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2016 Tour de France Team Analysis

June 29, 2016

Thankfully, or sadly, the wait is over and the 2016 Tour de France begins Saturday in Mont-Saint-Michel, France. Skipping the near-usual opening prologue/ TT, the first stage of the Tour promises to be one for the many sprinters licking their lips for a chance to wear the first yellow jersey of the race. Given the already hectic nature of the first week of racing at the Tour, one can reasonably expect that Stage 1 will be a likely bloodbath. And then there’s another 20 stages to go before the final bouquets are handed out in Paris, along with the stuffed lions, and podium kisses … and possible fisticuffs between Bernard Hinault and unruly fans/ protesters.


But enough about the racing, let’s get to the actual man-boys with shaved legs, and tight fitting lycra. Time to have a look at the skinny gladiators of the road we’ve all been waiting to see ride around France for the next three weeks. The field of riders is more global than ever, with more riders from the non-traditional European home of cycling. No longer an all-white, all-Euro affair, though still very predominantly that way, the Tour has slowly morphed into a slightly more truly international event. The modern Tour peloton speaks many more languages than French, Italian, and Flemish now- and English is now one of the bigger languages … a far cry from when the first US riders began showing up at the Tour in the 80’s (and even more so since the early days of British riders, like Tom Simpson).

Here they are … the good, the bad, the hopeless, and helpless …

Ag2r La Mondiale
ROMAIN BARDET (F)
JAN BAKELANTS (B)
MIKAËL CHÉREL (F)
SAMUEL DUMOULIN (F)
CYRIL GAUTIER (F)
BEN GASTAUER (LUX)
ALEXIS GOUGEARD (F)
DOMENICO POZZOVIVO (I)
ALEXIS VUILLERMOZ (F)

The French team has had its ups and downs over the years, but is hoping to recapture the glory of 2014, when they placed Jean Christophe Peraud on the podium. JCP isn’t riding this year, but one of French cycling’s brightest young stars- Romain Bardet- is hoping to fulfill his potential. Bardet will have an excellent support team with him, as AG2R have proven in recent years that they finally know how to race for three weeks. It’ll take a perfect three weeks from Romain, and a bit of a miracle to get him on the podium, but the boys in poo-brown bib shorts are ready to allez! FOCUS, my former employer, provides their bikes- which are phenomenal, bias aside.

Astana
FABIO ARU (I)
JAKOB FUGLSANG (DK)
ANDRIY GRIVKO (UKR)
TANEL KANGERT (EST)
ALEXEY LUTSENKO (KAZ)
VINCENZO NIBALI (I)
DIEGO ROSA (I)
LUIS LÉON SÁNCHEZ (SP)
PAOLO TIRALONGO (I)

In theory, Astana is at the Tour to crown Fabio Aru as the new Italian champion of the race. Allegedly, Vincenzo Nibail is at the Tour to play super-duper-uber domestique. In theory, team director Alexander Vinokourov never doped either. Are and Nibz are notoriously kinda like mixing extra virgin olive oil and pinot grigio. Makes for a good salad dressing, but the two don’t mix well. Astana is a confirmed and verified grand tour powerhouse. Nibali is supposed to be getting ready for Olympic gold, but after winning the Giro in May in a final week comeback, there’s no way he’s not also sniffing around the edges of the Tour too. Giro- Tour- Olympic trifecta? And Nibz’ ego? Poor Aru … the kid better sleep with one eye open and keep an eye out for horse heads in his bed. And let’s not forget that Nibali is rumored to be leaving for the new Bahraini team (unless it gets blocked due to human rights concerns) … poor Aru.

BMC Racing
BRENT BOOKWALTER (USA)
MARCUS BURGHARDT (G)
DAMIANO CARUSO (I)
ROHAN DENNIS (AUS)
AMAEL MOINARD (F)
RICHIE PORTE (AUS)
MICHAEL SCHÄR (SWI)
GREG VAN AVERMAET (B)
TEJAY VAN GARDEREN (USA)

BMC is showing up to the Tour with a very strong team, even if you count Tejay and Richie. The dual-pronged approach almost always backfires on teams, and usually just means that they don’t really believe either rider has the ability to win, and/or management is too scared to go all in for one rider. In this case, it’s likely both. Porte and Van Gardener are notoriously fragile, talented guys. Both have buckled under the pressure of leadership at the Tour- and other races- so the logic of “shared leadership will make it less stressful for both riders” comes into play. As much as I like both goofballs, I don’t think either have the spine to go three weeks in a street fight with Sky’s robotic juggernaut, or Contador’s “fuck this shit” attacking style. That said, it’s feasible that BMC could walk away with a few stage wins.

