Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
It’s the final countdown to the Grand Depart from Leeds, Yorkshire for the 101st edition of the Tour de France.
As team rosters are being finalised and attention turns to predictions and favourites, let’s take a moment to reflect on the riders who won’t be competing in the great race.
Both past winners and possible future champions will be missing.
Cadel Evans (BMC)
Am I alone in feeling a little heartbroken that the 2011 Tour winner won’t be there at the start line in Leeds? His absence is understandable given his intention to focus on the Giro d’Italia back in May, but there’s you just want him to be there.
There’s no getting around the fact he’s getting older. However, 37 is still young in my books and here’s hoping there are a few more good years of racing left in him. Just look at ‘shut up legs’ Jens Voigt (Trek). At 42 he’s fronting up for his 17th and final tour start. This puts him up there with with George Hincapie and Stuart O’Grady for most Tours record.
In June, Sean Lee lamented the absence of Cadel and while it’s true there are no obvious general classification hopefuls, there are still plenty of excellent Aussie riders to cheer on. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews, (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Michael Rogers (Tinkoff Saxo) are all capable of lighting fuses in a race, winning stages and have the potential to wear the coveted yellow.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
The 2012 winner, whose achievement as the first Brit to win the Tour earned him a knighthood, is again a no-show – a pity considering the race starts on British soil.
Wiggo’s crash at the recent Tour de Suisse contributed to Sky boss Dave Brailsford’s decision to leave him off the squad. Wiggo found form to win back the British time trial championship, but in the end even this was not enough to be considered for inclusion.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
The 24-year-old Colombian is the most exciting rider to have emerged in recent times. He finished second in last year’s Tour and won this year’s Giro in emphatic style, blowing every other rider away in the mountains.
The steeper the tilt in the road, the faster he goes. Quintana intends to be in the Tour next year and based on the kind of form he displayed in the Giro he will be a favourite.
A legend of pro cycling in the making? Just ask the cycling gods.
Wilco Kelderman (Belkin)
At 23, the Dutch rider debuted in his first Grand Tour at this year’s Giro with an attention-grabbing top ten general classification finish and fourth in the young rider ranking. He went on to finish fourth overall and win best young rider at the Criterium du Dauphine.
He has the makings of a Grand Tour winner and Australia’s Orica-GreenEDGE have their eye on him in their hunt for a GC rider.
Kelderman has his sights set on next year’s Tour and I can hardly wait to see how he’ll go. Also, Wilco Kelderman is a pretty cool name.
These are just a few omissions from the great race. Inevitably the champions of the past will make way for the champions of the future and right now the future of the Tour and cycling in general looks amazing.