Tour de France Teams Part II

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.


  • 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.


  • 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?


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

Tour de France teams Part I

52 thoughts on “Tour de France Teams Part II”

  1. GVA and Vanmarcke must be spitting tacks at the prospect of putting stage 9 ambitions to the side in order to keep GC hopefuls safe. I assume Politt will be doing the same for Zakarin.

    I’d be interested in Haussler for that stage as an each way outsider.

    But the key question is this: INRNG – how many drafts now on ‘Part III’ of this preview given the to-ing and fro-ing from WADA, ASO and UCI about a certain Team Sky rider?

    • No drafts of Part III, it’s being done roughly in order of teams announcing their roster and there’s only a couple of teams left so Sky as late to announce feature late.

      PS have zapped a couple of comments on the Froome/Sky case posted here, people may want to have their say on today’s news but this topic is about the other teams and the chance to put the spotlight on other riders ahead of the race. Some may want to have their say on Sky and I’ll look at a few of the issues around Froome’s verdict but for now Sky talk just seems to descend into sterile arguments that waste bandwidth.

      • Speaking of the wrongly convicted; Peter Sagan.
        Really, Inner Ring?
        I guess he should get the race number 54-46 for this Tour then?

      • As ever, looking forward to your balanced analysis.

        Meanwhile, can’t wait to see a Tour where Porte stays upright, Martin go full gas, Uran seriously have a go at it from the begin …(too much to list really); all against a physically if not emotionally tired Froome.

        • And of course, whether Moviestar can function as a unit or bickering with each other to the end.

          I have a feeling if it is bickering, Landa would profit most out of the three (and he is always at his best coming up from behind).

    • @Pilgrim – if the 14 day weather forecast can be relied upon, there could be a bit of wind around and maybe even a little rain to slick things up.
      In which case, GVA as Jeeves to Richie Porte’s Wooster would be most fitting 🙂

      • I was hoping for some wind and rain to make something of the first nine days. For the moment the forcast gives dry weather throughout with some wind on 11th and 12th though only a typical 20km/h with gusts to 45km/h or so. Could that be enough to see the powerful teams striving to create splits? It’s what the Durbridges, Hepburns, Hayman and Bauers (example Mitchelton) are there for.

  2. Gerrans was a bit of a lost sheep his last couple of years at what was then Orica; formerly their star rider but eclipsed by Matthew, Ewen and the GC trio of Yates, Chaves & Yates, so hopefully for BMC can completely commit to being a road captain and improving the tactical acumen of Porte’s train.

  3. Interesting here that our host is talking about Nibali settling for a podium. A lowering of expectations?For myself, I wonder where Nibali figures in the pantheon of grand Tour riders? My own appraisal, voiced before in these pages, is he needs at least one win where he beats the best (by which I mean quintana, Froome and now probably Dumoulin too) and he hasn’t had one of those so far in his four grand tour wins to date. (I’ll let you check back who he did beat.) But when you look at the field here you have to wonder if the Italian, for all his panache and his palmares, can really come out first. I see Nibali winning a stage but not much else.

    • It’s really not necessary to slag great riders in order to be a fan of others. Nibali has an extraordinary palmares, with thrilling wins in the biggest races. It’s great that so many of the best riders will be at this year’s Tour.

      • Andrew, I am not here to “slag” Nibali. I have the utmost respect for his achievements and am quite happy to admit that as an all-round rider of stage and one day races he is quite probably the best in the entire current peloton. What I am here to do is question his grand tour achievements and to ask if it is the case that he ever beats the best in grand tours, including his four wins. My intuition (which I could back up with stats if asked) is the answer is no. If that is “slagging” someone then what counts as unfair criticism has indeed been set at a very low bar. But its my suggestion that its simply a legitimate question and legitimate questions are not uneducated trolls. I always try to present the former and not the latter.

        • I’m just amazed that Haussler still makes a TdF final 8.. maybe says something about the quality of Bahrain Merida’s overall roster

          • Perhaps suggests that they aren’t wanting to put all Bahrain eggs into the Nibs basket after all. Hard to see what Haussler brings to a Nibali tilt at yellow.

          • Yeah good point Noel, its a bit of a mystery on current form and a while between drinks. But Haussler has a knack of coming out of the blue with stellar form and wins, think a racehorse out of a spell. He won the Aussie road nationals (15) and has bagged a few stage wins also (and some close calls too). An outside for a stage win, lets hope.

          • He’s a strong rider and a good bodyguard for the opening week, knows how to move through a bunch. Apparently some riders found on social media who was / wasn’t in the Tour team, something that has happened on other squads.

          • I think Haussler said a while ago he was likely to go and that his role will be about keeping Nibali protected in the first week especially on the cobbles (not that Nibali may need much help).

