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Tour de France - Cycling: Can anyone thwart Pogacar hat-trick?

Tadej Pogacar is the overwhelming favourite to complete a hat-trick of Tour de France victories this July, but who are the other contenders determined to strip the Yellow Jersey from the Slovenian superstar's shoulders?

Pogacar is 4/7 to complete a Tour de France three-timer following his victories in the last two races, triumphing last year by over five minutes.

Primoz Roglic, runner-up to Pogacar two years ago but an early retiree last year, is 11/4, followed by Jonas Vingegaard, who is 5/1 to go one better than last summer's second place.

Dani Martinez is next best at 14/1 followed by Geraint Thomas, the winner of four years ago, at 18/1.

Slovenian ace looks hard to oppose

Le Tour gets under way on July 1st in Denmark, one of four countries the race will be visiting.

The three-week slog features a return of the cobbles - nearly 20km of them on stage five - with five summit finishes, including the mighty Hautacam and, on Bastille Day, the wonderful Alpe d'Huez, where the whole of France will be hoping a French rider crosses the line first.

Pogacar was crowned King of the Mountains in both his victorious races so won't be overly fazed by the challenge, nor indeed the unique demands of winning this gruelling race for a third time.

He kicked off this year's World Tour by triumphing in the UAE Tour and the Team Emirates flag-bearer, then laid down a marker to Vingegaard and the rest of the field a few weeks later, finishing almost two minutes ahead of his Danish rival in landing the spoils at the Tirreno-Adriatico.

In between times he conquered the gravel at the Strade Bianche near Siena and while he may not have won the Dwars door Vlaanderen, it was time spent on the cobbles which should serve him well on stage five of Le Tour.

Roglic has plenty to prove

If there's a challenge to Pogacar it's likely to come from his compatriot and Jumbo-Visma team leader Primoz Roglic. And if not Roglic, then probably his team-mate Vingegaard.

They represent a formidable team pairing who failed to bear too many teeth last year, partly because of Roglic's withdrawal before stage nine and he has been hindered in the early part of the season by a knee injury.

He looked strong winning Paris-Nice at the start of March, seeing off the Yates' twins and Ineos star Daniel Martinez, and time-trialled serenely to victory on stage two of the Tour of the Basque Country. After that, however, he struggled, eventually finishing almost three minutes down on Vingegaard, who finished sixth.

Vingegaard impressed last year and the 25-year-old, who continues to impress, would dearly love to get off to a flier during the first three days of racing in front of his own fans.

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Martinez continues to flourish

Adam Yates had been pencilled in as provisional team leader for INEOS once Egan Bernal was ruled out, but at 66/1 it's clear he has been superseded in the team's planning.

And he's been superseded by Martinez, fifth in support of Bernal at last year's Giro and getting stronger and better.

He made the podium of Paris-Nice and the Algarve before prevailing in the Basque Country and letting everyone know he is a force to be reckoned with this summer.

Indeed, 2018 winner Geraint Thomas is shorter than team-mate Yates at 18/1, despite little to suggest he can land a blow or be anything other than a domestique this time.

Vlasov could be one for the shortlist

Yates becomes a big price if something happens to Martinez or events work against the Colombian over the course of the first week or so, and judging which rider respective teams will be working for is crucial ahead of a GC bet.

Aleksandr Vlasov, for example, should be the team leader at Bora-Hansgrohe and if he can build on some fine results at the start of 2022 - third place in serious company in the Basque Country was more than impressive - then 50/1 is going to look real value.

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