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2019 Tour de France; Let’s Get Ready To Market Expensive Bike Stuff!!! (Oh, there’s also a bike race happening.)

July 3, 2019

So … the time is upon us for yet another 3 weeks of velocipede exercising around the country of France, with a brief foray into Belgium at the beginning of the lengthy gran fondo. Once again, the vast majority of the cycling world and the cycling press and the non-cycling press and non-cycling enthusiasts with mild curiosity about skinny dudes in lycra riding skinny tires across France in the peak of a heat wave will be focused on the next 3 weeks. Thankfully, we’ll also get to be unendingly marinated in #MarketingMasturbation too! Did you know that Cannondale, Specialized, and Name-A-Fucking-Brand have just released/ are about to release new products? Well, if you didn’t know that the Tour de France is the biggest showcase of cycling in the world, you might’ve missed that it’s also the biggest #Marketing for the industry as well. You would be forgiven for not knowing there’s a bike race to watch, but there actually IS a bike race to watch!

And this year, it might just be a good one!

As is always the case, there are legitimate contenders, way more pretenders, and lots of hopefuls. The thing about le Tour, for better or worse (worse), it is the most important race in the world. Entire teams and careers are built on just the 3 weeks in July every year. A rider’s career can be defined by a single performance at the Tour- whether it be wearing yellow, polka dots, green, or winning a stage, the Tour carries significant value in a rider’s career. ASO, the organizer of the race, is more than happy to remind the world of this fact, and giddily makes or destroys entire fortunes with the race. ASO is practically the mafia of bike races, with the UCI basically a pistol-less cop with no more power than the words, “please stop being a bully.”

And yet … we watch. We can’t help it. The Tour, with all its warts and blemishes, is still The Tour. For 3 weeks every July, it’s the most wonderful showcase of cycling. It’s become pedantic and boring due to its excessive importance- nobody is willing to take too big a risk, teams are built to dominate and keep things predictable and safe, and the “business” of the race is rarely allowed to veer off script. And yet … we watch.

So let’s take a look at the teams and see what their chances are for victory or glory … or lots of road rash.

Ag2r La Mondiale
BARDET Romain
NAESEN Oliver
GALLOPIN Tony
CHEREL Mickaël
VUILLERMOZ Alexis
FRANK Mathias
GOUGEARD Alexis
COSNEFROY Benoît

Ag2r is the Frenchiest of the French teams, in terms of their history. With only one Swiss and one Belgian rider on the roster, the only team more French is Arkea-Samsic with 7 of 8 riders being French. Romain Bardet has been “the next French hope” nearly his entire pro career. I meet him during a product launch in France years ago, when he was just beginning to make headlines with Ag2r, and he’s a good kid. Can he win? Maybe? He can’t time trial at all, but there’s barely any TT miles in this year’s race. He can climb really, really well, and has proven to be smarter than a few of his rivals. The team is banking heavily on him, but also has some stage chances with a number of their riders. Unlike many of the French teams, Ag2r likes to race aggressively, and might see an opportunity this year with an-ever-so-slightly-less-dominant Team Ineos (formerly SKY). Can they win? Lots of champagne and brie is sitting on tables waiting to celebrate if they do.

Arkéa-Samsic
GREIPEL André
BARGUIL Warren
BOUET Maxime
DELAPLACE Anthony
GESBERT Élie
LEDANOIS Kévin
MOINARD Amaël
VACHON Florian

This team is one of the small wildcard invites, and only because of Warren Barguil and André Greipel. Barguil has won stages and has the French fans in a lather, while Greipel has won numerous sprint stages during his lengthy career. Barguil was once heralded as a contender- he’s not- and Greipel once dominated sprints, but has aged a little. Don’t get me wrong, I like Barguil’s aggressive style, but he’s far from a surprise when he rolls up the road. He’ll have a hard time sneaking away anymore. Greipel has had a very quiet start to the year and is old enough to be call an “aging veteran.” That said, on the right day, if the other speedsters are napping, he’s still got a remarkable kick. Can either rider snag a win … possibly. They have a plucky band of riders, so they can’t be ignored. Week three will be a challenge for them, given the mountains and the lack of racing the team has had in bigger events.