        • I think I share your scepticism over what I shall call Nibali’s commitment to winning.

          He’s been found wanting at times when he has been highly placed on the billing for a race when he’s supposed to go toe to toe with a competitor in full pomp. I guess the comparison has to be how Froome has turned at the Tour, but I don’t really want to get into a Sky train debate.

          Froome has been consistent with his approach to Grand Tours and in particular the TDF. When he has been at the sharp end of things he has come out on top, whereas Nibali looks like he doesn’t want the fight. He sort of slinks away, as if he didn’t really want to win, and if he did, of course he would. He doesn’t waste an iota of energy if there’s no gain to be had. So if doesn’t think he’s going to win he’ll sit back.

          I’ve always found Nibali a sly character and that is his racing style too. He sits in the shadows and waits to pounce. His victory in Milan-Sanremo was typical of that. A well timed attack off the front which caught the peloton unawares.

          There’s definitely a skill to his riding, and he’s probably one of the best bike handlers outside of Sagan, so I have sneaking admiration for him, but for me he doesn’t have the heart of a true champion, whether that’s because he doesn’t like the glare of the media attention or whether he is faint hearted he fails on the front of being the sort of personality that leads.

          I did think after his 2014 TDF win he’d go on to win more but alas no. Looking at his team it doesn’t look like this will be a serious tilt at the TdF and he’ll be looking for stage wins, which seems a shame for him.

      • First, If you want to win the big races you need to stay on your bike. Nibali is really good at that, one of his great assets as a GT contender.

        Second, in a bike race you can only beat those who are present.

        It is part of the beauty of a bike race that unforeseen things happen. If we were to calculate the winner from w/kg I think we would all know who would win, but where would the spectacle of the race be then?

  4. No comment on Taylor Phinney’s role… he himself say he is Chief Vibration Officer – surely every team needs a zen guy.

    • He got the polka dot jersey for a day last year. He’s good for the media too, always a quirky quote for the US media, the new Zabriskie. Other easy going riders seem to fulfil similar roles, Pierre Latour in France seems fun, Oliver Naesen in the Belgian media is very direct etc, not the habitual “I’m taking it day by day” etc

  5. What’s Phinney’s role? More chance at a breakaway stage win than much help to Uran. In fact Uran won’t be getting too much help once the road tilts up. He copped a bit for following wheels last year, but it was a crafty ride and result given the lack of support compared to Froome, Bardet and others. Interested to watch Martinez now as well, not been on my radar till now.
    Thanks INRNG for being the antidote to the soap oprah!

  6. Richie Porte. Is he ever going to put three weeks together? I didn’t find his Suisse win very impressive as it was largely TT based and the Suisse course was remarkably flat considering the topography of Switzerland. On the one mountainous day (Arosa) he lost a little time to Quintana and last year in the Dauphine he was shredded when other put him to the test on the final day. It seems to me that the longer the race goes the more likely something bad will happen to Porte’s chances. So I expect BMC to win the TTT and then something somewhere to count Porte out.

  7. that cobbles stage…. It’s going to throw up multiple team vs individual questions across the peleton.
    I really hope a) it rains and b) they all just abandon the GC boys for personal glory, and it makes a right mess of the usual order of service in the GC!

    • Yeah, ideal scenario would be wet and windy and on the first cobbled section a huge cross wind is blowing, then Quick Step go to the front and rip it to pieces. Then Jungels and/or Alaphilippe have a big enough lead that they might be able to hang on to in the mountains. Preferably Alaphilippe for the resulting French fervour and the Voeckler-esque facial contortions he would pull in the mountains. I can dream.

      • I so hope you’re right. Watching the world’s best climbers bouncing around on their saddles like child camel jockeys would make my summer.
        As far as Alaphillipe having a 20 minute lead going into the Alps, please spare a thought for those of us who live in France. 2 weeks of France 2/3 tv commentators screaming ” Allez Julien” might get a little grating.

  8. I agree about Porte. Very talented but lacks race acumen at times. Does he have the killer instinct and absolute self confidence that other GC winners display? I don’t know but if he does win it then I’m happy to be found wrong. I’ll also do a lap of Tassie in his honour if he does win.

    • I’d say he absolutely doesn’t have killer instinct. Seems like too much of a nice guy, and expects the same of others (his indignation at Froome conspiring against him at the Dauphine), which is one thing that sets Froome apart despite his cool exterior.

      Porte surely doesn’t have much time left to pull out a GT win – he’s 33 and none of his wins this year have been notable, one because of a TTT and one because he’s the only bloke who cared about the GC at an Aussie b-rate race.

  9. Good line on Zaka hahaha, but there is a nice interview on cycling news just now.

    He used to be in a choir and sing traditional Tartasan hymns.

