Tag Archives: TourdeFrance

Nibali slides to opportunity

Tour de France, Stage 5.

Apart from stage winner Greg Van Avermaet’s epic stage win (maybe crashing out of the Tour of Flanders and missing Paris-Roubaix has an upside), people are talking about Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali and his terrible day.

Cycling Central has it here.

I’ve got a CRAAAAAZY theory about Nibali’s slide down the overall rankings, shipping more than EIGHT MINUTES to the GC big boys, on a stage that he really should have had no trouble with. Cue mutterings about his form, his bad legs, and his overall ambitions being dashed. I suppose that’s the official line.

Bullshit, the lot of it. It’s all part of his cunning plan. Consider:

  • Nibali has already won a Grand Tour this season (and he knows what happens if you try to do the Giro/Tour double).
  • Nibali cannot stand his team leader, Fabio Aru. They hate each other’s guts. Nibali is ostensibly riding in support of Aru, but clearly doesn’t want to.
  • Nibali does not give a shit about the general classification.
  • Nibali wants to win the Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro in a few weeks. This whole Tour is a training ride for him.
  • Nibali knows he is more than good enough to win a stage or two in the mountains, especially if he’s not a GC threat.
  • Nibali is almost certainly out the door at Astana at the end of the season. He probably feels like he owes them absolutely nothing.

That’s why Vincenzo looked like he wasn’t even trying on stage 5, when he plopped off the back as soon as Movistar turned on the power. He wasn’t trying.

He wasn’t breathing hard, his shoulders weren’t rocking, he wasn’t all twisted and hunched like the injured Alberto Contador, and he wasn’t pedalling squares like Peter Sagan. He was cruising along like it was a coffee ride, giving zero fucks. In fact, you could almost see him calculating how much time he needed to lose before he’d be allowed up the road in the Pyrenees this weekend.

Now consider what’s coming up:

  • Stage 7 – a Cat.1 climb to the Col d’Aspin followed by a descent to the finish in Lac de Payolle – looks almost tailor-made for the Shark.
  • Stage 8 – the Col du Tourmalet (HC) followed  by three categorised climbs culminating in the Col de Peyresoude followed by a descent to the finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon – also looks almost tailor-made for the Shark.
  • Stage 9 – five categorised climbs with a HC summit finish in Andorra, looks like a great place for the shark to do what he did on stage 19 of the Giro.

Don’t be surprised if Nibali pulls out the earpiece on any of these stages, launches himself up the road and takes a bit of glory for himself. It’d be a perfect slap in the [rubber] face to Aru, adds to his market value in a new contract year, and reminds everyone why he’s nicknamed after an apex predator.

For that plan to work, it’s a big advantage if he’s not a threat to Team Sky, Movistar, Tinkoff or BMC.

Besides, can you really see Nibali playing loyal domestique to his understudy and arch-rival Aru? With his ego? Haaaahahaha!

Mega Daily Bone-up: Stage 9

I slept through this one, but I’ll tell you what it all means.

5. Orica-GreenEdge phoned it in

This is the team that has a fearsome reputation in TTTs, often using them as a springboard to dominate the first week of a grand tour. This is also the team that has three of its strongest riders at home nursing broken bones, and another (Michael Matthews) still riding on with broken ribs.

OGE hobbled across the course, trying to stay together, and the blank looks in their eyes as they rolled across the finish line told the story.

The postscript to the story is that they finished last, two and a half minutes behind second-last placed Cofidis and a shade under five minutes slower than BMC, who they frequently beat. This was an exercise in survival until the rest day for the OGE bus. This Tour business is pretty tough sometimes.

Here’s a bit of music to lighten the team’s spirits, anyway.

4. Nobody has ruined their Tour

I said it yesterday and I’ll stand by it: nobody important had their Tour ruined by the TTT.

Joaquim Rodriguez lost 1’53” and might disagree, but like I said, nobody important. Purito has won a stage already, and he might even be a better chance for another one if he drops a few more minutes on GC and is allowed a bit more freedom while the Big Boys mark each other.

