I haven’t done a cycling blog for a while so thought what better way then go and have a crack and giving everyone a team-by-team overview of this years Tour de France. With all the teams now announced for #TDF2017 my Tour de France 2017 – Startlist preview will attempt to break-down each team, pick out a few individual riders and make some race predictions. I’m actively trying to make a few more left field choices rather than a more conservative approach I’ve had in earlier blogs.
All images of teams from www.procyclingstats.com
So will Froome claim his fourth maillot jaune, will Sagan arrive in Paris wearing Green and how will ‘Old Tommy’ get on?
Team Sagan! Sagan will be going for green again this year with 2017 probably being the toughest test for him. Could we see another rider wearing the maillot vert for the first time since 2011. Sagan’s unique set of abilities have allowed him to dominate the points classification for the past five years. But this years race has a number of pure sprinters stages and the emergence of similar styled riders such as Bling Matthews, Ben Swift and Greg Van Avermaet could see Sagan struggle to assert his dominance. With all this in mind it is still Sagan vs the rest in many peoples eyes. Sagan is joined in BORA – hansgrohe first Tour de France line-up with former Tinkoff teammate Rafal Majka. Majka finished in Paris last year wearing the Polka-dot jersey. This year could see him make an attempt to regain his jersey, the last rider to do so was Michael Rasmussen in 2006. He may of earn-marked a high placing GC rankings but the BORA support riders seem more suited for breakaways and Sagan support rather than any mountain lieutenants (Emanuel Buchmann being the only exception)
Majka to win the mountains classification
Team Katusha – Alpecin
Alexander Kristoff will lead the line for Katusha this year. The squad contain three germans including TT World Champ Tony Martin. Martin will be aiming to claim the first stage TT in Dusseldorf and the first yellow jersey of the 2017 Tour. After a little blip in his TT career in recent years, Martin is back in fine form and if he does claim yellow he could be wearing it for a few stages. The other main rider in Katusha’s line-up is Norwegian Alexander Kristoff. if the rumours are true of Katusha not willing to meet his wage demands in regards to his recent returns, we could see a fired up Kristoff racing to earn his pay packet or a new team. The first week will look promising to the Norwegian sprinters with big long stages all over 200k, he has usually got a little more in the tank over some of the more purer sprinters, which could see him take an early lead in the points classification and hopefully his form will follow him to the champs elysees.
Alexander Kristoff to win the points classification
Tony Martin to win stage one and take yellow in Dusseldorf (and probably keep hold of it until stage five)
You could argue Team Sky are taking five GC contenders to this years tour. Froome will obviously lead Team Sky, aiming for his fourth maillot jaune. Thomas, Landa, Nieve and Heano provide the plan ‘B’ for Sky. The squad also includes German veteran Christian Knees, Vasil Kiryienka, Michal Kwiatkowski and Luke Rowe. For the first time since his winning run began, Chris Froome enters the tour win-less in the lead up to the Tour. The route is against him with the lack of TT time but he still enters the race favourite, with his ability to complete on almost any terrain. Expect the full team to be behind Froome, so whilst he remains in the race i would rule any other sky rider claiming a stage.
Froome not to finish! – I hope I’m wrong.
Landa to go for a giro-tour KOM double?
Thomas to finish top 10.
BMC Racing Team
Can Porte do it? Will the Australian have the support he needs? What is GVA’s plan? These are a few questions surrounding BMC. There is no question Richie Porte is entering the race as the form rider, like Froome he will be hampered by the lack of TT miles but still use the two opportunities he has to make inroads into the pure climbers. Unfortunately I find myself thinking not if, but when will something go wrong for Porte; Illness, Badly timed crash or will he just not have the legs to go the full three weeks. I hope I’m wrong and he finishes second to Froome, pushing him all the way. But I just can’t see it. GVA will be given a free role, he won’t be much use to Porte in the mountains, and BMC have enough domestiques to look after Porte in any terrain. He will probably go solo, follow Sagan and battle for points and possible the odd breakaway.
Porte not to finish and/or suffer in the third week.
GVA to join Sagan in break points hunting.