Astana
SÁNCHEZ Luis León
BILBAO Pello
IZAGIRRE Gorka
FUGLSANG Jakob
LUTSENKO Alexey
CORT Magnus
FRAILE Omar
HOULE Hugo

Mostly, for GC purposes, the team is built around Jakob Fuglsang. The team is strong, and with the experienced (and tainted) hand of Alexander Vinokourov pulling the strings, they know how to ride for 3 weeks. Fuglsang recently won the shorter Dauphiné and has been touted as a contender before, but he’s yet to have a “breakout” Tour. This year could be different, maybe, since he’s obviously got great form currently. Is he overcooked or primed for a result? No way to know until things get really hot. He’ll have a great support cast, including Canadian rider Hugo Houle. I worked with Hugo when he rode for Ag2R and I was with FOCUS. He’s a good kid with goo TT chops and a long burning fuse. He’ll be important on flatter stages and early slopes of climbs. Luis León Sánchez will be critical too, and the Spaniard can’t be ruled out for stage win either. He’s still plenty quick, and smart enough to be in a good spot when it counts. Astana has a great team here, but the GC is likely a big reach for them, though they’ll still try.

Bahrain-Merida
CARUSO Damiano
COLBRELLI Sonny
GARCÍA CORTINA Iván
DENNIS Rohan
MOHORIČ Matej
NIBALI Vincenzo
TEUNS Dylan
TRATNIK Jan

Like him or not (or not much), Nibali can’t be looked over as a contender. He’s won the Tour before, along with the Giro and Vuelta. He shines in grand tours, can still out climb most riders, and is a ridonculous descender. He’s always aggressive, and also slightly bitchy when people don’t play his game. But … dude can ride a bike for 3 weeks. He’ll be supported well, and can be expected to attack a lot. He’s got less pressure on him, but he’s also savvy enough to know he’s got a legitimate shot at the win without Froome in the race and hardly any TT miles to get in his way. Barring a mishap, I’d be surprised to see him finish out of the top five … and maybe even take the win. It’s possible. He’s got plenty of guys on the team who can win stages too, so the day-to-day pressure will be managed for him.

Bora-Hansgrohe
BUCHMANN Emanuel
KONRAD Patrick
SAGAN Peter
OSS Daniel
MÜHLBERGER Gregor
PÖSTLBERGER Lukas
BURGHARDT Marcus
SCHACHMANN Maximilian

Peter Sagan. Enough said.

Ok, fine … there are other guys on the team too, and they’ll work their asses off for Sagan to get another Green/Points jersey by Paris. He’s the most likely guy to win it- again- because he’s simply that consistent. He’s had a quiet-for-Sagan early season, but the Tour is where he almost always dominates. He’s got an excellent team with him, and he’ll be HEAVILY marketed by Specialized and 100%. Trust me, by the end of the Tour, you’ll be tired of his name … but not the way he rides a bike.

CCC Team
VAN AVERMAET Greg
BEVIN Patrick
DE MARCHI Alessandro
GESCHKE Simon
PAUWELS Serge
ROSSKOPF Joey
SCHÄR Michael
WIŚNIOWSKI Łukasz

Well, they won’t win the Tour and they’re not there to try. Greg Van Avermaet is gonna win a stage or more, and will be Sagan’s likely biggest threat for Green. He’s good. And he’s got a good team with him. American Joey Rosskopf is strong as an ox and an ride a TT bike really freakin’ fast. The entire team can win stages, and you can expect to see the very bright orange kits going for stage wins often. They’re gonna take home some prize money when the race is over, that much is certain.

Cofidis
HERRADA Jesús
BERHANE Natnael
EDET Nicolas
LAPORTE Christophe
PEREZ Anthony
PÉRICHON Pierre-Luc
ROSSETTO Stéphane
SIMON Julien

“The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be …”

There was a time when Cofidis was one of the best teams in cycling, and the best team in France. That’s changed. A lot. Over the years, Cofidis has bounced in and out of relevance. Currently, they’re usually more known for their mercurial (and idiotic) sprinter Nacer Bouhanni … who again, will not be at the Tour. This gives the team a legitimate chance to win a stage, without catering to Bouhanni’s inability to factor in the race. Though a few of the riders are “older”, the full team can be expected to try a little something, most likely in the mountains and daylong suicide breaks for tv time. They’ll likely target the Polka Dot/Climber’s jersey and stage wins, so look for them to light up the first climbs that offer points. After that, they’ll fade into protecting the jersey, if they get it early. Otherwise … long days in the breaks for tv viewers.

