-Hansgrohe colours at Paris-Nice

'A good base to build on' — Primož Roglič and Bora-Hansgrohe react to Paris-Nice

10th overall wasn't what Bora-Hansgrohe expected of Primož Roglič in his first race but the Slovenian remains upbeat

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox