GreenEDGE count down to Le Tour
BMC's Cadel Evans of Australia, negotiates a curve during the fourth stage of the 64th Dauphine cycling race, a 53.6 kilometers individual time trial between Villie-Morgon and Bourg-en-Bresse, central France, Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
We are officially counting down the days until the Tour de France. Le Tour kicks off on the 30th June in Liege for the Individual TT which introduces the riders.
Cadel will be the last one to jump as he was the winner from last year.
The first week is generally all about the sprinters with five flat stages and a medium mountain stage.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Australian Financial Review to the inaugural Melbourne Tour de France dinner which was hosted by Ernst and Young with the always engaging Mathew Keenan as MC. The guest list of 80 or so people was treated to an exclusive interview with Cadel Evans at the Dauphine and also an interview with Orica-GreenEDGE owner Gerry Ryan and major sponsor Orica. Guests also received a swag of Orica-GreenEDGE Backstage passes.
The biggest news of the night for me personally was that Gerry Ryan’s comments that Cavendish approached them late last year and was interested in joining but it ultimately did not pan out. I am not surprised Cav considered GreenEDGE. It is a young team full of sprinters, so a big lead-out train and continuing to work with Goss would have been something Cav would certainly have been keen to continue.
The dinner was a great success and highlight the sports growing popularity among Australians.
The 2012 GC is being billed as a two horse race but anything can happen in the three week event. Contador was involved in multiple crashes last year, and while none was major enough to see him withdraw, it did impact his times and it clearly had an impact on his performance.
Wiggins crashed out on stage seven of the 2011 and broke his collarbone, which was his 2011 Tour de France done. Wiggins is a rider that will really need his team to be around and protect him as he does get a bit nervy. The same could have been said for Cadel a few years ago but I think he has matured greatly in the last few years.
He has also been in the second twice by a margin of about a minute so he has shown he belongs on the podium. Wiggins best at the Tour de France was fourth in 2009.
There are probably five riders, in my opinion, who are a chance of winning with Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins the clear favourites. Rounding out the top five are Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Samuel Sanchez who rides for the ‘bleeding carrots’ Euskaltel-Euskadi. All these riders palmarès certainly support them being a chance for a top-five finish.
BMC picked their team overnight – refer below for roster. BMC Sport Director John Lelangue said the eight riders joining Evans will solely devote their efforts toward helping him become the Tour’s first back-to-back winner since 2005. Seven of the eight raced together at the Critérium du Dauphiné – where Evans finished third – and none of them competed in the Giro d’Italia.
“We have one objective: to defend Cadel’s title and bring him to the podium in Paris,” Lelangue said. “Everyone will know clearly what their job is during the three weeks of racing. Our roster has a really good balance, especially considering the parcours (profile of the race stages).”
Evans said he is buoyed by confidence gained from his first Tour victory last year in seven appearances. “I know now that I can win it and my lead-up this year is nearly identical to what we did last year,” he said.
“We’re bringing an even stronger team to the Tour this year and the route would seem to favour me. But the time trials will change the dynamics of the race and some of the tactics of my rivals. But like last year, I’ll go to the Tour with my own plan, to ride my own race.”
Another team which will create plenty of moments in the Tour is Omega Pharma-Quickstep. Tony Martin is my tip to go into Yellow in the Liege Prologue and the French duo of Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau are attacking style riders and will look to get into breaks and push the pace when they can right from the get go.
The Green jersey, which is the one I am most interested in, will be an absolute screamer. I probably rate Mark Cavendish’s chance of making the Sky team about 20% at this point. I realise he said he would commit to finishing the whole race but after just completing the entire Giro, I really don’t see him going into the tour with a view to finishing it. The Olympics are a week after that and the World Champs a little further on.
Cav was the only male British track cyclist to not have picked up gold at Beijing in ’08 so winning an Olympic gold medal is still something he has a huge desire to obtain. He can still go after the record of most amount of Grand Tour stage wins as he has plenty of time left in the sport but a gold medal in four years time might be a stretch. For Cav to contemplate completing both the Giro and Tour de France and then going after the Gold is just not something I see him being able to realistically achieve. Cav being included/excluded also has a substantial bearing on the teams aspirations for the Yellow. If Cav is included I see this as a plus for Cadel.
So if Cav is not going to be there at the end then who is the favourite for the Green Jersey? Orica-GreenEDGE Sports Director Matt White said that their goal was to win a stage at the Tour de France. I think they might be trying to fly under the radar a tad, because Goss is a good chance for the Green, but personally I think Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) is the (very) slight favourite for the Green. His form this year has been absolutely devastating and I think he is on the cusp of taking himself to the next level.
Sagan’s biggest challenge will be the make-up of his team. Nibali is in good form and I believe a top-five contender, so much of the team will be dedicated to him. With the sprints these days it is often a case of sheer numbers and Orica-GreenEDGE and Lotto will have the most numbers for sprints throughout the Tour. With that said Sagan just can’t stop winning this year and he has shown he can get himself into good positions even with decent size lead out trains from other teams.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) is another guy who has shown some blistering form this year – he took two stages wins at Ster ZLM Toer in the last week over Cavendish, Griepel and Renshaw and I think he will win a stage in the first week but I he will struggle to get over the climbs given his size. He may well miss the cut-off, so the Green Jersey is a stretch too far. I believe the same can be said for Griepel who is named to race but I believe will pull out after a week of racing. I temper this comment with the fact that his sprint train forms the nucleus of the team.
Kittel publicly stated at the team announcement “I’m going to France to challenge Cavendish,”. Also keep an eye on Koen de Kort who will be his lead out man. Koen spends a huge amount of time in Australia and will be covering the Tour for the AFR. He is also heavily involved in the AFR corporate cycling challenge which is something that will grow in popularity in the years to come.
Renshaw is another who could challenge for the Green, but he will have to do a substantial amount of work on his own. He still remains the best lead out man in the business which means he is the best at getting you to the ~200m mark. The best sprinters are those that take the last 200m. I think Renshaw is a major talent and I would personally love to see him pick up a few stage wins and have a crack at the Green Jersey but I will stick with Sagan and Gossy as the two blokes to duke it out as both should be able to get through the mountains in ok shape.
The teams are starting to flow in – I have included what has been publicly made available thus far:
BMC: Cadel Evans, Marcus Burghardt, George Hincapie, Amaël Moinard, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Schär are returning from last year’s Tour team. Joining them will be three riders new to BMC this year: Steve Cummings, Philippe Gilbert and Tejay van Garderen.
Radioshack-Nissan: Chris Horner, Fabian Cancellara, Tony Gallopin, Andreas Klöden, Maxime Monfort, Yaroslav Popovych, Fränk Schleck, Jens Voigt and Haimar Zubeldia
Rabobank: Laurens Ten Dam, Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk, Bauke Mollema (GC), Mark Renshaw, Luis Leon Sanchez, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii and Maarten Wynants
Argos-Shimano: Marcel Kittel (Ger), Patrick Gretsch (Ger), Roy Curvers (Ned), Koen de Kort (Ned), Tom Veelers (Ned), Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger), Matthieu Sprick (Fra), Albert Timmer (Ned) and Yann Huguet (Fra).
Katusha: Giampaolo Caruso, Oscar Freire, Vladimir Gusev, Joan Horrach, Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Denis Menchov, Luca Paolini, Yuriy Trofimov and Eduard Vorganov.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep: Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin De Weert, Dries Devenyns, Bert Grabsch, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Jerome Pineau, Stijn Vandenbergh, Peter Velits.
Lotto-Belisol: Andre Griepel, Lars Bak, Francis De Greef, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert
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