From Ski-jumper to Tour de France leader in 6 years! It is pretty amazing reading about Roglic, I think he will face a baptism of fire in France but hopefully he will come out the other side from it. It would be one hell of a story if he got top 10, never mind finishing on the podium. If he can stay in contention for one or two weeks. I think it will give him a great amount of confidence and he may than choose to attempt a more TT friendly Grand Tour next year. Dylan Groenwegen is the sprinter for Lotto NLJumbo and he can mix it up with the true fast men.
Roglic to wear yellow.
Groenewegen stage victory
Chaves going under the radar? Does he have the support? I think Chaves will finish in the top 10 if he finishes the tour but this year has offered little to get the Colombian fans excited. He could even find himself riding for Yates if he has a few really bad days or he is pretty comfortable in the top 10 and Yates needs the help to secure the white jersey.
I have no bloody idea what ORICA-Scott will be like!
Yates to defend his brothers white jersey.
Trek – Segafredo
Last through of the dice for Bertie. Contador attempts the Tour with Trek for the first time with support from Bauke Mollema & Jarlison Pantano. He cannot be under estimated but doesn’t look to be at the same calibre of rider he has in recent years, could age be catching up with ‘El Pistolero’. As mentioned earlier in my Tour de France 2017 – Startlist preview, Trek have a very good plan ‘B’ in Mollema and could even use him up the road to force the other dominant GC teams to work. Trek also contains roulers such as Fabio Felline who is overdue a big win and John Degenkolb. I think Degenkolb will fair well and seems to be back on the mend after his horror crash on a training ride wiped out most of last year. He will be up there on the true flats, and if the course gets a little more enduring or technical he will be up there with Sagan challenging.
*Update after blog went out* Andre Cardoso has tested positive so will be replaced by 40 year old Haimar Zubeldia, who can hopefully get into a move and win his first stage in a grand tour for the 28th time of asking*
Contador & Mollema to finish top 10.
Degenkolb to win at least one stage.
I’m looking for an exciting race from Lotto Soudal, Greipel for the flats, De Gendt for KOM, and Benoot, Wellens and Gallopin to take any opportunity they can get there hands on. The sprinters this year are a tricky one, Is Greipel feeling the effects of age, is Cav recovered, can Kristoff silence the doubters and are any of these up to challenge a in-form Kittel.
Greipel to start well, but fade?
De Gendt to be the break-away king again.
Fortuneo – Vital Concept
Expect a FVC man to make most of the breaks in this years tour.The team is made up entirely of Frenchmen apart from Argentinian Sepulveda and Britain Dan McLay. McLay had a breakthrough tour last year with the french pro-continental outfit, featuring in many of the flat finishes. Can he go one better this year? There is just the small matter of Kittel, Cav, Sagan, Kristoff, Greipel and a host of World Tour sprinters in his way. FVC’s other prominent rider is Eduardo Sepulveda. He impressed a few years back at the Tour of Turkey, and could possibly feature in some of this years climbs. Especially with the lack of Quintana friendly super summits, Sepulveda should be able to better his Tour de France best finish of 59th.
McLay to get a few top 5 finishes.
FVC to be well represented in the break.
Sepulveda to finish top 20.
Astana Pro Team
Can the Aru & Fuglsang combination undo the Sky, Movistar and BMC GC approach. I’m not sure about everyone else but I’ve never been a fan of Astana. But now with Nibali departing and the tragic events surrounding Michelle Scarponi early in the year. I can’t help but wanting them to do well. Fuglsang impressed at the recent Criterium Dauphine, and really has earned his right to lead a Grand Tour. Aru was unlucky to miss out on the Giro and therefore shifted his focus to the Tour, could Astana ride in a similar fashion to last years Giro. Attacking from the world go and making the Movistar, Sky stranglehold of the peloton tire. Astana don’t have a team filled with experience mountain domestiques (with only Dario Cataldo offerign any support).
Aru or Fuglsang to win it!
A stage in for Astana.