Cannondale
MATTI BRESCHEL (DEN)
LAWSON CRADDOCK (USA)
ALEX HOWES (USA)
KRISTIJAN KOREN (SLO)
SEBASTIAN LANGEVELD (NED)
RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS (LIT)
PIERRE ROLLAND (F)
TOM-JELTE SLAGTER (NED)
DYLAN VAN BAARLE (NED)

Pierre Rolland  came to Cannondale after riding for his entire career at French teams, notoriously “old school” in their methods for preparation, etc. The story being told is that Pierre came to Cannondale as a diamond in the rough, still simply waiting to be polished, and put into the right setting. Maybe. I think the best we can expect from him is Top 10, if it all goes right. The rest of the team is strong and likable. Kids like Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock are genuinely decent people, so screaming at the TV or computer when they go off the front makes you feel good. If they do well, expect to see team principle Jonathan Vaughters smiling from behind an expensive glass of wine and spiffy cravat. They lose points for the POC helmets and glasses; I’ve tried, and I just can’t embrace the look of them.

Dimension Data
NATNAEL BERHANE (ERI)
EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN (NOR)
MARK CAVENDISH, (GB)
STEPHEN CUMMINGS (GB)
BERNHARD EISEL (AUT)
REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG (SA)
SERGE PAUWELS (B)
MARK RENSHAW (AUS)
DANIEL TEKLEHAIMANOT (ERI)

The African-registered team brings a strong roster that includes three riders from the African continent. They continue to be an emotional crowd favorite, due to their origin and their work to donate bikes in Africa. They *are* a true feel good story. Edvald Boasson Hagen is showing signs of his former self, and looks poised to be a protagonist again. It goes without saying that Mark Cavendish is practically salivating at the chance to wear yellow with an opening stage win … but after getting beaten at the finish of the British nationals a few days ago, he’s possibly not at his best. He didn’t have his trusty Bernie Eisel to lead him out, so we’ll give him a little buffer. But he’s been far from his heyday of a few years ago, and the fiery little ankle biter is gonna either be too far inside his own head with doubt, or too angry to think straight, leading to mistakes at the wrong time. With the field of sprinters at the Tour at such a high level this year, he can ill afford to be anything less than perfect … and he hasn’t been for a few years- the Manx Missile has been more of a SCUD lately. He has the ability to take a win, but he’s gonna hafta hope a few other folks make some mistakes.

Etixx – Quick-Step
JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE (F)
ILJO KEISSE (B)
MARCEL KITTEL (G)
DANIEL MARTIN (IRE)
TONY MARTIN (G)
MAXIMILIANO RICHEZE (ARG)
FABIO SABATINI (I)
PETR VAKOC (CZ)
MICHEL VERMOTE (B)

EQS goes to the Tour without an outright GC guy, but with Julian Alaphilippe (winner of Tour of California) and Dan Martin, they do have two guys who could be Top 20 contenders or stage winners. But the true story of EQS, without a doubt, is the German über wunderkind Marcel Kittel. After a year to forget last year, Marcel is showing signs of his former dominant sprinting prowess. He grabbed a few wins early at the Giro, and has some other early season wins to support his mental health. Without a doubt, all eyes will be on him in the sprints- especially the opening Stage 1. If he’s got the legs of previous years, he’ll be hard to beat, even with this fantastic field of sprinters.

FDJ
WILLIAM BONNET (F)
MATTHIEU LADAGNOUS (F)
STEVE MORABITO (SWI)
CÉDRIC PINEAU (F)
THIBAUT PINOT (F)
SEBASTIEN REICHENBACH (SWI)
ANTHONY ROUX (F)
JÉRÉMY ROY (F)
ARTHUR VICHOT (F)

I’m gonna go ahead and say it right now; the only French rider with a real shot at the podium this year is Thibaut Pinot. There, I said it. A few years ago, Pinot was heralded as the next-next-next great hope of French cycling. After an excellent debut at the Tour, he faltered and developed a sever anxiety around descending. The team worked with him to improve his skills, as well as worked with a sports psychologist to help him overcome the mental blockage. He returned to attack on descents and even kept company with guys like Nibali and Sagan. Over the winter this year, Pinot and FDJ worked on his time trailing weaknesses, and he is now the French TT champion! He’s won a few TT’s at stage races this year, including an early season TTT. Clearly, he’s made significant improvements. Given his ability to climb and descend, and a new ability to TT, he’s my tri-colored favorite among the French riders. Alas, Pinot has a history of having “a bad day” during the Tour’s three weeks, though he’s also shown the ability to be strong in the third week. He’s a little fragile, but if FDJ can keep him focused and healthy … he could replace Hinault as the last French rider to win the Tour (1985).

