The final Grand Tour of the cycling season begins tonight with the 2020 edition of the Vuelta España.
While there is no question winning – and even finishing – the Tour de France is a team effort, inevitably only one man in a team of nine will be covered in glory at the finish line.
Today we look at the team leaders of seven of the 22 teams lining up for the 2013 Tour de France, including our very own Tour hopeful Cadel Evans and Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan:
Leader: Jean-Christophe Péraud.
Goal: Top 10 on general classification.
Roar prediction: Leaving Carlos Betancur at home is a mistake.
The AG2R squad is all French. Not a single foreigner. More French than Gerard Depardieu dipping a croissant in a bucket of champagne while wearing Chanel No.5 and singing Edith Piaf as he rides a Peugeot.
The brown shorts will be led by the 36 year-old former mountain biker Frenchman Jean-Christophe Péraud, whose best place finish at the Tour was ninth, in 2011.
So far, this sounds less than promising, but France’s Péraud has had an excellent season, with a third place overall at Paris-Nice, fifth at the Criterium International, and sixth at the Tour of Romandie.
A top 10 finish in the GC should be a realistic goal for this distinctly Gallic team, with the support of Frenchman Maxime Bouet, France’s Romain Bardet, and Samuel Dumoulin of France.
French riders Christophe Riblon, Blel Kadri, Hubert Dupont, Sébastien Minard and Christophe Riblon, all of France, will be riding in support of Péraud.
Colombian sensation Carlos Betancur and Italian climber Rinaldo Nocentini were left out of the AG2R squad on grounds of form, obviously.
Leader: John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel.
Goal: Sprint stages.
Roar prediction: Two of the biggest threats outside of Cavendish/Greipel.
Argos-Shimano has taken the unusual step of naming two sprinters as leaders. Normally you’d expect a debilitating clash of egos as they fought each other for the same leadout wheel, but Degenkolb and Kittel seem to actually get on with each other.
Officially, Kittel is the man for the flat sprints, and Degenkolb gets first dibs on the hilly sprints. In reality, they’ll both be going for every sprint on offer.
Hopefully they can stay out of each other’s way.
Leader: Jakob Fuglsang.
Goal: Top 10 on GC.
Roar prediction: A strong team won’t be enough to get Fuglsang onto the podium.
Astana has the best stage racer in the world at the moment, Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali, but he’s not riding the Tour. Instead, the teal army will be led by the relatively unknown Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark.
Fuglsang rode to a strong fourth place overall at the Dauphine and, if a crash last week at the team training camp in Tenerife hasn’t done too much damage, he should be considered an outside podium chance, given his climbing ability and strength against the clock.
The Kazakh team has a chequered history with this race, having been booted off the Tour for doping (2007), and being the scene of a memorable feud between Alberto Contador and a returning Lance Armstrong, as Contador went on to win (2009).
in 2013, Astana is one of the few teams with the depth to control a Grand Tour, and they will be one of the keys to upsetting Sky’s rhythm.
Unfortunately with such a history of doping and alleged bribery, they’re still a difficult team to love.
Leader: Bauke Mollema.
Goal: Top 10 on GC.
Roar prediction: Perhaps a top 10, but stage wins are a better option for the Dutch rouleurs.
A new sponsor and a new leader for the team formerly-known-as-Blanco.
Bauke Mollema is the newly-sponsored team’s leader, getting the nod over perennial next-big-thing Robert Gesink, who will ride in support.
Blanco Directeur Sportif Nico Verhoeven had this to say about the team’s aims for Mollema:
“We are looking to score a good classification with him. We are aiming for the top ten but in fact we’re simply trying for the maximum achievable.
“We could say that we’d like Bauke to finish fourth, but if he then finishes fourth when second was within grasp, I’d say we’d be less satisfied.
“But if it turns out that he is seventh and that is the best result we could have expected, then we’d be happy with that.”
So, that’s pretty clear, then.
Blanco brings plenty of other cards to the table, with Sep Vanmarcke and Lars Boom providing some serious punch, and Laurens ten Dam also dangerous in a breakaway.
Leader: Cadel Evans.
Goal: Overall victory.
Roar prediction: Evans has one more big Tour in him.
BMC has faced the age-old Hollywood dilemma in selecting its leader. Do you pick a proven veteran who many suspect is past his best, or a young star bursting with potential but without the hard-won experience of his elder rival?
BMC management has decided that Cadel Evans is, after his strong ride at the Giro, definitely not too old for this shit.
Evans’ third place at the Giro shows he is in much better form than in 2012, even if he was not quite at his best on the steeper climbs and in the individual time trial, where he dropped big chunks of time to Nibali.
Evans seems confident he will recover properly from his Giro exertions, and seems happy with the team around him:
“I am happy to have my three ‘guardian angels’ – (Manuel) Quinziato, (Marcus) Burghardt and (Michael) Schär – around me, plus Brent (Bookwalter), Amaël (Moinard) and Steve (Morabito) from our successful 2011 team.
“And with Tejay (van Garderen) coming into the mix, we are a lot stronger in the mountains than in past years.”
Tejay Van Garderen is named as a support rider for at least one more year, but if Evans has a bad day in the Alps, expect his understudy to pounce.
The young American is fresh and confident from his first stage race victory in the Tour of California, and has been talking the talk about being ready for Grand Tour success.
Philippe Gilbert is the other top rider for BMC, and will be trying to pinch stage wins, after another slow start to the year.
Leader: Peter Sagan.
Goal: Green jersey and multiple stage wins.
Roar prediction: Sagan to arm-wrestle Cavendish for green jersey dominance.
Peter Sagan is the designated Cannondale leader, and the team will focus on stage wins and the green jersey.
As the team’s website says, Sagan’s aim is “to try to win again the points classification and be one of the stars of the race” – it’s hard to see Sagan doing anything but starring, although he’ll have stiff competition for the green jersey from Mark Cavendish.
It’s a little while since Cannondale (or its previous iterations) arrived at Le Tour without a GC hope, but with Ivan Basso recovering from a bout of saddle sores that forced him to stand out of the Giro, and the departure of Vincenzo Nibali since last year, the team is relying on Sagan to produce some fireworks.
Italian rising star Moreno Moser is Cannondale’s second leader, in his first Grand Tour. Moser won Strade Bianche earlier this year, and seemed set for a breakout classics campaign, but his form has been underwhelming since. Moser has been given a licence to hunt stage wins, which for him means getting in breakaways.
Leader: Jérôme Coppel, Dani Navarro, Rein Taaramae.
Goal: TV coverage.
Roar prediction: a team divided is a team that won’t win anything.
The French team with the sharpest kit in pro cycling has named three leaders for the Tour: Jérôme Coppel, Dani Navarro, and Rein Taaramae.
You may think it’s strange to name one-third of your team as leaders. I think it’s pretty clear the team doesn’t really know who’s going to be in the best shape after a week.
Navarro’s best result this year is fifth overall at the Dauphine, where he looked really strong, and to me he is the most likely captain when the race hits its stride.
Taaramae finished 11th at the 2011 Tour, but hasn’t had a great 2013 apart from the Estonian national championships, which isn’t exactly top-tier competition. He is a good climber, but whether he can stay with the elite group in the big mountains is another question.
Coppel also hasn’t set the world on fire this year, but at least he’s French, and a French team needs a French leader (see AG2R).