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David L. Stanley

2023 Tour de France: A Preview

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L. Stanley

David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes:

“What we need, Géo, is something to really nail their beaks shut,” said Henri Desgrange to his assistant Géo Lefèvre as they discussed the circulation war between their start-up sports paper, L’Auto, and the leading sports paper of the day, Le Velo. The year was 1903.

“What I hear you saying, Géo, is we should stage a bike race around France. A Tour de France! C'est magnifique!

Map of the 1903 Tour de France, the first big loop.

So was born La Grande Boucle, The Big Loop, in 1903. For the last 120 years, save when war interrupted the world, Le Tour has circled France, generally clockwise one year, and anti-clockwise the next.

But this year’s? Ooh la la, this is a Tour parcours like no other. It starts in Bilbao in the Basque region, in the far southwest of France, and manages to take in all five of France’s mountainous regions, in order of appearance: the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Jura, the Alps, and the Vosges.

Even the event’s sole time trial, while relatively flat, is a dash of 22 km that passes through Sallanches at 600 meters above sea level.

Tour de France graphics have changed over the last 110 years. Here's the 2023 Tour.

Clearly, with 4 hilly stages, and 8 mountain stages which include 4 summit finishes (Cauterets-Cambasque, Puy de Dôme, Grand Colombier and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc), and 8 stages charitably called ‘flat,’ this year’s race puts a premium on climbing skills. It’s entirely possible that this year’s maillot vert might be far from the fastest man in the peloton, or the most consistent sprinter. He might well be the only fast man who can survive the time limit, day after day, on the brutal climbs in the sure to be searing heat of central France.

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The 2023 Tour de France is a showdown between the sports’ two top stage race riders. Last year’s winner Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) is in fine form, as shown by his dominating win by 2:23 over the 8 stages of June’s Dauphine Libere. He climbed like a demon, and the Dane’s TT skills are outstanding. Even over 22 km, a true race contender cannot afford to spot his rivals any time contre la montre.

Jonas Vingegaard after winnig the Dauphine. Sirotti photo

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), we have to assume, will enter the Tour in top form. His spring classics season was unbelievable. Pogačar started off the 2023 season with a win at the Jaén Paraiso Interior, before winning both the overall in the Vuelta a Andalucía and the Paris-Nice. He continued his domination in the Classics with a further three wins in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne. While he did miss one month of road training as a result of his fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist, broken during Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it’s entirely possible the enforced no-racing but training time may well work in his favor in this most brutal of Tours.

Tadej Pogacar wins the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Sirotti photo

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Where this race gets interesting is in the battle for the remaining podium position (this is written on 22 June, 2023; there may be changes between now and the race start). This list is alphabetical.

1) Juan Ayuso - The men from UAE Team Emirates form quite the team around Tadej and Juan, and Juan is one of the top riders in the world at age 20. He could certainly benefit from being one of the last riders standing with Taddy on the climbs. I should mention that Brandon McNulty is in the same position. Not to slag on Spain, but Brandon’s from Phoenix, so USA! USA! USA!

2) Romain Bardet – The DSM man is a very, very good rider, skilled in all aspects of the Grand Tour. As he lacks strong team support, he’ll be wise to sit on the wheels of the top men, and take his chance if it appears. He’s too strong for any of the top contenders to allow him much leash.

Romain Bardet climbing in stage 17 of the 2022 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

3) David Gaudu – The Pocket Rocket climber from Groupama-FDJ is an angel in the mountains. He’ll also have Thibaut Pinot alongside for moral support. It does not appear that Gaudu has that explosive kick that will allow him to separate himself from the front group, but he’s riding for France, in the midst of La Profonde France. The last Frenchman to win the Tour was Hinault in 1985, 38 years ago. The crowd could certainly carry him onto the podium.

4) Jai Hindley – The Bora-Man comes into his first Tour de France cocked, locked, and ready to rock. Discount his skills at your peril. And that includes Taddy and Jonas. He’s that good.