Meanwhile, the Big Four (perhaps we should add BMC and Tejay to the ‘Big’ list)…

The Big Five were all within 35 seconds of each other.

KPI box ticked.

A few of the second-tier contenders have drifted backwards, it is true. The cream is rising to the top.

3. Movistar solid, but was it enough for Nairo?

Movistar would have had high expectations for this TTT, having brought former Hour record holder Alex Dowsett, and the big engines of TT specialists Adriano Malori and Jonathan Castroviejo along for the ride.

The aim would have been to do some damage to Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, and set Nairo Quintana up for the mountains.

It didn’t really work out, but only because Sky in particular rode a blinder. As a result, Quintana will start the second week 1’59” behind the maillot jaune. This is certainly not ideal, but Nairo is known for getting better in the final week of Grand Tours (see Tour 2013, Giro 2014).

We’ll see.

2. Sky on fire

Yes, Sky has always been strong in this discipline. Yes, they would have been highly motivated. Yes, they’ve had a couple of relatively easy days letting the sprinters’ teams control the race.

But still, getting within a second of the World Champion BMC squad was a massive effort, considering Sky arguably didn’t bring its A team of time triallists (they opted for more climbers).

It keeps Froome in yellow over the rest day, and perhaps more importantly it edged him a little further ahead of Quintana, Contador and Nibali.

So far everything is going to plan for Team Death Star, and Froome’s key mountain lieutenants have barely had to turn a crank in anger.

1. “Cos I’m BMC, I’m dynamite…”

With apologies to Acadaca, I’ll be earworming this one all day. Another big ride from the Swissmerican squad gives them two vans on the provisional podium (Tejay van Garderen and Greg van Bridesmaid) and a second stage win for this Tour.

This one will do wonders for their confidence. With a leader who looks in the form of his life and a team obviously in good nick, they’ll be starting to truly believe.

Not just in a “Yeah we’re all in for Tejay go team” sense, but in a visceral “Fuck, we can actually win this, I’m going to to turn myself inside out for this bloke for the next two weeks…” sense. That is powerful.

Big Boys’ GC

1. Froome

2. Tejay van 12″

3. Contador 1’03”

4. Uran 1’18”

5. Valverde 1’50”

6. Quintana 1’59”

7. Kreuiziger 2’18”

8. Nibali 2’22”

9. Barguil 2’43”

10. Rodriguez 3’52”

11. Talansky 4’17”

12. Bardet 4’38”

Tour de France preview: riders to watch

The prestige of the Tour de France brings the world’s best riders to the starting line. More than any other race, it’s the focal point of the long road racing season, and unlike any other race, everyone arrives in absolute peak condition.

The beauty of the Tour is that it’s more than one race. There are 21 stages, enough for many different types of rider to take their chance. There are races within races: for the green and polka dot jerseys, for each stage, and simply for television time in a sport where showing the sponsor’s name is all part of the raison d’être.

There’s opportunities for everyone, but seizing them takes more than a bit of luck and fast legs. To win takes teamwork, planning and strategy (but the fast legs definitely help).

General Classification

Out of the 198 riders who will start this year’s Tour in Utrecht (22 teams of 9 riders each) there are perhaps only half a dozen who could hope to win the General Classification (GC) overall. These are the men who can climb the high mountains, time trial better than passably well, and have the stamina to survive three weeks of hard racing without suffering a bad day.

The four big favourites are defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana); 2013 champion Chris Froome (Sky); double winner and reigning Giro d’Italia champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo); and 2014 Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana.

All have won at least one three-week Grand Tour. Contador has won seven, plus two more that were stripped from him after a positive doping test in 2010. Nibali has three. Froome and Quintana have one each. It’s a tantalising prospect, seeing these four champions go tête-à-tête.

But who is the outright favourite?

