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Matthew Ireland's Tour de France Tips: Tadej Pogacar can edge Jonas Vingegaard battle

The biggest and best-known race on the cycling calendar begins in earnest on Saturday with the start of the 110th Tour de France.

This year's Grand Boucle will depart from across the border in Spain and the largest city in the Basque country, Bilbao.

As ever, there are some fascinating sub-plots to this year's race, but the battle for the yellow jersey between reigning champion Jonas Vingegaard and the man he deposed, Tadej Pogacar.

Matthew Ireland's Tour de France 2023 tips:

Tadej Pogacar to win the Tour de France 2023 @ 23/20
Mads Pedersen to win the points classification @ 8/1
Wout van Aert to win Stage 1 @ 11/2

Odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and subject to fluctuation.

WhatTour de France
WhereFrance & Spain
WhenSaturday 1st July - Sunday 24th July, 2023
How to watchEurosport, ITV4 and GCN+
OddsJonas Vingegaard 21/20, Tadej Pogacar 23/20, Jai Hindley 14/1, Enric Mas Nicolau 22/1, Richard Carapaz 28/1

Tadej Pogacar to win the Tour de France @ 23/20

The third instalment of Pogacar and Vingegaard's Tour de France rivalry has the potential to be an epic and it could end with former champion Pogacar regaining his crown.

There is a widely shared consensus that Vingegaard has a better supporting cast in his service, and Jumbo-Visma are undoubtedly the strongest team in the peloton at present, but the difference in strength may have been overstated.

Pogacar proved in winning the Tour in 2020 and 2021, when he had a much weaker support team, that he has no issue in doing things on his own - and he will have seasoned Grand Tour rider Adam Yates as well as two-time winner of the King of the Mountains competition, Rafal Majka, protecting him in the mountains.

The Slovenian has been in almost untouchable form in 2023, winning the Ruta del Sol and Paris-Nice stage races - beating Vingegaard in the latter - as well as a number of prestigious spring Classics.

A broken wrist suffered at Liege-Bastogne-Liege halted his progress, but he has two months to recover and has said that would have taken a break after La Doyenne in any case.

Matthew Ireland's tip:

The battle for the Yellow Jersey promises fireworks and reigning champion Vingegaard will be hoping that the collective strength of Jumbo-Visma can again propel him to Tour glory.

However, Jumbo will not have the option of playing the same card as they did to decisive effect on stage 11 in last year's race, when they wore down Pogacar with repeated attacks from Vingegaard and his co-leader Primoz Roglic.

Vingegaard is Jumbo-Visma's undoubted leader this time around, but fending off one rival is much more manageable than two, and Pogacar, who has looked like a man on a mission this year, is taken to reclaim the yellow jersey at 23/20.

Mads Pedersen to win points classification @ 8/1

The points classification should be much more open and even more so if last year's Green Jersey winner Wout van Aert sticks to his guns and targets stage victories this time around.

Van Aert dominated the points classification in 2022, winning by 194 points, and it would be hard to back against him were he focused on his title.

However, the Belgian superstar has claimed stage wins and August's world championship road race in Glasgow are his main goals, opening the door to others to claim the prestigious jersey, including Jasper Philipsen, Fabio Jakobsen and Mads Pedersen.

Matthew Ireland's tip:

After a number of near-misses, Philipsen finally broke his Tour duck on the Champs-Elysees in last year's race and he is a short price to succeed compatriot Van Aert in the green jersey.

The points classification is as much decided by accruing points at the intermediate sprints on mountainous stages as it is on sprint finishes, and in that regard Pedersen may have the edge.

World champion in 2019, Pedersen has won stages at all three Grand Tours and had a strong spring, finishing in the top four at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

At 8/1, the Dane looks a big price to add to his points classification win at the 2022 Vuelta a Espana in France this July.

Wout van Aert to win Stage 1 @ 11/2

If stages are the goal for last year's points classification winner Van Aert, then Stage 1 should be high on the Belgian's list of priorities.

A real Classics style route, the 182km should be too hard for the pure sprinters and the likeliest winner will be one of the peloton's one-day specialists.

Van Aert is in the top bracket of that cohort and, after a disappointing spring, when he finished on the podium numerous times without finishing first, he will be desperate to get his hands on the first Yellow Jersey of this year's Tour.

Mathieu van der Poel, dual world champion Julian Alaphilippe and Great Britain's Tom Pidcock will likely provide Van Aert with most to think about - although it would not be a huge surprise to see Pogacar want to serve notice of his form at the first opportunity either.

Matthew Ireland's tip:

Stage 1 could be one of the most thrilling of the whole Tour de France - and the peloton's best one-day riders should be motivated to get their hands on the race's first Yellow Jersey.

Van Aert's motivation is perhaps even greater given he will be a key member of Vingegaard's team in the mountains, so the Belgian will be desperate to grab any opportunity he has to win a stage with both hands.

At 11/2 Van Aert could make a wonderful start to the race with victory in Bilbao.

Matthew Ireland's Tour de France 2023 tips:

Tadej Pogacar to win the Tour de France 2023 @ 23/20
Mads Pedersen to win the points classification @ 8/1
Wout van Aert to win Stage 1 @ 11/2

Odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and subject to fluctuation.

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