Giant – Alpecin
WARREN BARGUIL (F)
ROY CURVERS (NED)
JOHN DEGENKOLB (G)
TOM DUMOULIN (NED)
SIMON GESCHKE (G)
GEORG PREIDLER (AUT)
RAMON SINKELDAM (NED)
LAURENS TEN DAM (NED)
ALBERT TIMMER (NED)

Giant-Alpecin no longer has Marcel Kittel, but they do still have John Degenkolb and the Mighty Beard) Simon Geschke, as well as the “I’m only here to train for the Olympic Time Trial, oh look I’m winning the race” Tom Dumoulin.  Much was made of the horrible winter training accident in Spain that nearly killed several Giant-Alpecin riders, and nearly caused Degenkolb to lose a finger. After Degenkolb stamped his name all over the Classics last year, many expected him to dominate again this year, but instead he was recovering from his injuries. If he’s well and truly back, it will be a lovely thing to watch on tougher sprint finishes, but his form remains a bit of a mystery for now. Dumoulin is a powerhouse of a rider, claiming to be focused solely on building form ahead of the Olympic time trial. He can TT with the very best in the world, and is becoming an incredibly capable climber as well. If the big Dutch Boy begins to sniff the podium, it’s hard to imagine he won’t make an effort to get on it. With Laurens Ten Dam for further support and power, Giant_alpecin is showing up to the party with a lot to offer.

IAM Cycling
JÉROME COPPEL (F)
STEF CLEMENT (NL)
DRIES DEVENYNS (B)
MARTIN ELMIGER (SWI)
MATHIAS FRANK (SWI)
RETO HOLLENSTEIN (SWI)
SONDRE HOLST ENGER (NOR)
OLIVER NAESEN (B)
JARLINSON PANTANO GOMEZ (COL)

IAM … is about to become IAINT, as they are losing their sponsor and likely dissolving at the end of the season. With that said, the riders will be both collectively and individually looking to impress potential new employers/ sponsors. Will that give them an “all for one” attitude, or will they all be hunting for stage wins on their own? We’ll find out during the three weeks in France. They don’t possess a real GC guy, so expect them to hunt stage wins and any opportunity they can find for tv time. I wish them luck.

Katusha
JACOPO GUARNIERI (I)
MARCO HALLER (AUT)
ALEXANDER KRISTOFF (NOR)
ALBERTO LOSADA (SP)
MICHAEL MORKOV (DEN)
JOAQUIM RODRÍGUEZ (SP)
JURGEN VAN DEN BROECK (B)
ANGEL VICIOSO (SP)
ILNUR ZAKARIN (RUS)

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way; Joaquin Rodriguez is never going to win a Grand Tour. He’s a good guy, and has knocked on the door SO many times … but he’s not gonna win one. Sorry, Purito. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s concentrate on the big Norwegian, Alexander Kristoff. Kristoff has not had the same level of success as he did the previous season, but he’s still one of the fastest guys in the peloton, especially on tough uphill sprints. A battle between him, Degenkolb, Boasson Hagen, Greipel, and Kittel would be a thing of beauty to behold. Even though Katusha brings Rodriguez to the race, he’s hunting stage wins, and possibly helping to shepherd newcomer Ilnur Zakarin. Inure crashed out of the Giro while in GC contention, and the enigmatic Russian will be looking to make a mark for himself. He’s had a semi-metric rise over the past few seasons, but is a former European junior TT champ … as well as former doping sanction winner, having tested positive for the steroid methandienone in 2009 at the age of 19. Some look at his results today with a healthy dose of skepticism, and rightfully so. Given the doping suspicions hanging over much of Russian sport, it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds.

