Tour de France: Three things to watch out for in week two

Tadej Pogacar cuts a popular figure along the route of the Tour de France (Marco BERTORELLO)
Tadej Pogacar cuts a popular figure along the route of the Tour de France (Marco BERTORELLO)

A pulsating first week at the Tour de France reignited the infernal struggle for the title between old foes Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar with a fresh-faced Remco Evenepoel muddying the waters.

Landmarks were set by Mark Cavendish and Biniam Girmay and new terrain was visited with the Florence Grand Depart and the white gravel roads through the champagne vineyards.

AFP Sport takes a look at what may be in store for week two:

- The Pyrenees and Pogacar -

Race leader Tadej Pogacar "can't wait to get to the real mountains". So he for one cannot complain about Sunday's stage 15 slog, with a summit finish after a 15km climb at eight percent gradient to the magnificent panorama at Plateau de Beille. Marco Pantani won there in his double-winning year of 1998, which would be poetic given the Slovenian showman is openly targeting a Giro-Tour double and would be the first to do so since the late Italian.

- Cavendish echelon -

The greatest of Mark Cavendish's 35 stage wins may have been his crossing of a brutal echelon in a crosswind in mid-stage in 2013. Behind him champion Chris Froome tried and failed to cross and join an escape, leaving the burly sprinter with a dozen contenders for the top 10 to dash the remaining 40km to the finish line. There Cavendish went uncontested for the sprint win. The Tour returns to the same terrain Tuesday when stage 10 finishes in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Stage 13 should be a sprint finish too where the 39-year-old Cavendish can win a 36th stage or Girmay can claim a third one.

- Olympic prelude -

Defending Olympic champion Richard Carapaz, Tom Pidcock or Ireland's Ben Healy would do well to take a look at stage 11 in the awful-looking grind in the massif Central on Wednesday. Nowhere nearly as long as the Paris route, it will attract the same clients due to its constantly arduous rolling nature. It has all the attributes of a classic, which means Remco Evenepoel and Pogacar may also conspire in their bid to bury Jonas Vingegaard's hopes before the Alps.

Denmark's Mads Pedersen is one man who will not be there after he pulled out of he Tour on Friday to concentrate on the Olympics after a bruising fall.

Another notable absentee is Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who declined the Tour altogether to make the cut for the French team in Paris.