Tour de France Teams Preview
As every year, INEOS is coming with the ambitions to do one thing and one thing only, to win the race. The team that focuses the best on it, entering the squad for the race is already a big task reserved for special riders. Thomas and Bernal come as co-leaders, Thomas with the biggest responsibility out of them but I think they will make for a perfect duo, having Wout Poels in the form he's shown at the Dauphiné is a big boost of confidence, Michal Kwiatkowski will keep his credentials as a vital all-round rider, Gianni Moscon and Jonathan Castroviejo are climbers/time-trialists/rouleurs, they can take all the positions needed for the strategy, Luke Rowe is road captain and flat worker pretty much and Dylan van Baarle has the last spot, a very powerful rider coming in great form, perfect for the flats and hills and very very solid for the mountains.
Astana Pro Team
After what has been a super season so far with no sign of slowing down, Astana is one of the teams coming with big ambitions and one of the strongest teams. Fuglsang comes as sole leader which should be better for the organization of the team, at the Dauphiné they looked very dialed and Fuglsang knows who will be up with him in the mountains, but there's also riders who will be good for breakaways and a more agressive strategy than the one INEOS will likely implement, with Pello Bilbao coming from the Giro, Alexey Lutsenko/Magnus Cort Nielsen/Hugo Houle are powerful riders good for positioning and powerful riding in the front, Omar Fraile and Luis Leon Sanchez aswell, more explosive riders suiting Fuglsang's skills and Gorka Izagirre should also be there until the end with the Dane.
Bahrain come with a bit unpredictable squad for the Tour. There is Vincenzo Nibali, he has said that only after the Vosges will he know if he's riding for GC or not. In case he does he will have good support, with Damiano Caruso and Dylan Teuns as majour domestiques. These 3 may be on the GC side but if that's not the choice, stage wins and the KOM classification are a real target. There's also Rohan Dennis, he was second in Suisse recently and looked very good, thriving on terrain he usually struggles which comes as a big motivation specially as he knows he's worked well to become a Grand Tour contender. The Slovenians Matej Mohoric and Jan Tratnik will be the main domestiques of the team with some breakaways in view possibly, same for Ivan Garcia Cortina and Sonny Colbrelli who will try to be up there in the sprints but will spark up the hilly stages.
After Dumoulin's absence anouncement Sunweb became a bit without a true way, as it was in the Giro. Wilco Kelderman is coming but he hasn't shown the best of him at all recently and maybe breakaways will be his target, but the team's real target will surely be the green jersey with Matthews but it won't be easy at all with such competition and Matthews's struggle for points in the pure sprints. Cees Bol, Nikias Arndt will be his leadout, Soren Kragh Andersen an all-round, strong rouleur good for hilly stage breakaways, Lennard Kamna, Chad Haga and Nicholas Roche will likely have the same target, aswell as helping Matthews where he needs it
Bora - Hansgrohe
Bora is another one of the absolute beastly teams present. Sagan leading the run for the green jersey, his main henchmen Daniel Oss and Lukas Postleberger will be vital for his run but Sagan can ride by himself easily in the final, Marcus Burghardt is road captain and will do the chasing in the flat stages, on the other side is Emanuel Buchmann and his GC target. He's a legitimate Top5 contender and has a strong set of riders backing him up, with Patrick Konrad mainly as he'll target the Tour this year, Gregor Muhlberger and specially Max Schachmann are very strong riders who are heavily hinted to take stages from the race, specially if the new German national champion shows the form he had in April.
UAE comes as an outsider team, two leaders that don't quite match the best expectations, but after seeing the brilliant race they did in the Giro nothing can be assumed about the performance, Alexander Kristoff is coming on one side to target the sprints, the first stage will suit him well in Belgian roads and he's got debutant Jasper Philipsen behind him, plus the Norwegians Sven Erik Bystrom and Vegard Stake Laengen will assist. On the other side is Dan Martin, he's been consistent this season and I'm expecting him to come to his best form in the Tour, he will need some luck to top his past results but he's evoluted into a very consistent and reliable GC contender, behind him are a trio of riders that I believe will want to pursue stage wins as much as helping Martin's ambitions, with Rui Costa and Sergio Henao on one side and a returning Fabio Aru, who is coming after a return to racing just some weeks ago, one of the biggest jokers in the race but I don't believe he's thinking of the overall.