Welcome to the Tommy Farewell tour. No Bryan? Like most people I’m a little confused about the Direct Energie team. Bryan Coquard came as close as you can finically come to winning a stage at the tour last year, without actually winning it *we are talking millimetres). He recently decided his career needed a rejuvenation at World tour level, as many suspected. This has seemingly cost him his place at this years tour. Although you may see the point to Direct Energie’s approach he is still undoubtedly there best chance of a stage victory at the Tour, which is surely the team and sponsors aim no matter which rider wins it. Instead Direct Energie have seemingly built a team around Thomas Voeckler, a break away specialist who would be quiet happy to ride the tour by himself. He just floats around the peloton, looking for opportunities. Direct Energie have given a tour debut to impressive frenchman Thomas Boudet in Coquard’s absence. Boudat may be able to call on the service of Gene and Petit in the sprints (although Petit may also get a chance on the flats). I’ve been impressed with Boudat for a while , and although I don’t think he is at the stage to take a stage, he may provide the same surprises as Dan McLay did in 2016.
Voeckler to get close, but leave the tour empty handed.
Boudat to impress in Coquards absence.
Calmejane to get in breaks, could he step into Tommy’s shoes after this year.
AG2R La Mondiale
Bardet’s best chance. The lack of TT’s and the questionable form of the old guard (Contador, Froome and Quintana) Could open the door perfectly for the frenchman. He has raced the previous four editions of the tour never finishing lower than 15th (on his debut). It is easy to forget he was the runner up in 2016. He is starting with one of the strongest Ag2R teams i’ve sen in recent years with Mathias Frank, Pierre Latour, Axel Domont and Alexis Vuillermoz for direct support. The team also boast recently crowned Belgian champion Oli Naesen.
Latour to impress alongside Bardet
Bardet to win, but definitely podium.
Wanty – Groupe Gobert
No Tour experience could make an exciting prospect for the Belgium pro-conti team. The teams stand out riders are Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Dion Smith (formerly of ONE pro cycling) and Guillaume Martin. Van Keirsbulck is a 26 year-old one day Belgian racer and could target the transitional stages, but he can also sprint. So if he finds himself in a reduced bunch, he may be able to squeeze a victory. Guillaume Martin will be a man for the mountain breaks and will be active throughout the race.
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck to get a few WT admirers.
Can Cavendish get any closer to 34 stages. He has only recently recovered from his Glandular fever and was unable to challenge at the Tour of Slovenia and the British Road Race championships, a race which teammate Steve Cummings won. Cav’s lead out looks as imperative as ever Eisel, Boasson Hagen, Janse Van Rensburg, Yorkshireman Scott Thwaites and right-hand man Mark Renshaw. This lTour sees Steve Cummings donning the British road & TT champions jersey for the first time and he and Tour de Yorkshire champion Serge Pauwels to hunt for solo victories in the mountains.
Cummings and Pauwels to light-up the break away stages in the mountains.
Not so confident about Cav’s chances.
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Bouhanni and his bunch will be about the sprints again in 2017.The two spaniards Luis Angel Maté and Daniel Navarro are the only two riders not involved in propelling Bouhanni on the flats, so will loose time early doors and get motoring in the hills.
Bouhanni to get a stage win.
Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team
After finally breaking there World Tour curse in May, Cannondale have assembled a team all about the stage victories. Teh two riders who secured there victories in may are included in the squad. Talansky took a stage at the Tour of California and Pierre Rolland rode to a victory on stage 17 of the Giro D’Italia. The squad is seemingly made up of two styles climbers, but with no real GC focus and roulers for breakaway victories. The climbers include Rolland, Talansky, Uran. The roulers include Phinney, Clarke, Bettiol, Bevin, Van Baarle and Brown. Apart from stages the tactics are not to clear to me. Rolland will probably fade due to the Giro whilst Talanksy probably has the best chance of a high place finish.
Expect a green jersey in the break!
Talanksy to finsih top 7.
Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team
Ion Izagirre gets his chance in Nibali’s pet project. Bahrain also have Sonny Colbrelli who could upset some sprinters in the more taxing stages. Izagirre is a great time-trialist and climber, and having being the bridesmaid at Movistar for a few years under Valverde and Quintana. He now gets the chance to race his own race with the support of his Bahrain team. He is a classy rider and expect him to be with the top calibre riders throughout the tour.
