The second part of three looking at the Tour de France teams. One of the advantages of the Tour is the vast media coverage, there’s so much happening on many levels that July becomes a soap opera with daily episodes.
BMC Racing return with a pecking order and possibly their marching orders. This time Porte is the leader and van Garderen an able support rider. Porte’s skills over three weeks will be addressed in the preview of contenders but what about his team? You’ll remember the stage to La Planche des Belle Filles last year when BMC lead the peloton across the plains when Geraint Thomas was in yellow: it used up energy, gave Sky a rest and ultimately broadcast they weren’t as strong as Sky or others. It’ll be interesting to see how they operate tactically. The team’s survival poses other questions, a press release says the team plans to ride next year… but they would say that, wouldn’t they? The proof comes in re-signing marquee riders. If not Porte may need to gather team mate’s IBANs to secure their services rather than have them put themselves in the shop window. The team time trial is a big goal and riders like Caruso and van Garderen can take long turns and also support Porte late into a mountain stage. Gerrans is the road captain, a wise head on the road but can he stay the course, he’s been DNF in the last three tours. Van Avermaet is the odd one out, surely too big in stature to spend the stages to Quimper or Roubaix as a bodyguard?
PORTE Richie, VAN GARDEREN Tejay, CARUSO Damiano, VAN AVERMAET Greg, BEVIN Patrick, GERRANS Simon, KÜNG Stefan, SCHAR Michael
- Goal: the team press release says a podium with Porte which is honest enough but the win is possible
- Ace: Richie Porte is star in one week stage races but aged 33 still not the certainty for three weeks
- Joker: van Garderen can ride with the best on his day but struggles with the pressure. Will he be a sherpa at Porte’s side or a pioneer who goes up the road to open the way?
Bahrain-Merida bring Vincenzo Nibali, the rider who, even if he doesn’t win, often enlivens a race. Look at the support with Pozzovivo capable of stirring things up and the Izagirre brothers as outsiders for the GC. They also bring the 40 year old Pellizotti who last rode the Tour in 2009… and got busted for his bio passport. What’s new for Nibali is Colbrelli because when the Sicilian has gone for GC in the past it’s been with a dedicated team in his service, this time he’s got to share resources with the sprinter. This blog once described Colbrelli as a budget version of Peter Sagan and it’s still a compliment: quick in uphill finishes, he can turn out the power for 30 second bursts like few others. Only his value as shot up but will struggle in the Tour with competition from Sagan, Matthews, Gaviria, Démare, Boasson Hagen and more. Haussler once quipped he’d be happy never to ride the Tour again but was a late call up, a stage winner in 2009 his role this time is unknown.
KOREN Kristijan, NIBALI Vincenzo, POZZOVIVO Domenico, IZAGIRRE Ion, IZAGIRRE Gorka, COLBRELLI Sonny, PELLIZOTTI Franco, HAUSSLER Heinrich
- Goal: if it’s within range does Nibali settle for a podium? The team need a result, a defined win, for their rich backers
- Ace: Nibali
- Joker: Ion Izagirre, not someone to gift a minute and the final TT is made for him
Bora-Hansgrohe return with an air of revenge. Peter Sagan got chucked out by the UCI last year for a crime didn’t commit and the team tried to sue the UCI. The upshot was the new video commissaires who’ll be busy for the three weeks. A slew of stages and the green jersey for Sagan might seem inevitable and baked-in but it’s just the publicity he and his sponsors are paying for. Mühlberger too could try for stage wins on transition stages but the team can really show their collective value on the mid-mountain stages by riding vollgass over the early climbs to leave the pure sprinters floundering so that Sagan can collect points when others cannot and sew up the green jersey competition. Otherwise Rafał Majka’s the only other protected rider, he’s dropped off the radar somewhat but has had a lot of top-10s this year in the mountains and won a stage of the Vuelta last year and has sidekick Paweł Poljański for support in the mountains.
BODNAR Maciej, BURGHARDT Marcus, MAJKA Rafał, MÜHLBERGER Gregor, OSS Daniel, POLJANSKI Pawel, SAGAN Peter, PÖSTLBERGER Lukas
- Goal: stage wins, the green jersey and maybe polka dot too
- Ace: Peter Sagan and the communications department behind him
- Joker: Majka for the mountains
Katusha-Alpecin made one of the bigger transfers recruiting Marcel Kittel and so far there’s not much to show beyond the shampoo adverts. But there doesn’t need to be, two stage wins in the Tour and everything will be perfekt and is helped by Rick Zabel. This is another team with dual ambitions as Ilnur Zakarin goes for the GC. Nobody is talking about him, partly because he is talking to nobody: his media profile is flatter than a Dutch prologue. His results speak for themselves, a podium in the Vuelta last year among others only he’s had a quiet year so far. He’s got Boswell and Kišerlovski as a support riders but his modus operandi is following others. What about Tony Martin? He can pull in the TTT like two riders but Stage 20 is out of the question so can he go and fetch a stage win for himself, or will be rinsed from playing the human tractor beam tasked with pulling back breakaways?