Team Dimension Data
One of the last teams to announce, Dimension Data come with a team that is a bit shaky in terms of leaders but if they are strong it can work well. There's Michael Valgren and Roman Kreuziger who haven't had the best run of form this season who will be targeting stage wins alongside Ben King, one of the team's biggest prospects, and a veteran Steve Cummings who is back to the Tour but I'm not confident in his performance. The main focus of the team though may come in the sprints, I see Edvald Boasson Hagen targeting the green jersey, and perhaps a split-lead in the sprints alongside Giacomo Nizzolo it will depend on how the Norwegian is riding, with Reinardt Janse van Rensburg to lead them out and Lars Bak as road captain it's a team capable of pulling something big, maybe they just need to get a win to unblock them.
AG2R La Mondiale
As INEOS AG2R always bring their A-game to the Tour, with the French sponsor and French leaders nothing more would be expected. Romain Bardet is up for another tilt at the GC, this year he's coming up a bit less in form than last year but it may come as a good strategy for him. The team built a very strong and organized core around the Frenchman, with right-hand man Oliver Naesen and Alexis Gougeard set to be the main firepower in the flats and suport in positioning. Even though Latour's absence, the climbing core is also solid, with Tony Gallopin, Alexis Vuillermoz as main domestiques, Mathias Frank and Benoit Cosnefroy likely to target stage wins aswell, any of these is suited for it though.
Lotto come with a classic structure, with a big focus on the sprinter, in this case Caleb Ewan, and his leadout, with some strong riders looking for the breakaways. As they've looked good all season long, Jasper de Buyst and Roger Kluge will be the main support of the Australian, with Jens Keukeleire set to be an important piece aswell as targeting the more classic-like stages. On the other side are Tim Wellens and Thomas de Gendt, true power riders very capable of taking a win home, Tiesj Benoot who is still undefined wether he'll go for the GC or stage wins, but Maxime Monfort's presence as the last man may be a sign that the Belgian has long-term intention in the race.
The team's ambitions are the complete opposite of last year, Arnaud Dèmare and Thibaut Pinot switched places and this year the climber will have the full lead of the team, he's been having a very promising couple of seasons and looks to be in perfect condition to be in the contention of the race, and with the support it may be what he needs, with Sebastian Reichenbach with him as always, Rudy Molard and specially David Gaudu are set to be one of the strongest climbing teams in the race. Stefan Kung and Anthony Roux will likely want a stage win but with half focus, William Bonnet and Mathieu Ladagnous as the firepower to keep Pinot safe during the race.
Movistar come with a familiar ambition, with a share leadership between Quintana and Landa, both have shown good signs this season but above all they need to be strong enough and be able to profit from it, to race smart as Movistar did in the Giro. With Valverde and Soler, if they dedicate enough they have support to go hard on the climbs, they will have to be on the attack, no because they have the obbligation but because there are lots of climbers and alliances are the only way to possibly dethrone INEOS. Verona will be more support for the mountains, with Amador and Oliveira flats and time-trialing, with varied terrain skills and Erviti as road captain.
Jumbo-Visma come with a squad very similar to Bora, it's a perfect combination that comes as the squad is of immense quality. On one side is Steven Kruisjwijk, targeting another strong GC result and he will have big support of George Bennett and Laurens de Plus. On the other is Dylan Groenewegen, who has been very successful this season as been his prestine leadout Amund Grondahl Jansen and Mike Teunissen, a recipe for success in there. Backing all those riders are two absolute pwoerhouses, Wout van Aert, a strenght mainly for the leadouts and the time-trials, and Tony Martin, the same but positioning will be his priority, as road captain too. The team, besides that is perfectly suited for the TTT and I expect to see the men in yellow carrying an extra yellow jersey.
CCC come with the clear ambition of stage wins. It won't be an easy task, supposed leader Greg van Avermaet is a good bet for a stage win but the pressure and marking that's put on him everywhere he goes is his downside, it's very hard for him to win. The biggest chances should come from Alessandro De Marchi and Patrick Bevin, strong odds for the hilly stages. Serge Pauwels has been looking good in the climbs, KOM is a possibility, Simon Geschke, Michael Schar, Joey Rosskopf and Lukasz Wisniouwski will give some more chances, possibly help from the peloton aswell.
Deceuninck - Quickstep
Deceuninck bring an interesting team, the main focus is clear on Elia Viviani, with leadout Michael Morkov and Max Richeze present, Yves Lampart aswell. Kasper Asgreen will be of a help both to there and for Enric Mas who is the other team leader, he will target the overall but will be possibly the rider with least support, having the Dane and Dries Devenyns as support. Finally there's also Julian Alaphillipe, he'll surely have a free role, to target the hilly stages and the breakaways, the team can work for him in those days instead of Viviani but this is definetely a stage hunting team, targeting every classification is a possibility but they will surely be on the move during the race.