Contador is attempting the heroic Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double, something that nobody has done since the late, tragic Italian climber Marco Pantani in 1998. Contador had to dig deep in the final week of the Giro, battered by an Astana assault, and history says he won’t recover in time to win the Tour. Winning the Giro/Tour double wouldn’t be a miracle exactly, but let’s just say we all live in hope Contador doesn’t have all of the advantages that Pantani did.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali has had a quiet season, and is yet to win a race in 2015. But he was similarly anonymous on the results pages in 2014, before he arrived at the Tour and delivered a performance of awesome proportions, leading for 19 out of 21 stages, claiming four stage victories and winning by more than seven minutes. Nobody would dare to write off the Italian again. If Nibali turns up in peak form, as he did at the 2013 Giro and 2014 Tour, his nickname ‘The Shark’ will fit better than a high-tech time-trial skinsuit. However, his form at the Dauphine seemed calculated to deceive: a barnstorming ride to take the leader’s jersey on Stage 6 was sandwiched by two pretty ordinary stages where he seemed happy to pull the chute early. Perhaps the biggest problem for Nibali is the mud being slung at his Astana team, which the UCI wanted to boot off the World Tour earlier this year for multiple doping offenses.

Chris Froome is running into form, with an impressive overall victory in the Criterium du Dauphine, the ‘mini-Tour de France’ in early June. Since his dominant 2013 Tour winning season, Froome’s gone off the boil slightly, and he’ll be desperate to put his crash-strewn 2014 Tour de France well and truly out of his mind. A return to the cobbles in stage 4 will be a major test of Froome’s nerve.

Froome’s ‘thin man fighting an octopus in a washing machine’ attacking style lacks the visual panache of his rivals (as does his ‘thin man driving a bus’ tempo riding style) but it’s very effective. Froome’s Dauphine was also uneven, but a big win on the queen stage of the race to set up an overall victory shows he’s not far off his best condition. At the Tour his Sky team had planned to provide the luxury of his own personal mobile home to sleep in (so he gets a good night’s rest) but the spoilsports at the UCI squashed the plan, so he’ll be forced to slum it in hotels like everyone else. He will at least have a beefed-up team to support him.

Then there’s Nairo Quintana, the neutral’s favourite. On Mont Ventoux in 2013, Quintana, then a relatively unknown 23-year old Colombian climber riding his first Tour de France, was the only rider who could follow Froome. He finished second overall and won the King of the Mountains jersey. It was a revelation. Quintana skipped the Tour last year, his team opting to send him to the Giro d’Italia to learn how to win a Grand Tour. He duly won in style, and returns to the Tour a vastly more experienced and tougher rider than at his last attempt. Quintana is an emerging superstar, with all the attributes to win multiple Tours during his career. Quiet and humble off the bike, on it he’s brilliant.

It’s incredibly hard to split Nibali, Quintana and Froome for favouritism. Each will have a strong team. Each arrives at the Tour fresh. Each has shown he has the mental and physical toughness to win a major three week Tour.

In such a closely fought contest, positioning in the bunch to stay out of trouble and save energy until the crucial moments will make the difference. Teams will be fighting for position to avoid crashes, which obviously causes crashes. A lot of luck and a lot of good management are needed to stay in contention to Paris.

Of course there are others who will be aiming to upset the big four.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.com) are two young French hopes. Both finished in the top 6 in 2014, and both are now a year older and stronger. The waif-like Bardet lit up the Dauphine and is generating extreme hype in the local media, but his weakness in the time trial is likely to cost him a chance to win overall.

Americans Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) will be flying the American flag which, let’s be honest, has had a pretty unpopular couple of decades at the Tour de France. As Cadel Evans’ heir apparent, van Garderen needs to improve on his previous best 5th place in 2012. Van Garderen came within a handful of seconds of winning the Dauphine, which shows he’s had a strong preparation, but consistency and avoiding bad days over three weeks is a different kind of test.

Talansky has to prove he’s the best GC option in his team, which also boasts Irishman Dan Martin, and that he’s not just the leader because he’s the best American on an American team.

Quintana’s Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) are others who are likely to figure in the top ten.