Izagiree to finish top 5.
Arnaud DeMare will lead FDJ in search of his first Grand Tour win. FDJ also have Thibaut Pinot and Arthur Vichot for stage victories on the less sprinter friendly stages. Pinot rode the Giro and took a victory on stage 20. With no team around him he may be in a similar position to Rafal Majka, he may fight for podium in the initial weeks but use the third week fighting for points. His time losses may free him up to go for stage victories, which the french public would love. After winning Mialn-SanRemo, DeMare has established himself as a world class sprinter. His best finish on a Tour de France stage is third, but I expect him to improve on that at this years tour.
Pinot to go for KOM points.
Pinot to win a big mountain stage.
Demare to win a stage.
Nairo Quintana attempts to get his season back on track after missing out on the Giro. He will be supported by a formidable team including evergreen Alejandro Valverde. Quintana started 2017 with the target of the Giro-Tour double. By finishing 2nd and 31 seconds down on Tom Dumoulin in the Giro he now has the task of at getting his season back on track. Undoubtedly a tour victory would wipe away any pain of missing out on the Giro. But I feel the Giro may of just taken to much out of the Colombian. the Movistar roster also looks a little ‘light’ in relation to recent Tour rosters. There are no doubt Betancur, Valverde, Amador, Castroviejo & Herrada are classy riders but with Gorka and Ion Izagirre added a large amounts of security in the mountains for Quintana. Last year also saw Daniel Moreno and Anacona help Quintana in search of the yellow jersey. The team is rounded off by Ervitti, Sutterlin and Bennati who will predominately work on the flat and transitional stages. I hope Movistar let Jasha Sutterlin go full gas in Dusseldorf for an outside chance of the stage in Germany.
Quintana not to reach Paris
Valverde to claim a top 5 finish and a stage victory.
Betancur to go on numerous adventures.
UAE Team Emirates
UAE make there Tour debut and will look to establish themselves and possibly secure a stage victory and the white jersey. Atapuma, Swift and Ulissi offer the best opportunity for stage victories. Darwin Atapuma will be a man for the mountain breaks, Meintjies will find it difficult to get the freedom required for a stage victory if he is cementing a top 10 place and white jersey classification. He will try and spend a lot of his time in the lead group rubbing shoulders with Froome, Quintana and Contador. Ben Swift will look for opportunities in the flats and on the more transitional stages. He recently shoed in the Dauphine his climbing capabilities so you may see him in the odd break of two. Expect to see plenty of UAE jerseys in the breaks throughout July.
Louis Meintjes to finish top 15 and second in the white jersey classification.
Ben Swift to come close.
Diego Ullise takes a stage.
Quickstep were the last team to finalise there roster for the 104th Tour de France. They took there time! There team is headlined by German Marcel Kittel, who goes into the race as the sprinter to beat. He goes in with a formidable train and sense says he could leave the tour with a number of stage victories. Another question is were will he ride next year, does one team have the capabilities to keep Gaviria and Kittel in there ranks. If true, Kittel could use the tour to place himself firmly in the shop window and certify his position as the number 1 sprinter in the world. Quickstep is also made up of Irishman Dan Martin, I know it’s crazy but I’ve just got a funny feeling regarding Martin and this years Tour, with the lack of TT’s and super summits. The more punchy climbs could really play into the hands of the ardennes specialist. I think he could podium, and at 100/1 is he worth a punt. He will not have a team to support him and how much attention and support may depend on Kittel’s dominance. Defiantly an interesting back story to follow in this years Tour. The team also includes Phillipe Gilbert, Ginaluca Brambilla and Jack Bauer. Who may offer a little support to Dan Martin’s efforts will probably also be ont he look out for late attacks, breaks and stage victories.
Dan Martin to finish top 5.
Marcel Kittel to take a number of stages.
I hope you enjoyed the blog. I only really do this for myself and as you can probably tell, i’m not the most talented word-smith. But if you enjoyed the blog please feel free to drop me a tweet @Matt_Russell_92. Before the tour kicks off, I’m also hoping to do another road.cc fantasy blog as well.