EF Education First
URÁN Rigoberto
VAN GARDEREN Tejay
CRADDOCK Lawson
PHINNEY Taylor
BETTIOL Alberto
WOODS Michael

Rigoberto Urán is the man at EF for the Tour. He’s a GC threat when healthy, and hopefully he is now. After some early season injuries, he looks to be coming alive now. If he’s got the climbing legs and TT chops of years past, he’ll be considered a real threat. He’ll be backed by a strong team. Team owner Jonathan Vaughters is pretty good at piecing teams and riders together, and he’s got a mix of youth and experience. Americans Lawson Craddock, Taylor Phinney, and Tejay Van Garderen will all be chuffed to get things going. No longer carrying the GC pressure, Tejay might finally refund the legs that made him a contender. Phinney is a monster when healthy, and can maybe even win a stage early. And then there’s the Canadian flavor sensation Michael Woods. He’s an unknown of sorts in the Tour- he’s yet to reach his full potential, but he can ride with the best of them, and has shown a knack for attacking. I’m watching Woods with a curious eye …

Deceuninck-Quick-Step
ALAPHILIPPE Julian
ASGREEN Kasper
DEVENYNS Dries
MAS Enric
LAMPAERT Yves
MØRKØV Michael
RICHEZE Maximiliano
VIVIANI Elia

How many stages can DQS win? Most of them. For serious … they can win a lot of stages. Julian Alaphilippe has been on fire. He seems to win any time he tries. He can climb, sprint, or get away early. And then Elia Viviani is among the very best sprinters in the world too. He’s won a bunch of sprints this year already, too. The team won more races than anybody last season, and is on top of the board again this year. They aren’t hunting the GC, and team director Patrick Lefevre rarely does, so stage wins and the endless press attention is the goal. Oh, and they also ride Specialized bikes … who has a new bike out now … so … #Marketing!

Dimension Data
KREUZIGER Roman
BOASSON HAGEN Edvald
BAK Lars
CUMMINGS Steve
KING Ben
JANSE VAN RENSBURG Reinardt
VALGREN Michael
NIZZOLO Giacomo

No Cavendish this year. They’ve left the Manxman off of the team roster this year. #Controversy

I like American Ben King. He’s a good rider, classy guy, and can actually mix it up for a stage win. They don’t have a GC rider, so Ben and Edvald Boasson Hagen are among their stage hunters. EBH is another Green contender, and can get into the break and ruin the day for his companions with lesser sprint legs. EBH, Van Avermaet, and Sagan in a three-man break would be The BOMB! (But it won’t happen.) Steve Cummings has won before and is a good chap, so keep an eye on him too.

Groupama-FDJ
PINOT Thibaut
BONNET William
ROUX Anthony
REICHENBACH Sébastien
MOLARD Rudy
GAUDU David
KÜNG Stefan
LADAGNOUS Matthieu

Man, if Thibaut Pinot ever lives up to his potential and the hype surrounding him every year, he’ll win the Tour by an hour or two. Well … maybe by a few seconds at least. Built around Pinot, for better or worse, FDJ is always a fan favorite, and team manager Marc Madiot is a little bit of a magician. They have to be taken seriously … until Pinot’s almost-guaranteed implosion occurs. Mostly, they’re looking for stage wins or the Polka Dot jersey with Pinot. But … if the stars align and the prayers of French fans are answered, Pinot could do something special. (But likely won’t.)

Jumbo-Visma
GROENEWEGEN Dylan
KRUIJSWIJK Steven
VAN AERT Wout
MARTIN Tony
BENNETT George
JANSEN Amund Grøndahl
DE PLUS Laurens
TEUNISSEN Mike

SO MUCH TALENT on this team! No real GC threat, but bejesus do they have stage winners! Groenewegen- Groaning Wagon- can smash the pedals SO hard in a sprint. I bet they have to give that boy a new frame after every sprint stage. Wout Van Aert is a CX World Champion- thrice- and now the Belgian TT champ. He’s kinda got skills … to pay some bills, as it were. And Tony Martin … yeah, he’s still quick. These guys will win something. Maybe a few somethings. But for certain, they will crank out wattage numbers that make their power meters ask “WTF, brah?”