For all the tension and gripping tactical battles in the high country, there’s a lot to be said for watching 50 really fast blokes barging into it shoulder to shoulder at 70km/h in a bunch sprint. In a big sprint, the peloton becomes a small power station for the last couple of kilometers, with riders generating 1500-2000 watts each. It takes real skill and bravery to be there at all, let alone to execute a perfectly-timed lead-out and sprint to win. Of the sprinters, there are the flat track bullies, and the classics-style sprinters who can survive harder, hillier stages. The Tour has stages to suit both groups.

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) is the peloton’s star sprinter, but he won’t be riding. He won eight Tour stages in the past two years, including the first AND last stages (the ones everyone remembers) both times. But the big German has been suffering from a virus since February and hasn’t managed to find the form to be selected.

Kittel’s absence leaves Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quickstep) as the man most likely to dominate the sprints. Cav, the old master, at the ripe old age of 30, has already won 12 times this year. He crashed out of the 2014 Tour on stage 1, but his 25 career stage wins puts him equal third on the all-time list, within sight of Bernard Hinault who has 28. Don’t be surprised if he’s second on that list by the end of July.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) has a new team, and he’s finally the undisputed best sprinter in it. He’s had great form in the Dauphine, winning a brace of stages, and is known as an aggressive rider who trains at boxing in his spare time. So far in his career Bouhanni has often been spat out backwards as soon as the road tilted up, but rumour has it he’s been working on his climbing abilities, with the aim of getting to more finishes with the leading bunch.

Andre ‘The Gorilla’ Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) doesn’t win as often as his fellow big German Kittel, but he has 6 Tour stage wins to his name, a powerful leadout train, and has been in good form through June, winning four times.

Of the classics-style sprinters, Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) may lack the blistering pace of Kittel and Cavendish, but he is seriously strong. He rampaged through the spring classics season like a thing possessed, winning the Tour of Flanders and coming second at Milan-San Remo while picking up smaller classics seemingly at will. He has 15 victories this year, more than anyone else. He also took two stage wins at the Tour in 2014. Kristoff can get through stages that break other sprinters, and then win easily from reduced bunches. Kristoff is quite a lot like his compatriot Thor Hushovd, the  2010 world champion. Maybe even a bit harder.

Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) is arguably Australia’s best chance of a stage win. Matthews is not a flat track monster like Greipel and Cavendish, but he can survive medium hills and still finish with a real punch. Matthews had a great classics season, finishing on the podium at Milan-San Remo and Amstel Gold. He won a stage at the Giro and wore the leader’s jersey in the first week, before leaving the race to prepare for the Tour. Watch for him on transition stages with a short climb near the finish.

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) is similar to Kristoff in that he thrives on hard, long races. Degenkolb had an amazing classics season, winning Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo. The German is a very popular rider, and the smart tactics and sheer panache he displayed to win Paris-Roubaix won him plenty of new fans. Don’t expect Degenkolb to fill the shoes of the absent Kittel, he’s a different type of rider, but arguably more versatile.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) has had an awful year. A huge contract hasn’t brought huge results, and team owner Oleg Tinkov has publicly aired his wish that he could cut the Slovak sprinter’s salary. Ouch. Sagan will also have to freelance his wins without much support this year, as his team will focus on protecting Alberto Contador. He’s still capable of winning, but regular tactical mistakes and his enormous reputation means he’s heavily marked, which makes it very hard to win. Sagan is fast, and handles a bike amazingly well, but he needs to win big during this Tour to get a rather belligerent monkey off his back.

Others to watch: Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Bryan Coquard (Europcar).

Climbers to watch

The Tour always provides opportunities for climbers who might not be considered as overall contenders, but will take their chances for stage wins in the high mountains. They might even deliberately drop chunks of time, so they’re given some latitude to attack in the mountains without being chased down by the leaders’ teams.

The French seem to have found a factory producing skinny young men who can climb beautifully – think of Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ.com), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and the aforementioned Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot. They’ll be eager to get into the early break on the big mountain stages, nab some TV time and some King of the Mountains jersey points, and maybe stay away for a stage win.

British twins Simon and Adam Yates (both Orica-GreenEdge) will also be aggressive. Simon had a very impressive Dauphine, beating some big names on major stages. Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quickstep) is another who can climb beautifully, but a tough Giro probably rules him out of overall contention. Perfect opportunity to grab a stage win!

