Last year’s Tour de France outcome shocked the world, though it wasn’t a complete surprise. Tadej Pogacar had been hunting the heels of Primoz Roglic throughout the Tour and nearly on his own, having far less support from his UAE team than Roglic’s Jumbo Visma army in yellow and black. Pogacar stole the yellow jersey in the penultimate stage of the Tour, the individual time trial, going from nearly a minute behind to a minute ahead of Roglic.
Though Roglic will certainly be out for a rematch during this year’s Tour, and Pogacar is looking very prepared to defend his title, the Tour is known for destroying cyclists’ best laid plans. Should something go sideways for these two prime contenders, this year’s dark horse pick — Richie Porte — is certain to seize the opportunity.
Why Richie Porte? At one point it looked as though Porte was destined for failure in the Tour; he ominously crashed out on Stage 9 in both the 2017 and 2018 Tours. But 2020 marked an enormous comeback for Porte. Known as the “King of Willunga Hill” for winning the queen stage of the Tour Down Under six times in a row, the Austrailan cyclist won the overall Tour Down Under title and came in third in the Tour de France last year. Though 2021’s Tour Down Under was cancelled, Porte has gotten second overall in the Volta Catalunya and Tour de Romandie this year, topping off his performances with a win in the most recent Criterium du Dauphine, a race often referred to as the dress rehearsal for the Tour de France.
While there are a number of talented contenders for this year’s Tour — Porte’s own teammate Geraint Thomas as one of them—Porte looks incredibly on-form and focused coming into Tour season. He seems especially confident after returning to Team INEOS (formerly Sky) where he has received a healthy amount of support. Should the Slovenians falter, Porte seems poised to claim the yellow jersey. But as always in the Tour de France, anything can happen.