    Recently converted to Islam.

    Dad died last year.

    Makes spontaneous on-the-road bets with his DS over the radio.

    Lives in Cyprus in large Russian community

  10. I quite like that Michleton-Scott team… Yates is going to need much more help on windy flats and cobbles and TTTs than in the hills where he usually attaches himself to the back of the lead group and hangs on. I don’t think he’s going to find himself leading for 2 weeks like his brother, and hence should have a much less stressful time in and out of the racing. And Matt White is such a wily old dog, I can see Yates improving on his 4th spot…

  11. Until I read Inrng’s analysis I had thought that BMC had a strong team, enough to seriously challenge Sky, but his comments make me wonder. Will all the uncertainty about the status of the team affect the riders? Even if it is only a percentage point or two it makes a difference.

    If BMC are not quite at the races then Michelton Scott are probably Sky’s main rivals, certainly over the first 9 days. On the evidence from the Giro not sure they have managed the transition from “lovable larrikins” sniping for cheeky stage wins to serious contenders. Going full gas every day might make for an interesting spectacle but not helpful if the team leader runs out of fuel with 4 days to go.

    I hope that Bora have to do more work supporting Peter Sagan this year, Quick Step have a potential rival and they will ride for him. As hardly needs saying QS are the strongest team around for sprinting and one day races Bora will need to be on their toes.

  12. Interesting to see what Astana can do and what style of racing they give us. They always used to be rather exciting to watch but at this year’s Giro, Lopez was everything you hate about cycling.
    And it is interesting that people are saying Porte’s chances higher than the 4 times GT winner Nibali ! For me, Nibali is definitely a favourite for the win !

  13. Fulgsalg is aming for GC spots 1,2,3… not for 4th or 5th.

    Valgreen and Corth is riding in service for Fulglsang who layed the down the prepayment in Amstel. Not for personal Glory, pretty sure same counts for Sanches as Fulgsalg rode in service of Sanchez in the early Iberian races.

    Entire team is at Fuglsangs disposal.

    Rain on stage 9 and anything can happen, if the team does not make a fool of thmeselves in the TTT.

    For the past 2y noone has been able to drop Fuglsang on the really steep mountains which used to be his achiles heal. This year he seem to have been able to combine his improved climbing whithout loosing his former streanght in the ITT.

  14. I’m intrigued by the balance of the Mitchelton-Scott selection – they seem to be putting a lot of weight into the TTT and flat stages at the expense of an additional climbing domestique. Yates is likely to be isolated given that only Nieve seems capable of sticking with a lead group in the mountains (or am I undervaluing Howson?).

    • Do they have more mountain support? Jack Haig needs a rest. Besides both the Yates brothers have managed well following the lead group to the point in the last two Tours they looked like they were being dropped but were just hanging back.

      • I guess Kreuziger needed a break at some point, while Chaves seemed out of sorts at the Giro (after the stage win) so is presumably being given time to find some form before the Vuelta? Verona seems to be the one obvious omission. Agree that the Yates brothers appear fine to fend for themselves, but strong climbing domestiques helped at the Giro (for the most part!).

  15. I wonder if BMC riders will consider it better for their future contracts to show themselves off individually or to show they are a good domestique? (GVA aside.)
    B-M don’t seem to be showing a lot of faith in Nibali, picking Colbrelli and Haussler.
    Astana seem to have a similar lack of faith in Fuglsang – I suspect rightly, as I think he’ll be lucky to make a top 5.
    Are EF-D unable to make Rolland work for Uran? If not, would they be better picking someone else?

    • I doubt bringing Colbrelli / Haussler means they have a free card to play. Except a couple of key stage for Colbrelli, I think he will be on bodyguard duty for the flat stages for Nibali. Haussler is definitely ONLY on duty.
      Same with AStana – Unless Fuglsang is eliminated very early from the GC race, the roulers will be on team duty in the Week 1.

  16. I’m very much looking forward to Sagan’s “comeback,” as well as watching how Uran does after last year’s relative success. I’d also love to see Phinney and Craddock has some notable stages, though it’s been tough cheering for American riders in the TdF for a while now.

  17. My bets: Roglic and Quintana to podium with froome.

    Points of interest:
    – if new gen of sprinters can dominate the old.
    – Stage 3. It seems to have greatly influenced selection and may have too much say in the race
    – if any of the GC teams go all in on Stage 9… and how BMC / Bora / QS attack it. A win would salvage a lean year for GVA / Vanmarcke though surely it’s why Terpstra is selected
    – if Quintana can find the form that made him so dangerous a few years ago
    – long ITT at the end – people like me are too focused on Week 1 – the ITT will choose the winner
    – if Thomas can justify GT leader dreams. I like him but think not

    Bring it on…..

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