Lampre – Merida
YUKIYA ARASHIRO (J)
MATTEO BONO (I)
DAVIDE CIMOLAI (I)
RUI COSTA (POR)
KRISTIJAN DURASEK (CRO)
TSGABU GRMAY (ETH)
LOUIS MEINTJES (SA)
LUKA PIBERNIK (SLO)
JAN POLANC (SLO)

Lampre is filled with talented riders, though none of them can contend for the GC. Rui Costa, former World Champion, is a class act, but has finally given up on trying to win the Tour- allegedly. He’s an odds-on favorite to take a stage win, but not likely to do much better than Top 20. Tsgabu Grmay of Ethiopia and Louis Menthes of South Africa are two talented riders to watch, and will likely be looking to score a stage win … and are in with a chance. Still, the team rides with the ugliest helmets in the peloton. Sorry, they’re hideous …

LottoNL – Jumbo
GEORGE BENNETT (NZ)
DYLAN GROENEWEGEN (NL)
WILCO KELDERMAN (NED)
BERT-JAN LINDEMAN (NED)
PAUL MARTENS (G)
TIMO ROOSEN (NL)
SEP VANMARCKE (B)
ROBERT WAGNER (G)
MAARTEN WYNANTS (B)

The Dutch Lotto, not the Belgian one. Though I love the Bianchi bikes dearly, the yellow kits clash horribly, creating one of the worst bike/kit combos in the peloton. Bianchi *is* celeste green … so the Dutch lottery needs to just relent and let the team change colors. All of us should be able to agree about that. LottoNL brings one of the strongest teams to the Tour, with a very talented group of riders. The entire roster is strong and capable of putting in hard work over the next three weeks. They aren’t a GC team, so they’ll be hunting stages with guys like Sep Vanmarcke and newly minted national champion Dylan Groenewegen. It’d be a bit of a shock to see the team leave France empty handed … though it could happen. They haven’t always possessed the best of luck, and luck is a big part of success at the Tour.

Lotto – Soudal
LARS BAK (DK)
THOMAS DE GENDT (B)
JENS DEBUSSCHERE (B)
TONY GALLOPIN (F)
ANDRÉ GREIPEL (G)
ADAM HANSEN (AUS)
GREGORY HENDERSON (NZ)
JURGEN ROELANDTS (B)
MARCEL SIEBERG (G)

The Belgian Lotto, not the Dutch one. Last year’s Tour sprints were dominated by the massively-quaded André Greipel, who just won the German championship. Greipel is showing signs of similar form to last year, and will be supported by his key lieutenants from last year. He’ll be able to rely on the successive grand tour record holder and custom shoemaker Adam Hansen, as well as his key leadout man Greg Henderson. Jurgen Roelandts and Tony Gallopin lead the charge for other stage wins, and possible GC aspirations. Lotto is highly successful and one of the best grand tour teams in the Tour, so they are virtually assured of delivering wins. Though a little biased, they also have some of the best looking bikes (Ridley) … so they have that going for them too.

Movistar
WINNER ANACONA (COL)
IMANOL ERVITI (SP)
JESUS HERRADA (SP)
GORKA IZAGIRRE (SP)
ION IZAGIRRE (SP)
DANI MORENO (SP)
NELSON OLIVERA (P)
NAIRO QUINTANA (COL)
ALEJANDRO VALVERDE (SP)

Probably the biggest threat to SKY’s robotic dominance of the Tour, Movistar shows up with white-hot GC hopeful Nairo Quintana ready to take on Chris- All Elbows- Froome. Collectively, nobody climbs better than Movistar, and on his own, Quintana is arguably the best climber of his generation. Nairo is an acceptable TT rider, as far as GC climbers go, so he can hopefully minimize his losses there. He’ll be supported by the crafty and shifty Alejandro Valverde, who says he’s 100% committed to supporting Quintana … but I hope Nairo sleeps with one eye open, like Aru. Quintana has twice finished second to Froome at the Tour in his only other appearances at the race, so he’s the most qualified candidate to beat skinny Brit. Movistar can do the job in the mountains, with their only “weakness” being in the tough transitional stages where crosswinds cause so much havoc. With an all Colombian and Spanish team, they’re happier in the hills … but they hafta survive the flats too. Barring disaster, Nairo is on the podium again, but which step?

