Every four years, I watch the Olympics, and every four years, I watch sports such as diving, swimming, and gymnastics, and question my life decisions.
Having looked at Cadel Evans in part one, we continue running the rule over the team leaders of the 2013 Tour de France and what they are each hoping to achieve on cycling’s grandest stage, including the man leading the charge for Orica-GreenEDGE.
Leader: Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland.
Goal: stage wins, polka dot jersey, top 10.
Roar prediction: Thomas Voeckler’s tongue to horrify millions of TV viewers.
Europcar is notorious for upstaging its supposed betters in French races – the team lives for the kind of constant breakaways and daring solo attempts that earn plenty of TV coverage for its sponsors.
Thomas Voeckler is the master of opportunistic stage wins, and is perhaps the best rider in the peloton at getting his mug on TV.
Meanwhile, his younger compatriot Pierre Rolland will be aiming for another top 10 finish, and perhaps a win on Mont Ventoux. That’s if he has recovered from being forced to withdraw from the Dauphine with low cortisol levels.
Low cortisol can be a sign of fatigue, but suspicious fingers have been waggling, because low cortisol can also be a sign of cortisone abuse.
Either way, we’ll be seeing plenty of Europcar’s green on display.
Goal: win a mountain stage, gain independence from Spain.
Roar prediction: a disastrous team time trial in stage four won’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
Euskatel is the team that everyone loves for their passion, their refusal to hire riders who can win stages on the flat, and their comical team time trial performances.
At the time of writing, Euskatel has yet to announce its team, but without their team leader Samuel Sanchez it’s difficult to see where stage wins will come from.
Leader: Thibaut Pinot, Nacer Bouhanni.
Goal: top 10 on GC for Pinot, stage wins to Bouhanni.
Roar prediction: Pinot to win on Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day.
FDJ will attack the Tour on two fronts: Thibaut Pinot in the GC and ace sprinter Nacer Bouhanni to mix things up on the flats.
Pinot had an outstanding debut in 2012, winning stage eight and finishing 10th overall, despite being the youngest rider in the race.
The expectation will be strong for the young French climber, but fourth overall at the Tour de Suisse and eighth at the Volta a Catalunya show Pinot is ready to improve on his first attempt.
If Pinot doesn’t try to win at the top of Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day, he’ll probably be asked to hand back his beret.
Meanwhile, Bouhanni has shown he can compete with the likes of Cavendish, Greipel, Goss and Degenkolb. A stage win might be beyond him at this level, but he’ll certainly be thereabouts on the flat stages. He will struggle when the road turns uphill.
Leader: Ryder Hesjedal, Dan Martin.
Goal: podium, stage wins.
Roar prediction: Ryder to battle for top 10.
It’s been an up-and-down year for the American argyle boys, with the big win to Dan Martin in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Rohan Dennis’ awesome ride in the Dauphine (eighth and best young rider overall), and Ramunas Navardauskis’ Giro stage win balanced by Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro catastrophe.
The team is leaving its team selection until a mere three days before the Tour begins, so I’m guessing here, but as a former Grand Tour winner, Ryder Hesjedal is surely the man to lead the squad. Assuming he’s recovered from that disastrous Giro.
Dan Martin would provide excellent support and could step into the leader role if required, but it’ll be interesting to see if Tyler Farrar gets a role chasing sprint stages. To be honest he looks outclassed against the top fast men.
Leader: Joaquim Rodriguez.
Goal: Overall victory.
Roar prediction: can do serious damage to Sky.
Katusha is going all-in with ‘Purito’ Rodriguez, supported by strong climbers Dani Moreno, Alberto Losada, and Yuriy Trofimov. It’s a powerful outfit, and the spearhead is a proven Grand Tour rider who could also win multiple stages.
Purito is an exhilarating rider when he’s in form: an explosive, punchy climber who likes to steal time at every opportunity.
Watch for him to attack within the final kilometre of any uphill finish, so he doesn’t give Sky’s tempo droids time to winch him back.
Leader: Michele Scarponi, Damiano Cunego.
Roar prediction: a top 10 for Scarponi, but you’ll never see him.
Lampre-Merida is another team yet to announce its Tour team, but Michele Scarponi is the Italian squad’s regular numero uno for the GC, and his second place in the Italian road race championships this week suggest he has recovered passably well from the Giro.
If he does race, he’s likely to find a place in the top ten overall, but unlikely to do anything exciting enough to get noticed.
His teammate Damiano Cunego is a likely second string, having passed on the Giro to be ready for the Tour.
Leader: Andre Greipel, Jurgen van den Broeck.
Goal: Sprints for Greipel, top five for van den Broeck.
Roar prediction: Greipel versus Cavendish is one of the most exciting battles of this Tour.
It’s the match-up we’ve been salivating over all year: the Gorilla versus the Missile.
The two kings of the bunch sprint have only clashed a handful of times this season, but both will be at the Tour in top form, with well-oiled trains battling for supremacy.
My opinion? Cav has the edge in top-end speed, but Greipel has the better leadout.
Jurgen van den Broeck has finished fourth in the Tour twice before, but hasn’t done much in his previous races this season, and suffered through the Dauphine with an illness. He’ll also be riding largely without support, with the team focused on Greipel.
You can never rule a rider of his calibre out, but I’d be surprised if he manages the step onto the podium.
Leader: Matt Goss.
Goal: stage wins.
Roar prediction: The Aussie squad desperately needs its first Tour stage victory, but it probably won’t come from Goss.
Orica-GreenEDGE has modified its strategy for the Tour this year, adding more winning options rather than throwing everything behind Matt Goss.
It’s a sensible move, with riders that can win from breakaways, on intermediate stages, and even on medium mountain stages. Expect OGE to throw the kitchen sink at this race.
Goss has not had his best season, and this Tour is full of sprint aces. It’s a tough gig. The good news is that he has come close on numerous occasions in recent months and, with a bit of luck, he could be bringing home a stuffed sponsor lion.
The other big intrigue for Aussie fans is whether a certain C. Meyer can continue his good form from the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse, and perhaps ride into a high GC finish.
Fingers and toes crossed.