Stage hunters to watch

Some riders don’t easily fit into categories, but they know how to win. Sometimes known as ‘opportunists’ or even ‘puncheurs’, these guys have the ability to survive medium hills, love to attack, can outsprint all but the absolute fastest, and have that killer racing instinct that brings in the big money.

Aussie Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) will be out for revenge after being taken out by Mark Cavendish at the start of the 2014 Tour. ‘Gerro’ has had a shocking season in terms of luck – crash after crash after crash – but he’s a master at targeting stages that suit him, and peaking at the right time. His palmares puts him right up with the best this country has produced.

Others with a similar knack for bringing home the baguette include Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quickstep), former World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and triple World Time-Trial Champion Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep), who’s also developed into a dangerous road racer.

Any of these riders is a big chance to take a stage. Dan Martin, Costa and Kwiatkowski are all a chance of a top 10 position overall, too.

Team players

Cycling is a team sport with individual winners. Grand Tours are not won by individual brilliance, they’re won by building a strong team, and using it strategically and tactically to save energy or hurt your rivals, as the situation demands.

Being a domestique is not just about fetching water bottles and energy bars from the team car, it’s about being able to ride up a mountain at a pace that shreds the peloton to bits. It’s about shielding your leader from the wind, and closing down attacks from rivals. Sometimes it’s about getting in the breakaway and giving your teammates a few hours where they don’t have to do any chasing.

One of the side effects of the Tour being a team effort is that some of the best GC riders in the world end up riding for someone else, and don’t get their own opportunities. Just as strikers in football need someone to set them up, team leaders in cycling need help to get into winning positions, and keep them out of losing ones.

The big four contenders have four big teams.

Team Sky has Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Nicolas Roche and Leopold Konig in the hills, and Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe on the flatter stages.

TInkoff-Saxo has Rafal Majka, Michael Rogers, Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger, with Daniele Bennati and Matteo Tossato for the flats.

Movistar has Alejandro Valverde, Winner Anacona, Gorka Izagirre and Jose Herrada, with the big engines of Adriano Malori, Alex Dowsett and Jonathan Catroviejo for the flatter stages.

Astana will have Jakob Fuglsang, Michele Scarponi, Tanel Kangert, Rein Taaramae and Lieuwe Westra for the climbs, with Lars Boom and Andriy Grivko on the flats.

These riders might not get the fame, the money and the pressure their leaders do, but they will be just as important to the outcome as the big names, and if a leader has bad luck or bad form, these guys might become Plan B. Many of them are already Grand Tour winners, podium placers or have earned top ten positions.

Flawless Nibali has got this Tour on a silver platter

After a first week that tore up every script and binned some of the best-laid plans, followed by a second week that tipped the rubbish bin full of torn-up scripts and plans upside down and set them on fire, the Tour’s third week has settled to a steady pile of glowing embers.

Sure, it’s theoretically possible that it could re-ignite and burn the house down, but it’s starting to look relatively safe and predictable for Vincenzo Nibali. Break out the marshmallows.

It has to be said, the Italian has ridden a flawless Tour de France so far. He’s taken only the best calculated risks, made no mistakes, never looked in peril, and seized every opportunity to put time into his rivals.

He’s beaten all of his GC rivals comfortably on every important climb. Here’s the breakdown of where he took time from his closest challenger, Alejandro Valverde:

Stage 2: 2 seconds

Stage 5: 2:09

Stage 8: 16 seconds

Stage 10: 20 seconds

Stage 13: 50 seconds

Stage 14: 1:00

Stage 17: 48 seconds.

It’s a leaky bucket that just can’t be patched. Every time it gets picked up a bit more liquid sloshes out and disappears into the dust.

The Nibali method in the mountains is not dissimilar to that of Team Sky: use his Astana teammates to set a tempo hard enough to soften everyone up, before Nibali attacks with around 2km remaining, depending on the gradient and race situation.