Mitchelton come with a very dynamic team, with Adam Yates coming with big ambitions for the overall and the team putting serious focus on him with a strong Jack Haig as main support, and, well Simon Yates aswell. Simon may in fact be the main support, no-one really knows how he will be as it seemed like a relatively unplanned coming to France, anyhow with Daryl Impey in the team Adam will have good support, as Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and Chris Juul-Jensen are set to be the firepower in the flats and the hills, aswell as suporting Matteo Trentin's sprint ambitions, that may be combined with points jersey ambitions.
EF Education First
The last team to anounce their team, EF come with ambitions of the overall and stage wins. Simon Clarke and Alberto Bettiol for the later one for sure, punchy riders tha have some stages well suited for him, Rigoberto Uran is the leader of the team with Michael Woods having a word aswell for sure, although I believe in stage hunting from him too, Tejay van Garderen and Tanel Kangert surely to be Uran's main support overall, with Tom Scully and Sebastian Langeveld to support him during the flat stages.
Team Katusha Alpecin
Katusha come with a team that doesn't give good expectations, stage wins are likely the target. From one side on Ilnur Zakarin as he's coming from the Giro, those and the KOM classification may be a solid ambition for the Russian. From the other Nils Pollit has a very strong skillset that suits the rolling stages alongside José Gonçalves. There is also Rick Zabel, not a top sprinter but looking at the strong leadout they have it would be bad to not consider him, Mads Wurtz, Marco Haller and Jens Debusschere all have strong finishing assets, with Alex Dowsett likely to be the coordinator of all the engine in the team, if they're able to organize themselves well good results can be achiev
Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team
The first pro-continental team, Wanty come with a similar approach as last year, with Guillaume Martin likely to lead a GC bid, although he still seems far from the top riders he is consistent and should target a place in the Top20, as for the other climbers, Xandro Meurisse will try to go for stage results, Odd Chrisitan Eiking and Aimé de Gendt should be good picks for the hilly stages, Andrea Pasqualon a solid choice for the sprints, mostly the harder ones, whilst I expect Yohann Offredo, Kevin van Melsen and Frederik Backaert to be in the moves on the flat stages.
Trek - Segafredo
Trek is one of the most interesting squads, as I mentioned yesterday the whole team is built around Richie Porte despite him not giving evidence to support he will be riding with the best. Bauke Mollema and Giulio Ciccone had a big success in the Giro, with stage wins, jerseys and a fine 5th place overall to show off, here they will both be in support of the Australian but I wouldn't be surprised to see them going in breakaways in the mountains, perhaps even fighting for another mountain jersey. Julien Bernard will add some more climbing power, Koen de Kort will be team captain on the road and from Toms Skujins, Jasper Stuyven and Fabio Felline I expect some breakaway action, a dangerous set of riders for the hilly stages.
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Cofidis come with one of the strongest teams of the last few years, although there is no presence of big names the quality is definetely there. From Jesús Herrada and Nicolas Edet I expect a great race, both are in very good form and their climbing legs are on spot, Cristophe Laporte is ready for the sprints mainly, specially as he can cope with the uphills aswell, and Julien Simon still has the legs to contest the hilly stages. Natnael Berhane and Stephane Rossetto are good for the mountain stages, for breakaways in them of course, and from Anthony Perez and Pierre-Luc Périchon we should expect the same but in the easier stages.
Team Total Direct Energie
From Total I expect another stage hunting team, Niccolo Bonifazio is a fine sprinter but I don't expect him to be up there in them, the absence of Thomas Boudat leaves the team without a real sprint setup. Instead there is Lilian Calmejane, Niki Terpstra and Rein Taaramae who are the riders that have their chances to take a win home, which would make the team's race, Anthony Turgis, Paul Ouselin and Fabien Grellier complete the squad.
Team Arkéa Samsic
The final team on the list is Arkéa. Having the newly crowned French champion may be a game changer, before that race I didn't have the team with any expectations, Barguil had been far from what we know so far, and although you don't change overnight the motivation the team must've got and carrying the colours of the home country must be a huge boost for their morale. Barguil can be a stage hunter and KOM contender as in two years ago, Andre Greipel is the sprinter, he's got the power but I won't put any expectations in him as his sprinting instinct seems to have completely disapeared. There are some quality riders, Élie Gesbert, Florian Vachon in a lucky scenario could nail a win, but from them I expect more than any other team the presence in the breaks, with Maxime Bouet, Amael Moinard, Anthony Delaplace and Kevin Ledanois as solid combative riders.
⭐ UAE, Groupama-FDJ, Astana
With arguably the strongest collective, I consider INEOS the best contender to take this classification home. In such a race this one is undermined, even though Movistar usually takes it and has a strong team I don't think they're a match, only through the breakaway can they pull it off.
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