Orica – GreenEdge
MICHAEL ALBASINI (SWI)
LUKE DURBRIDGE (AUS)
SIMON GERRANS (AUS)
MATHEW HAYMAN (AUS)
DARYL IMPEY (SA)
CHRISTOPHER JUUL-JENSEN (DEN)
MICHAEL MATTHEWS (AUS)
RUBEN PLAZA (SP)
ADAM YATES (GB)

Orica brings some mighty talented riders to France, and could even take the yellow jersey with half the team in the first week. If Gerrans and Matthews have buried the hatchet, they are a formidable duo. Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman is another marquee rider, but the rest of the team is equally capable of scoring a win. They lack a GC contender, with Chavez being held back to challenge in the future. The Australian team is unified in spirit, so you can bet they’ll be in the mix for much of the race- especially if Gerro and Bling can place nice with the toys on the team bus.

Sky
CHRISTOPHER FROOME (GB)
SERGIO HENAO (COL)
VASIL KIRYIENKA (BLR)
MIKEL LANDA (SP)
MIKEL NIEVE (SP)
WOUT POELS (NED)
LUKE ROWE (GB)
IAN STANNARD (GB)
GERAINT THOMAS (GB)

Froome.

Ok, there are others on the team, and Froome could not win without their robotic support. SKY has proven to be the best grand tour team i the world since Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour in 2012. Froome himself has now won two Tours and is without a doubt the favorite for this one. Again, Froome is entirely dependent on the support of his teammates, and SKY has been frighteningly effective in that regard. NOBODY has a stronger and better prepared team than SKY. Period. They really don’t have any weaknesses, but they will likely have an almost entirely unified peloton trying to stuff up their chances. If there is a way to beat Froome, it requires the entire GC field to actually try to beat him, rather than watching him and each other. Froome can be a little fragile, but it isn’t an effective strategy to hope that he crashes … nor is it particularly nice.

It’s Froome’s race to lose. He knows it. The entire peloton knows it. What will they do with that knowledge is the question.

Tinkoff
MACIEJ BODNAR (P)
ALBERTO CONTADOR (SP)
OSCAR GATTO (I)
ROBERT KISERLOVSKI (CRO)
ROMAN KREUZIGER (CZE)
RAFAL MAJKA (POL)
PETER SAGAN (SLO)
MATTEO TOSATTO (I)
MICHAEL VALGREN (DK)

Contador is the best GC rider of his generation. He might retire this year, or maybe come back for two more, but this year is his last best chance to win another Tour. That said, he’s got a gangly, bony, white guy with a HORRIBLY ugly riding style to contend with … and the eight robots protecting him. Add to Contador’s problems with the fact he’s got World Champion phenom Peter Sagan looking to parade his jersey across the finish line doing victory wheelies too. Contador is notorious for attacking on his own, and Sagan has proven that he only needs himself for support, so it’s possible that both riders will be able to effectively pursue their goals. Oh yeah, and their team owner Oleg Tinkov is a world famous knob. The Russian billionaire is well known for his outbursts and utterly appalling behavior, and has said that the team will fold or be sold at the end of the season. The good news for the riders is that they are highly desirable and most should be able to find a new home, but they’ll surely want to put on a good show during the Tour. It’s going to be a fight for Contador, as he’s not shown that he’s at his best, but he’s very good at hiding his form and always seems to get better at the end of three weeks. He’s not to be overlooked, but he’s got some real obstacles ahead of him. And yeah, that Sagan kid will likely get a win too.

Trek – Segafredo
FABIAN CANCELLARA (SWI)
BAUKE MOLLEMA (NED)
MARKEL IRIZIAR (SP)
GREGORY RAST (SWI)
FRÄNK SCHLECK (LUX)
PETER STETINA (USA)
JASPER STUYVEN (B)
EDWARD THEUNS (B)
HAIMAR ZUBELDIA (SP)

Fabulous Fabian is retiring this year and he’d love to go out with a loud bang, especially after exiting last year’s Tour after a crash, while wearing yellow. Bauke Mollema is the presumptive GC leader for the team, but it’s really all about Fabian. Even Fränk Schleck is coming out of retirement to help be a part of Fabz’ farewell party. Trek has a strong squad and will certainly be looking to score stage wins, with American fans hoping to see Peter Stetina do well after his horrible crash last year at Tour of the Basque Country. The team is deep with talent, even if you count Schleck, and should be able to pull something off- hopefully a nice little send off for Cancellara.