A short acceleration and maintaining a strong tempo to the finish is enough to open time gaps without needing him to dig so deep he risks being flat the following day.

It works, indeed it looks easy, because he is riding against two men past their best years (Valverde and Peraud) and a number who are acknowledged up and comers, but still a few years away from their peaks (Pinot, Bardet, van Garderen).

Nibali on the other hand is a worthy champion in every sense. He’s experienced, calm, and at the perfect age to win grand tours. He’s the best climber in the race, the best descender, and the most consistent. His focus is intense. He’s polite and humble in interviews. He has used his team with skill.

Anything less than victory would be an injustice, after the race he’s had.

Would it be different if Froome and Contador were still in the race? Undoubtedly, yes. But beating the course itself has always been half the battle in any Grand Tour, and both of the absent leaders failed to do so. There’s no point crying over that.

What I’m getting at is it’s nigh-on impossible to see Nibali losing from here without crashing. We all know it. Nibali knows it. Valverde knows it. Pinot knows it. Even Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen know it.

As leaders have fallen, the challenge to his Astana team’s control has evaporated.

Team Sky has collapsed, BMC has wilted. The GC hopes of Belkin and Lotto-Belisol have gone about as well as expected, with riders in the top ten but out of podium contention. NetApp-Endura will be overjoyed with Leopold Konig’s Tour, but the team simply doesn’t have the depth to challenge the big boys.

Tinkoff-Saxo has made a very effective pivot to a stage-win strategy, snagging three victories to salvage some pride from a Tour that could have been a disaster, but couldn’t give a fig about going head-to-head with Astana. Majka, Rogers and Roche made sure to lose enough time that they’d be given the freedom to go up the road.

Europcar is still playing for TV time.

AG2R has surprised with its strength: Bardet, Peraud and Blel Kadri have all been excellent.

Movistar has also managed an effective resistance, but when it has come to the crunch their leader hasn’t had the legs to follow Nibali, and in stage 17 the sight of Giovanni Visconti going for a stage win while his leader lost time showed that faith was wavering.

No wonder Astana director Alexandre Vinokourov hasn’t been seen without a grin for the past fortnight. Everything has gone to plan. His team has been the strongest. His leader has never faltered. The competition has collapsed. Perfect outcome!

With one mountain stage remaining, and a time trial, the GC battle for this Tour de France is practically over. I’m a huge fan of Vincenzo Nibali’s and he has ridden a magnificent race, but I still can’t help but feel disappointed with how early the fight for yellow became a procession.

This was no accident. Nibali is just a class above.

This article first appeared on The Roar.

Drink Le Tour!

An alternate Tour de France 2014 drinking game. Submissions welcome via Twitter.


Update Stage 16!

Due to a number of rider withdrawals, some of these rules no longer apply. I will strike them from the game and replace them with some new rules.

One sip

Adam Hansen’s carbon shoes

A chateau and/or ruins

A sticky bottle

Phil Sherwen says “in the month of March/April/May/June”

Paul Liggett gets a rider’s name wrong

Sherliggett explains what the different coloured jerseys mean

Contador gets out of the saddle

Marcel Kittel’s hair

Eddy Merckx

Wheel change

Europcar attacks

Gabriel Gate uses butter

You realise you’ve fallen asleep

A rider with a moustache

Fernando Alonso

An English rider

“Lanterne Rouge”

“Riding himself into form” (thanks to @ozwinereview)

NEW someone mentions “echelons”

NEW someone mentions how passionate/crazy the Basque fans are

NEW “former mountain bike rider”

Two sips

Thomas Voeckler’s Sex Face (#voecklersexface)

Jens Voigt attacks

Phil or Paul mentions that Jens Voigt is old

Any retired doper is mentioned

A spectator interferes with a rider

A crash

Chris Froome loses time on a stage (to anyone in the top ten)

NEW Anyone mentions Bradley Wiggins

Finish your drink

A Frenchman wins a stage

Any rider with a race number finishing with a 1 retires from the race

Chris Froome, Alberto Contador or Vincenzo Nibali win a stage

Lance Armstrong


Tour de France 2014 team lists

All teams have now been announced. Australian riders highlighted in red.