KITTEL Marcel, ZAKARIN Ilnur, MARTIN Tony, KOCHETKOV Pavel, BOSWELL Ian, KIŠERLOVSKI Robert, POLITT Nils, ZABEL Rick
- Goal: a stage win for Kittel, just one early would set things up nicely and “Zaka” can aim for the top-5
- Ace: Kittel, but don’t judge him by last year’s performance with four wins, one will be a relief
- Joker: if Kittel’s struggling and Zakarin’s not winning then can Tony Martin rediscover the glory days when he could blow the field off his back wheel? Probably not but he can still take a crafty win
EF-Education First-Drapac take to the start, an achievement as the squad almost vanished last year. One reason behind its survival is Urán and his second place last year, the surprise result. Never mind topping that, repeating would be an achievement. Sep Vanmarcke may lick his lips at the stage to Roubaix but chances are he’ll be biting his tongue as he tows Urán over the pavé. Instead Rolland – said to be returning to a French team soon – will probably get free rein to attack. Simon Clarke is the experienced captain with Lawson Craddock a useful helper in the mountains. Martinez is a promising rider it might have been more fun to see him given a free pass at the Vuelta instead, he is part of the Bernal and Sosa generation of promising Colombians.
URAN Rigoberto, ROLLAND Pierre, PHINNEY Taylor, VANMARCKE Sep, MARTINEZ Daniel Felipe, CLARKE Simon, SCULLY Thomas, CRADDOCK Lawson
- Goal: to protect Urán and get him as high on GC as possible
- Ace: Urán didn’t make a mistake last year
- Joker: Pierre Rolland for mountain raids
Mitchelton-Scott are all in for Adam Yates. Once upon a time they wanted stage wins and the team time trial, now it’s full tilt for the maillot jaune and the souvenir podium pic in Paris. They were due to fight on two fronts with Caleb Ewan but the sprinter has been left at home, left fuming and is surely leaving for another team. You wonder if they could brought Ewan to fend for himself in the sprints but no: the team must believe in Yates. Bauer, Durbridge and Hepburn are engines for the TTT and the flats with Hayman bringing experience. Howson and Nieve can help in the mountains with Nieve coming from the Giro but should be relatively fresh. Only Daryl Impey looks likely to have freedom for a stage win here or there in the first week but in a crowded contest on those harder, hillier finishes. This is a team still in search of a sponsor, Mitchelton is a small winery belonging to its billionaire backer Gerry Ryan and the better the team do the more expensive they become but also the more attractive to sponsors too.
BAUER Jack, DURBRIDGE Luke, HAYMAN Mathew, HEPBURN Michael, HOWSON Damien IMPEY Daryl, NIEVE Mikel, YATES Adam
- Goal: Yates on the podium
- Ace: Yates
- Joker: Daryl Impey
Astana bring a team that’s half Danish. They’re lead by Jacob Fuglsang. Last year he won the Daupiné only to crash out of the Tour so we never got to see what he could do, this time he’s back in shape with second place in the Tour de Suisse. On paper he’s got a powerful team in support but this is not a squad to sit in formation around him, although Hansen is probably reserved for this. Sanchez and Fraile will be stage hunting in mountains. Cort Nielsen is another trying to occupy the crowded niche of uphill sprinters looking to outfox Peter Sagan. Michael Valgren will be hunting for stage wins. Collectively the team time trial will be a test, as much as they look strong on paper look at the actual print out of their results: a weak 14th in the Dauphiné and a shocking 20th in the Tour de Suisse, a result which – arithmetically at least – cost Fuglsang the overall win.
FUGLSANG Jakob, HANSEN Jesper, CORT NIELSEN Magnus, VALGREN Michael, FRAILE Omar, SANCHEZ Luis Leon, KANGERT Tanel, GRUZDEV Dmitriy
- Goal: a top-5 on GC for Fuglsang and stage wins
- Ace: Fuglsang if he can stay steady
- Joker: Sanchez seems like an old warhorse but is “only” 34 and as we saw in Paris-Nice this year can time his moves just right