Katusha-Alpecin
ZAKARIN Ilnur
DOWSETT Alex
DEBUSSCHERE Jens
GONÇALVES José
HALLER Marco
POLITT Nils
WÜRTZ SCHMIDT Mads
ZABEL Rick

Caffeine shampoo isn’t gonna be enough to help them win the Tour. They’ve got a lot of talent, and a fragile GC contender with Ilnur Zakarin, but little hope of more than a few stage wins. A lot of teams would be happy with that prospect, but they’ve got a big enough budget that they need better results. So … they’re gonna be hungry to keep the paychecks coming in. SRAM’s new APX components will be front and center for 3 weeks … #Marketing … so expect to see a lot of SRAM and Zipp advertising!

Lotto-Soudal
DE GENDT Thomas
BENOOT Tiesj
KLUGE Roger
MONFORT Maxime
EWAN Caleb
WELLENS Tim
DE BUYST Jasper
KEUKELEIRE Jens

Stacked with talent, Lotto-Soudal is bringing another strong team to the start line. With young sprinter Caleb Ewan making his Tour debut, they’re gonna be hunting stages, as always. Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens are both hyper-experienced stage hunters, and they’ll be doing exactly that. Tiesj Benoot is another Belgian young star with tons of talent, so he’ll likely be given a few chances to shine along the way. Like a few of the other teams, they have a deep talent pool of riders on the roster who will certainly keep things interesting.

Mitchelton-Scott
YATES Adam
YATES Simon
DURBRIDGE Luke
HAIG Jack
HEPBURN Michael
JUUL-JENSEN Christopher
IMPEY Daryl
TRENTIN Matteo

I really hope the Yates twins switch bib numbers and screw with the rest of the peloton a few times. I’ll be pissed if they don’t try at least once.

The Australian team comes equipped for a GC fight and they’re bringing sharp knives for it. Yates will have plenty of help from his brother, as well as the rest of the team. And don’t ask me if the GC Yates is Adam or Simon because I never know! The team is deep in talent and they can not be ruled out, especially in the third week. They’ve got the motors, they’ve got the climbers, and they know how to ride the Stage 2 Team Time Trial. They’ll be in it to win it.

Movistar
QUINTANA Nairo
LANDA Mikel
VALVERDE Alejandro
SOLER Marc
ERVITI Imanol
VERONA Carlos
OLIVEIRA Nelson
AMADOR Andrey

Oh, hey, Movistar is bringing 3 GC contenders again. It’s worked for them perfectly every time before … oh, wait, not it hasn’t. So Quintana, Valverde, and Landa will again line up as team co-co-co-leaders. It’s a shitty move again, but it seems that Movistar loves to lose the Tour. It’s almost as if they come to France each year with the objective of not-winning. That said, they won’t win it. You can quote me. But, hey, at least they’ll get a lot of press for how strong the team is “on paper”, and how surprising it is that the three-pronged approach has yet again failed them.

Sunweb
KELDERMAN Wilco
MATTHEWS Michael
KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren
ARNDT Nikias
BOL Cees
HAGA Chad
KÄMNA Lennard
ROCHE Nicolas

With Tom Dumoulin out, due to lingering injuries from his crash at the Giro, Sunweb is hunting stages. That said, they ain’t in a shortage position for talent in that regard. Michael Matthews is a legitimate threat for Sagan’s Green jersey, with the ability to sprint well and climb well enough to finish in select groups. Chad Haga is an outstanding fella, and another of the emotional favorites among American fans. The team is prepared to ride 3 weeks, and would be set to deliver Dumoulin to the GC podium, but now have to switch into stage mode. I’d be shocked if they didn’t make good on that talent pool.

Team Ineos
THOMAS Geraint
BERNAL Egan
CASTROVIEJO Jonathan
KWIATKOWSKI Michał
MOSCON Gianni
POELS Wout
ROWE Luke
VAN BAARLE Dylan

No Froome.

That makes Geraint Thomas’s job as defending champion a little less complicated. Having Froome on the team would help Thomas, since he’s won 4 Tours and would be the co-favorite to win, but at least the internal dynamics of the team are slightly cleaner. There is that Egan Bernal kid who has shown that he’s ready to win a big race too … but Brailsford has shown an ability to squash internal skirmishes … usually. Make zero mistake, Ineos is still SKY, just in uglier kits. Without a doubt, Thomas can be expected to put up one helluva fight to defend his win from last year. Ineos has deep talent and they’ll put all of it to the task of winning again. And they can. The entire roster is strong, no weak links. If they can keep Gianni Moscon from getting into a fight, or getting expelled from the race for being a racist prick, they’ll even contend for the team title too. It’s their race to lose, and the entire peloton will be looking to them to lead. Whether or not they can defend will depend on how well they keep themselves cohesive- and so far, they’ve proven regularly that they can.

