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The underachievers of the Tour de France

Vincenzo Nibali can relax - today is a day for the sprinters. (Photo via Team Sky).
Roar Guru
29th July, 2015
10

Every Tour de France, there are riders or teams that do not get the luck they were hoping for. Let’s have a look at the riders and teams that did not achieve what they were hoping for this year.

Orica-GreenEDGE
After an unlucky tour in 2014, where Michael Matthews crashed in training just prior to the event and Simon Gerrans crashed out during the race, this year Orica-GreenEDGE were hoping for stage wins.

Unfortunately, things did not go to plan.

On Stage 3 to the Mur de Huy, there was a large crash with over 50 kilometres to go, which brought down riders including Matthews, Gerrans, Darryl Impey, Simon Yates and Michael Albasini.

Both Impey and Gerrans retired immediately from the race, with Albasini crashing out a few stages later.

Matthews gallantly struggled through the rest of the tour, a sign of his courage and strength. He will be a better rider having gone through this experience.

It was not all doom and gloom for the team though, with the performances of both Yates brothers showing that there is a very bright future for the team.

Vincenzo Nibali
You would not think that a stage winner of the Tour de France would be considered as having underperformed, but for Vincenzo Nibali, that is exactly what happened.

Last year Nibali won the tour convincingly, with help from the fact that both Alberto Contador and Chris Froome crashed out. This year was to be the ultimate test of Nibali’s ability.

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Nibali lost time on Stage 8 up the Mur de Bretagne, and then on stage 10 to La Pierre St Martin, he cracked early and ended up losing over four minutes, effectively ruling him out for the yellow jersey.

Nibali regained form through the rest of the Pyrenees, and he was full of attacks on Stage 19 in the Alps, riding to a wonderful solo win up La Toussuire.

It was a frustrating tour for him, but he fought well to get a result out of it. Fourth place is a very respectable finish, but he would have expected more.

Cannondale-Garmin
Cannondale-Garmin has to be one of the most frustrating teams in the peloton to watch. With a very strong roster, they have consistently under-performed at Grand Tours, and this year’s Tour de France was no exception.

Their tour can be summed up by Stage 11 to the town of Cauterets. The riders faced six classified climbs, including the Col d’Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet. The original breakaway got away before the climb of the Col d’Aspin, with no Cannondale-Garmin riders in the break.

Dan Martin made a solo move over the Col d’Aspin to get across to break, but he went too deep and was dropped by Rafal Majka over the Tourmalet. He ended up finishing second.

If Martin made the break he could have won the stage, but it is the Cannondale-Garmin way to make things hard for themselves.

In terms of their general classification hope, Andrew Talansky struggled for most of the Tour. He lost time in the crosswinds on Stage 2 and on the uphill finishes on the Mur de Huy and Mûr de Bretagne. Like teammate Martin, he also suffered on the first mountain stage to La Pierre St Martin, losing more than 11 minutes to stage winner Froome.

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To his credit though, he did get a few breakaways, but again no results to speak of.

Once again for this team, so close yet so far…

Rigoberto Uran
Etixx Quickstep had a strong Tour, with stage wins to three of their riders, while Tony Martin claimed the yellow jersey on Stage 4.

However the performance of Rigoberto Uran was less than inspiring.

Uran finished strongly at the Giro d’Italia in both 2013 and 2014, so it was expected that he would be in contention for a top-five result. He has had a decent season to date, with a third place in Tirreno-Adriatico, and top fives in both the Volta a Catalunya and Tour of Romandie.

However in the first day in the Pyrenees he cracked early on the final climb and lost all hope of challenging. However, Uran had two top-five finishes from breakaways in the last week, making himself somewhat useful to the team.

The injured and sick
As with any Grand Tour, there is always a chance of riders being involved in crashes and getting sick throughout the tour. In total this year 189 riders began the Tour, but only 154 finished.

Two riders who failed to finish were Wilco Kelderman and Tejay van Gardaren, both regarded as strong general classification riders.

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After a promising performance at the Criterium du Dauphine, everything looked good for Van Gardaren to at least post a top five in this race. Things looked even better after a very solid first week, finishing in the front group in the crosswinds of Stage 2, and only losing minimal time to Froome on the Stage 3 finish of the Mur de Huy.

Things though started to go wrong on the first summit finish, to La Pierre St Martin, where he finished 10th – behind less accomplished riders like Adam Yates and Tony Gallopin – to lose 2 minutes 30 seconds to Froome. At this stage of the race though, Van Gardaren was still second on GC.

On Stage 17, things went horribly wrong for the American, dropped on the early climbs of the day. He soon retired from the race, citing a respiratory infection as the cause of his sudden drop in performance.

Despite a fairly poor season to date, young Dutchman Kelderman was given a dual leadership role within Lotto-NL Jumbo, alongside Robert Gesink.

A top performance was taken away from Wilco on Stage 3, as he was caught up in the crash that took out Gerrans. To Kelderman’s credit, he did finish the tour, but not with the performances he would have wanted.

Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff
These three men were expected to dominate the tour after solid seasons to date – for the latter two, it had been their best seasons so far.

However, near misses and unlucky moments plagued their ability to take stage wins.

For Katusha, the Tour meant balancing the chances of both Joaquim Rodriguez and Kristoff. They had the squad to do so, but for Kristoff, losing Luca Paolini to a doping violation early on was a huge blow.

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On Stage 4 over the cobbles, Kristoff was one of the main favourites, but unfortunately he punctured twice, ending his chances for victory. For the rest of the Tour he could only muster two podium finishes.

Degenkolb fared only marginally better than Kristoff. Elevated to the top sprinter position by his Giant-Alpecin team due to the non-selection of the misfiring Marcel Kittel, Degenkolb would get his chance over the cobbles and the harder, hillier finishes.

On Stage 4, which suited him down to the ground after his win at Paris-Roubaix earlier in the year, he won the bunch gallop for second, only a couple of seconds behind stage winner Tony Martin. That type of luck continued for Degenkolb, as he finished in the top five on four more occasions, including second behind Andre Griepel on Stage 15.

Even though Sagan won the hearts of many with his attacking riding, he once again failed to win a stage at the Tour. He has now not won at the tour for 66 stages.

However he did feature on the podium on seven occasions and won the green jersey. But for a rider who is superb across so many types of terrain, you do expect more.

Is there any other names that fit this category?