Designated GC leader listed first, where team has GC as primary objective.

Riders with a strikethrough have  withdrawn from the race.

AG2R La Mondiale

Romain Bardet, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Christophe Riblon, Mikael Cherel, Ben Gastauer, Sébastien Minard, Samuel Dumoulin, Blel Kadri, Matteo Montaguti.


Vincenzo Nibali, Tanel Kangert, Jakob Fuglsang, Michele Scarponi, Andriy Grivko, Alessandro Vanotti, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Lieuwe Westra, Maxim Iglinskiy.


Bauke Mollema, Lars Boom, Stef Clement, Laurens ten Dam, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants.


Tejay van Garderen, Darwin Atapuma, Marcus Burghardt, Amaël Moinard, Daniel Oss, Michael Schär, Peter Stetina, Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Velits.


Brice Feillu, Jean-Marc Bideau, Armindo Fonseca, Florian Vachon, Anthony Delaplace, Arnaud Gérard, Romain Feillu, Florian Guillou, Benedict Jarrier.


Peter Sagan, Elia Viviani, Maciej Bodnar, Kristijan Koren, Ted King, Fabio Sabatini, Jean-Marc Marino, Marco Marcato, Alessandro De Marchi.


Julien Simon, Daniel Navarro, Luis Angel Mate, Egoitz Garcia,  Cyril Lemoine, Adrien Petit, Nicolas Edet, Rein Taaramae, Rudy Molard.


Thomas Voeckler, Pierre Rolland, Yukio Arashiro, Bryan Coquard, Cyril Gautier, Yohann Gène, Alexandre Pichot, Perrig Quemeneur, Kevin Reza.


Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare, William Bonnet, Mickael Delage, Arnold Jeannesson, Matthieu Ladagnous, Jérémy Roy and Arthur Vichot.


Andrew Talansky, Ben King, Alex Howes, Janier Acevedo, Jack Bauer, Sebastian Langeveld, Ramunas Navardauskas, Tom Slagter, Johan Vansummeren.


Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb, Koen De Kort, Dries Devenyns, Tom Dumoulin, Cheng Ji,  Albert Timmer, Tom Veelers, Roy Curvers.

IAM Cycling

Sylvain Chavanel, Martin Elmiger, Heinrich Haussler, Sébastien Reichenbach, Mathias Frank, Reto Hollenstein, Roger Kluge, Jerome Pineau, and Marcel Wyss.


Joaquim Rodriguez, Alexander Kristoff, Vladimir Isaychev, Luca Paolini, Aleksandr Porsev, Egor Silin, Gatis Smukulis, Simon Špilak, Yury Trofimov.


Rui Costa, Chris Horner, Davide Cimolai, Kristijan Durasek, Sacha Modolo, Nelson Oliveira, Ariel Richeze, Josè Serpa, Rafael Valls.


Jurgen Van den Broeck, André Greipel, Adam HansenGreg Henderson, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Tony Gallopin,  Lars Bak, Bart De Clercq.


Alejandro Valverde, Imanol Erviti, John Gadret, Jesús Herrada, Beñat Intxausti, Ion Izagirre, Rubén Plaza, José Joaquín Rojas , Giovanni Visconti.


Leopold König, Jan Barta, David de la Cruz, Zak Dempster, Bartosz Huzarski, Tiago Machado, José Mendes, Andreas Schillinger, and Paul Voss.

Omega Pharma-Quickstep

Michal Kwiatkowski, Jan Bakelants, Mark Cavendish, Michal Golas, Tony Martin, Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Renshaw, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin.


Simon Gerrans, Jens Keukeleire, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Albasini,  Simon Clarke, Simon Yates, Svein Tuft, Christian Meier.


Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Bernard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Danny Pate, Xabier Zandio.


Alberto Contador, Michael Rogers, Nicolas Roche, Rafal Majka, Sergio Paulinho, Jesus Hernandez, Michael Morkov, Daniele Benatti, Matteo Tossato

Kreuziger is out (suspended due to bio passport issues).