Total Direct Energie
CALMEJANE Lilian
TERPSTRA Niki
TURGIS Anthony
SICARD Romain
TAARAMÄE Rein
OURSELIN Paul
GRELLIER Fabien
BONIFAZIO Niccolò

Another of the French wildcard teams. but less of a “wildcard” since they are always there. They’ve been around for years, in various forms, and have been the home of much-loved riders like Voeckler, Chavanel, and others. Now the team is built around the stage hunting goals of Nikki Terpstra. The team has plenty of talent, even if they lack any meaningful results this season. The Tour roster is a mix of riders capable of winning different stage types, and with NO threat to the GC on the roster, they’ll be given plenty of opportunities in breakaways.

Trek-Segafredo
PORTE Richie
MOLLEMA Bauke
BERNARD Julien
CICCONE Giulio
DE KORT Koen
FELLINE Fabio
SKUJIŅŠ Toms
STUYVEN Jasper

I’m sorry, Australia, Richie Porte is not going to become the second Aussie to win the Tour, this year. He isn’t. He’ll probably ride into the top ten again, though, so there’s that. There’s a chance he’ll take a stage win, or that one of the other Trek-Seafood guys will. I mean, there’s no shortage of talent. Even young gun Toms Skujins (impossible to pronounce while sober), can win a stage and his attacking style is fun to watch. Not sure yet if Trek in unveiling a new bike at this year’s race … but with Specialized unleashing their #Marketing machine on the race, it would make sense that they’ll offer up something to combat the noise coming from California.

UAE-Team Emirates
ARU Fabio
BYSTRØM Sven Erik
COSTA Rui
HENAO Sergio
KRISTOFF Alexander
LAENGEN Vegard Stake
MARTIN Dan
PHILIPSEN Jasper

Fabio Aru is back to regale us all with his impressive pain faces, and slobber suffering. But he’s not gonna be a GC contender. The kid has been able to get out of his own way for the past few seasons, and is fragile- physically and between the ears. Rui Costa can win a stage still, but has been quiet lately. Kristoff can vie for the Green jersey. And Dan Martin rode a great race last year, and hopefully will again this year. The team has the ability to take a few stages, but the GC is way out of reach of Aru again. He shines in Italy and wilts in France. Henao has some good legs and can threaten in the mountains too, but GC is not his game. But, damn, they ride some pretty Colnago bikes!

Wanty-Groupe Gobert
DE GENDT Aimé
EIKING Odd Christian
MARTIN Guillaume
MEURISSE Xandro
PASQUALON Andrea
BACKAERT Frederik
VAN MELSEN Kevin
OFFREDO Yoann

Wanty is an emotional favorite of the wildcard teams. They’re in the race to hunt stages and get tv air time. They’re in over their heads against the bigger teams, but they always seem to punch above their weight regardless. They’ll feature in nearly every doomed break over the next 3 weeks, along with the Arkéa and Direct Energie teams. Of the three, I’d put my money on Wanty for a stage win … just because. I like their Cube bikes and their kits. So yeah, I want them to win because they’re pretty.

It’s up to Ineos to defend, and everybody else to attack the juggernaut. In recent years, Ineos (as SKY), has proven to be nearly flawless and utterly robotic in their domination. Few teams have challenged them. But maybe, just maybe, this year will be different. In theory, this year’s race is a little more open. Without any real TT miles, the climbers have a better chance- which helps the French. The winner is unlikely to be a surprise, but might not be the odds-on favorite.

I like Geraint Thomas and wouldn’t be bummed to see him repeat. I’d be happier to see Uran get the win, or even Bardet. Until we get into the mountains, it’s hard to say who has the best chance. Needless to say, I look forward to seeing which team has the best #Marketing campaigns built around them by their sponsors. That should decide the winner! (Or not.)

Here’s to the race finishing without controversy or major injuries. Rubber side down, boys!

Allez, Allez, ALLEZ! (Not the Specialized® Allez© … don’t sue me!)

*featured image by Chungkong Art

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2019 6:32 AM

    Wow, you put a lot of thought into that. I’ll be watching and checking to see how your predictions turned out. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim Jackson permalink*
      July 4, 2019 7:58 AM

      Hey, I’ve gotta be as accurate as NBC …

      Like

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