by Justin DAVIS
PARIS, June 28, 2013 – The 22 teams of the Tour de France and their
key objectives in the June 29-July 21 race:
AG2R-La Mondiale (FRA)
Vincent Lavenu’s team will base its hopes mainly around climber/all-rounder
Jean-Christophe Peraud, although challenging the likes of Chris Froome (Sky)
or Alberto Contador (Saxo) for the yellow jersey could be a step too far for
Argos have few cards to play in the mountains or yellow jersey race but in
Marcel Kittel have an exciting young sprinter who will be among those aiming
to stop Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Omega) dominating the sprint stages.
Without team leader and recent Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali,
Astana will look to Danish all-rounder Jakob Fuglsang and Slovenian teammate
Janez Brajkovic to bring home a slice of glory from the hillier stages in the
Blanco’s team leader Robert Gesink will look to make amends following a
poor showing at the Giro d’Italia last month, but Blanco will also be hoping
Australians Jack Bobridge and Mark Renshaw, a sprinter, can contend for at
least a stage win.
Having won the Tour de France in 2011 with team leader Cadel Evans, BMC
look set to support the Australian again despite a poor performance last year,
which was later attributed to a viral infection. Evans will need strong
support, particularly from 24-year-old American climber Tejay Van Garderen.
Although all-rounder Ivan Basso is expected to line up, Cannondale’s
biggest chance of success if Slovakian Peter Sagan. He won’t win on a summit
finish or a time trial, but the 2012 green jersey champion can do so just
about everywhere else.
Cofidis have few big name stars in their ranks and who will also be
withouth resident climber David Moncoutie, who has now retired. A stage win
from anyone on the team would be a bonus amid what has been a mediocre season
Climber Pierre Rolland has been tipped as a future race winner, but the
Frenchman would realistically be happy with a stage win in the mountains.
Thomas Voeckler, the de facto team leader and last year’s polka dot jersey
(climbing) champion, will look to shine on the ‘punchier’ or mountain stages.
Samuel Sanchez will be talked of as a yellow jersey challenger in his
native Basque country, but the 2008 Olympic champion is likely to have more
modest ambitions. Victory from one of the two Pyrenean stages would be ideal.
Marc Madiot’s team contains a number of exciting young prospects in Thibaut
Pinot, a climber, sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, Yoann Offredo and Jeremy Roy. The
former Paris-Roubaix champion will expect one of them to come good, although
Pinot will also looking to improve on his impressive 10th place finish in 2012.
After abandoning the defence of his Giro d’Italia crown due to illness,
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal has a score to settle. He should have full support
from the experienced David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, climber Dan Martin
and all-rounder Tom Danielson. Tyler Farrar is their key sprinter while
exciting prospect Andrew Talansky is expected to debut.
Katusha’s ambitions lie squarely on the slights shoulder of 34-year-old
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez, who is said to have trained hard to make sure his
second participation is a success. After his runner-up place on last year’s
Giro, he did not participate this year in a bid to be fresh for the Tour.
Lampre have experience, in the shape of former Giro d’Italia champion
Damiano Cunego, but their best chance of a win from a mountainous or hilly
stage is likely to come through 23-year-old Diego Ulissi, who is making his
Lotto have a two-pronged approach. Andre Greipel is one of the world’s top
sprinters and should have use of a sprint ‘train’ for the flatter finishes in
the opening week. Jurgen Van den Broeck, meanwhile, will challenge for overall
honours a year on from his career-best fourth place finish.
Despite lacking a true yellow jersey contender, Movistar have a stable of
experienced and younger talents who should be protagonists throughout the
race. Alejandro Valverde and Rui Costa are good bets for a stage win on the
hillier or middle-mountain stages.
For the opening week, Omega-Pharma and their top sprinter Mark Cavendish
will be in the spotlight, even more so if the Briton does not add to his
stunning tally of 23 stage wins so far. On the hillier stages, Sylvain
Chavanel should contend while German Tony Martin is a favourite for the two
time trial stages.
The only Australian team in the race still has no yellow jersey contender
and so will look for stage win glory through sprinter Matt Goss, while Simon
Gerrans and Michael Albasini will be expected to be in contention on the
RadioShack will have an impressive line-up, but will 2010 Tour champion
Andy Schleck be ready to race? Schleck has been conspicuously absent for the
past two seasons but is said to be raring to go. It is perhaps just as well,
as powerful Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara – a sure bet for a stage win – will
not participate this year.
Alberto Contador will have strong support from key riders like Roman
Kreuziger, Michael Rogers and Nicolas Roche as he bids for a third yellow
jersey triumph having been stripped of his 2010 win to a positive doping test.
But it has been a mediocre season so far for the Spaniard, whose experience,
tactical nous and reliance on strong teammates will be crucial.
Missing their 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, Sky have the
luxury on calling on the runner-up last year, Chris Froome, to step up to the
plate. Froome has been on scintillating form all season and, thanks also to
the form of mountain helper Richie Porte, starts as the yellow jersey
After losing team leader Jerome Coppel at the end of last year, Sojasun
obtained their wildcard invitation by the skin of their teeth. If the modest
French outfit want to return in 2014, stage victories from the likes of
climber Brice Feillu and Julien Simon would be a bonus.
With their sponsor set to pull the plug at the end of the year, Vacansoleil
are on a mission to show they are worth investing in. Expect the likes of
all-rounder Thomas De Gendt, sprinter Romain Feillu, Juan Antonio Flecha and
Marco Marcato to try and shake up proceedings on a daily basis.