Bora – Argon 18 (wildcard)
SHANE ARCHBOLD (NZ)
JAN BÁRTA (CZE)
SAM BENNETT (IRE)
CESARE BENEDETTI (I)
EMANUEL BUCHMANN (G)
BARTOSZ HUZARSKI (POL)
PATRICK KONRAD (A)
ANDREAS SCHILLINGER (G)
PAUL VOSS (G)

Bora-Argon is one of the wildcard teams hoping for a miracle. Wildcard teams have a hard enough time surviving the Tour, let alone trying to get a stage win. That said, these guys have done it before and have another strong team capable of sneaking away with a win. That’s the thing though, wins are SO important at the Tour that very few opportunities are available for the smaller teams hoping to make a mark. Races like the Giro and Vuelta are more open and competitive for smaller teams still, but the Tour is “the most important race in the world”, and can be the life or death of a team- or a rider’s career. Bora-Argon has a strong team and will be hunting every day for opportunities. You can expect to see them in pretty much every doomed breakaway.

Cofidis (wildcard)
NACER BOUHANNI (F)- SCRATCHED
BORUT BOZIC (SLO)
JÉRÔME COUSIN (F)
Nicolas Edet (F)
ARNOLD JEANNESSON (F)
CHRISTOPHE LAPORTE (F)
CYRIL LEMOINE (F)
LUIS ÁNGEL MATÉ (SP)
DANIEL NAVARRO (SP)
GEOFFREY SOUPE (F)

Well, Cofidis had planned on supporting their spunky sprinter Nacer Bouhanni … but alas the aspiring boxer decided to practice his pugilism prematurely. Thanks to his hotel altercation on the evening before the French championships, Bouhanni had to get stitches in his hand, which later became infected, requiring surgery to correct … and now he’ll be watching the Tour on tv again. Without Bouhanni to contest the sprints, Cofidis is pretty much left to pray for a miracle in a breakaway. Without a GC rider and team that had been built entirely around the mercurial Bouhanni, Cofidis may just spend the next three weeks crying in their wine and eating brie.

Direct Energie (wildcard)
SYLVAIN CHAVANEL (F)
BRYAN COQUARD (F)
ANTOINE DUCHESNE (CAN)
YOHANN GENE (F)
FABRICE JEANDESBOZ (F)
ADRIEN PETIT (F)
ROMAIN SICARD (F)
ANGELO TULIK (F)
THOMAS VOECKLER (F)

Almost entirely French, with a French-speaking Canadian to round things out, Direct Energie is home to French cycling heroes Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler. Chavanel has won multiple stages and worn yellow, and the tongue-wagging Voeckler achieved sainthood for his 10 day stint in yellow during the 2004 Tour. “Chava” is a bit past his prime, but his leadership will help the team. Voeckler is a wing nut, even by French standards, and a bit past his best as well, but will certainly be on the attack daily. Bryan Coquard has been nipping at the door of a big win for years now, and the small sprinter will be hoping for more than a little luck to finally go his way. Like Argon and Cofidis, Direct Energie is a wildcard team, so they’re praying for a win or a little time in one of the classification jerseys. They’ll be on the attack early and often, and then Coquard will be trying to piggyback onto the other sprinter’s leadouts. They could get lucky. Or not. We’ll see what happens.

Fortuneo – Vital Concept (wildcard)
VEGARD BREEN (N)
ANTHONY DELAPLACE (F)
BRICE FEILLU (F)
ARMINDO FONSECA (F)
PIERRE-LUC PÉRICHON (F)
EDUARDO SEPÚLVEDA (ARG)
DANIEL MCLAY (GB)
CHRIS ANKER SORENSEN (DK)
FLORIAN VACHON (F)

The last of the wildcard teams, Fortuneo is probably the least likely team to get a stage win. But, because they are French, they got an invite to the pool party … now hopefully we can keep them from peeing in the deep end. Truly, they’ll need a miracle to have anything to show for their effort at the end of three weeks. If they survive with all nine riders, I’ll be impressed. Obviously, if they’re at the Tour, they’re good riders- nobody makes it to the Tour without being among the best in the world … but they’re very much in the deep end now, and they’re water wings aren’t going to help them much.

 

Contenders and pretenders. It should be an entertaining three weeks. The Tour lacks the same level of passion and drama as the Giro or Vuelta now, simply because it has become too important. It’s “too big to fail” now, and ASO is arguably more powerful than the UCI. Still, the Tour remains the pinnacle of the sport- for better or worse. SKY has invested in heavily in creating the best Tour team in the world. Froome has prepared himself to defend his win from last year. The stage is set and waiting for the players to arrive.

So let’s get this rolling circus on the road, shall we? #allezallezallez

Tim

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