Prelude to le Tour
With the Giro behind us and the Dauphiné run and won, everyone’s attention is now turning towards the Tour de France and the riders we might expect to excel there.
It’s the time of year when predictions are thrown around and everyone is confident in their own favourites. In the spirit of things, here are some of mine, along with a few reflections.
Sprinters and the green jersey
Of the sprinters, Marcel Kittel showed excellent form in the early stages of the Giro. Having pulled out of the three-week race early – albeit due to illness – we can expect that he’ll be able to find similar form in July.
His haul last year surprised even himself and it would require a dream run to repeat, but this year we should be less surprised when he upsets the Cavendish monopoly.
Cavendish also picked up two stages at California and more recently one in Switzerland. He has appeared more comfortable with the support offered by OPQS than he ever did at Team Sky, and his lead out train has been bolstered by the return of Mark Renshaw.
With no prologue at the Tour this year, Cavendish will certainly have his eye on taking the first stage from Leeds to Harrogate in order to wear the yellow jersey for at least one stage in front of his home crowd.
Peter Sagan has shown plenty of good form of late, winning stages at both the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse with his usual style.
Come Paris, I, along with most, expect we’ll once again see Sagan pull on the green jersey. He’s an exciting and dynamic rider who always makes it safely through the mountains, and consistently picks up critical points on all sorts of stages that Cavendish and Kittel simply can’t.
As far as Aussie sprinters go, Michael Matthews is the only one to have shown great form this year, taking a stage and contesting many sprints while holding the jersey at this year’s Giro. He also just took the first stage of the Tour de Slovénie.
It’s unlikely he has the speed of Cavendish, Sagan, and Kittel yet, but the perseverance he showed in Italy may yet net him a stage win in France if he has some good luck as well.
As has been often been the case in recent years, Simon Gerrans has also shown excellent early form in the spring.
Written by Phil Anderson