Jai Hindley just after winning the 2022 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

5) Mikel Landa – Movistar has an incredibly consistent performer in Landa. He will play a part in the race’s outcome. He won’t win. He probably won’t podium. But we’ll know he’s in the race.

6)  Enric Mas – Here’s the Movistar threat. Mas is on record as saying he’s ready and able to win a Grand Tour. At 28, he’s on schedule. With Landa for counsel, Mas could be capable of great things. And in this Tour, 3rd place would be a great thing.

7)  Ben O’Connor – AG2R Citroën Team has a bulldog in Ben. Maybe it’s my predilection to love the Aussie underdog, but nobody fights harder than an Aussie in a big race. You look at his palmares, you think, “yeah, he’s pretty good, but 3rd place in a Grand Tour? In THE Grand Tour?” You’d be right. Except, for reasons I cannot explain, I believe Mr. O’Connor is going to be a major player in this race. In fact, he’s my top pick for 3rd place (no wagering, please).

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The Welcome Back Contingent. There are three riders who bear special notice.

The first is Chris Froome. The Israel-PremierTech rider has been special. The winner of 7 Grand Tours between 2013 and 2018, plus a whole host of other stage racers, he set a standard of excellence in this century that only a handful of other racers have met. To see the 38-year-old Froomey, after his bone crushing accident, on the start line in Bilbao, and hopefully in the finish on the Champs? That will be a well-deserved send-off for one of the sport’s greats.

That would’ve been nice, but it turns out, I am wrong. In the 12 hours between writing this preview and breakfast on Friday, IPT announced their team and Froome was not named to the squad. Per GCN News – “I’m obviously disappointed with the decision. The Tour de France holds and incredibly special place in my heart. Physically, I was ready, but unfortunately, I was unable to show my full ability at the races assigned to me due to equipment issues. I respect the team’s decision and will take some time before refocusing on objectives later in the season and returning to the Tour de France in 2024.” No talk of retirement there, just the defiance of a complex and talented athlete.

Chris Froome climbing Alpe d'Huez in the 2022 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

The second is Egan Bernal. Like Froome, the Ineos man, the first South American to win a Grand Tour, suffered a devastating injury, hung near death, and appears to be back to a reasonable racing level. Again, to see Egan on the Champs will be a massive win for cycling fans everywhere.

The third is, of course, Cav. The Manx Missile from Astana is re-united with his ace lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, for this Tour. Astana just announced they have hired Renshaw to provide coaching and tactical support for the team, specifically in the sprints. Cav, the greatest sprinter in the history of the sport, will take that record-breaking 35th stage win. And for goodness sake, no one is saying MC is the equal of Merckx. First of all, Cav says so. So shut up. What Cav is, is the best sprinter in the history of the Tour de France, and that’s enough.

Mark Cavendish winning the final stage of the 2023 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Can Tadej win a third TdF, with no racing prep in his run-up to the Tour?


Can JV take his 2nd, echoing Taddy’s 2 consecutive wins? Damn straight.
Who do I like? We could do the math; set up a (Jonas Vingegaard) + (Jumbo Visma) (J+V)(J+V) quadratic and end up with J2 + 2JV + V2  but I’m not sure if algebra helps us much here.

What might help is a quick look at the teams. Taddy has Ayuso and McNulty and Ackerman. Jonas has Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert, and Dylan Van Baarle.
That was a quick look, and it’s no help. Guess we’ll have to watch the race from July 1 to July 23. Okay, you want a prediction?

1) JV.                       2) TP.                      3) BO’C.

Bonne chance pour Le Tour, mecs!

You can catch up with me tweeting about the Tour @DStan58. I’m also featured, along w/3 great colleagues, talking the Tour on The Feed-zone podcast, part of The Cycling Legends network, available wherever you get your podcasts.

David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.


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