Trek Factory Racing

Fabian Cancellara, Fränk Schleck, Andy Schleck, Haimar Zubeldia, Jens Voigt, Matthew Busche, Markel Irizar, Gregory Rast, and Danny van Poppel.


Who’s afraid of Christopher Froome?

After his overall win in the Tour of Oman, dancing away from his rivals on the slopes of Green Mountain, it’s clear that Chris Froome isn’t suffering any hangovers from his massive 2013 campaign.

Everyone should be afraid.

A burst of high-cadence acceleration was all it took to blow away Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and former Team Sky lieutenant Rigoberto Uran (OPQS).

As for Vincenzo Nibali, a man who many consider Froome’s most serious rival for the Tour de France, he was never truly in the hunt. With his wife at home about to give birth to their first child, it’s understandable if Nibali’s head wasn’t fully in the game in Oman.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Robert Gesink (Belkin), and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) were all thereabouts, but had no answer to Froome’s attack.

Winning the Tour of Oman is an early psychological blow

After stage five, Froome gave his perspective on his performance to Cycling Central:

“From a personal perspective I wanted to see where I was, where my condition was, and I think today I got the answer I wanted.

Winning here is always more psychological than anything else. At this point it’s still too early to say anything in terms of build-up to the Tour de France, but it’s definitely good to have it in there.”

As he says, it’s far too early to draw too many conclusions about the form of other riders, but what the Tour of Oman shows is that Froome definitely hasn’t spent his winter wining and dining at gala dinners.

It shows that Froome still has the hunger that seemed to desert Sir Bradley Wiggins after his own magical 2012 season (remember a clearly overweight Wiggins struggling to find form and condition leading into last year’s Giro).

Smashing his rivals so early in the season is such a psychological victory because everyone can see that, barring accident or injury, there will be no slackening off from the man who dominated every stage race he entered last year.

The effects of this can be seen already in the list of GC riders shifting their sights to the Giro d’Italia. It’s almost an admission that Froome can’t be beaten in the Tour this year, so let’s aim for the next biggest prize.

It’s a coup for the Italian race, which begins in Ireland on May 9th.You could even argue that the list of GC contenders for the Giro looks better than for the Tour.

In fact I will.

The best GC riders, Froome excepted, are not riding the Tour de France this year.

Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana, and Froome’s teammate Richie Porte are all aiming squarely for the Giro. All except Uran targeted the Tour in 2013.

That’s some serious talent on display in May.

In July, Froome’s main rivals will be Nibali, Alberto Contador, Rui Costa, Tejay van Garderen, Robert Gesink, and Alejandro Valverde.

Nibali is one of my favourites, but he’ll have to overcome the disruption of new fatherhood, as well as Team Sky.

Contador has looked past his best for two years, but he took his first win in over a year in stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve this week. Hey, that’s better than nothing, but he didn’t beat anyone as good as the riders Froome just thrashed. I’ll need to see a lot more before I rate Contador as a serious GC threat again.

Valverde is a similar story: he defeated Richie Porte on home turf in the Ruta del Sol this week, cleaning up three stage wins in the process. But he’ll be 34 by the time the Tour begins, and he’s never made the podium there. Many astute observers don’t think he’s even the best GC rider in his team. Yes, he’s still deadly in stages that suit him, but can he go three weeks without a bad day in the high mountains?

Costa is all class, but his best results have come in single-day races and as a stage winner. His highest grand tour GC finish to date is 18th, at the Tour in 2012. He’s unproven as a grand tour GC contender, despite very strong performances in shorter stage races like the Tour de Suisse.

Gesink and van Garderen are well known for their buckets of potential without ever really looking like winning a grand tour.

As the season progresses we’ll have a better idea of who is really in form and who’s playing catch-up.

But for my money, there are more genuine GC riders aiming for the Giro than I can remember.

Why would the Giro, a great race but undeniably less prestigious than its French cousin, attract a more competitive field than the Tour?

I reckon they think Froome can’t be beaten.

This article was first published on The Roar.