NICE, France (Reuters) - A team-by-team guide of the Tour de France, which starts on Saturday:
AG2R-LA MONDIALE (FRANCE)
Romain Bardet is the unique leader, but the Frenchman has been struggling lately, unable to follow up on his second (2016) and third (2017) places overall on the Tour de France.
With the talented Benoit Cosnefroy and Oliver Naesen to protect him, Bardet, who is leaving at the end of the season to join Sunweb, has a decent squad at his disposal but recent form suggests he will be more likely to contest for the mountains classification polka dot jersey he claimed last year.
Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez is set to make his Tour de France debut after winning the young riders classification on the Giro d’Italia in 2018 and 2019.
The 26-year-old has a strong team with him, with Gorka Izaguirre and Alexey Lutsenko.
The team, managed by former Olympic champion Alexandre Vinokourov, are known for their aggressive tactics.
Spain’s Mikel Landa is finally getting the unique team leader spot he was craving after having to share at Astana, Team Sky and Movistar. An aggressive climber, he is hoping to get a step higher on Grand Tours after taking third overall at the 2015 Giro d’Italia and fourth place in the 2017 Tour de France.
This season, he finished second overall at the Tour of Burgos but disappointed in the Criterium du Dauphine when he cracked in the final stage.
BORA HANSGROHE (GERMANY)
The German outfit will have triple world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia gunning for a record-extending eighth green jersey for the points classification while Emanuel Buchmann will be battling in the GC provided he is fit after a crash at the Criterium du Dauphiné.
CCC TEAM (UNITED STATES)
The team is unlikely to compete for the individual general classification but in Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet, Matteo Trentin, Alessandro De Marchi and Simon Geschke they have potential stage winners in their ranks.
The French outfit recruited Guillaume Martin during the close season and the climber has been improving, finishing third overall in the Criterium du Dauphine, raising hopes of a possible top-10 finish in Paris. Italian Elia Viviani will be looking for stage wins in the sprint finishes.
DECEUNINCK-QUICK STEP (BELGIUM)
The world number one team rarely aim at the individual general classification but last year found themselves defending Julian Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey after the Frenchman exceeded expectations.
Alaphilippe said he would not fight for GC in a star-studded field but he could go for the mountain classification while Sam Bennett will be contesting the sprints.
EF-EDUCATION FIRST (UNITED STATES)
Colombian Rigoberto Uran, second overall in 2017, will start the Tour as team leader but he is under the threat of team mate and compatriot Dani Martinez, who burst into the limelight by winning the Criterium du Dauphine. Another talented Colombian climber, Sergio Higuita, is in the team.
After last year’s heartbreak, when Thibaut Pinot abandoned a couple of days before the finish two days after picking up a thigh injury while he had his grip on the race, the French outfit will start with the ambition of helping their climber to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since 1985.
Pinot took second place overall in the Criterium du Dauphine after losing the lead on the last days but despite a minor back problem, he is expected to be in top shape for the Tour.
He will again be helped in the mountains by Swiss champion Sebastien Reichenbach and youngster David Gaudu, who impressed last year as Pinot’s lieutenant.
LOTTO SOUDAL (BELGIUM)
The team will fight for stage wins with Australian Caleb Ewan in the sprints and Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt in hilly stages.
With Simon Yates skipping the Tour this year, his twin brother Adam will be the team leader as he looks to rediscover his touch on the Grand Tours but the outfit said he would only chase stage wins. Since finishing fourth overall on the 2016 Tour de France, Yates, leaving to join Ineos next year, has only had one top 10 finish on a Grand Tour when he took ninth place overall in the Giro d’Italia in 2017.
With Nairo Quintana gone, Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde will share the leadership duties but both of them have been far from impressive this season. Marc Soler has also failed to impress as Movistar head into the Tour without a decent podium contender.
NTT PRO CYCLING (SOUTH AFRICA)
The team have identified 12 stages where they can compete for the win with Italian Domenico Pozzovivo and veterans Edvald Boasson Hagen and Roman Kreuziger.
TEAM INEOS (BRITAIN)
Ineos head into the Tour without four-time champion Chris Froome and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas after the duo struggled at the Criterium du Dauphine. Defending champion Egan Bernal pulled out before the penultimate stage of the Dauphine with back problems.
Manager Dave Brailsford, however, is a precise planner and he brought Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz into the squad with seasoned team mates in support for a mouth-watering duel with Jumbo-Visma.
The best team of the Tour, on paper, despite the absence of last year’s podium finisher Steven Kruijswijk because of a shoulder injury.
Leader Primoz Roglic, the world number one, will be supported by former Giro champion and 2018 Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin and top climbers George Bennett and Sepp Kuss. On the flat stages, he can rely on the support of in-form Wout van Aert, the recent Milan-San Remo winner.
A team without any general classification prospect since Tom Dumoulin left for Jumbo-Visma. They will, however, target stage wins on breakaway days with Belgian Tiesj Benoot a one-day race specialist.
TREK-SEGAFREDO (UNITED STATES)
With Vincenzo Nibali focusing on the Giro d’Italia this year, Trek-Segafredo will rely on Richie Porte to lead their GC challenge. The Australian, however, has regularly failed to deliver in Grand Tours, his best result being fifth overall in the 2016 Tour de France.
UAE TEAM EMIRATES (UAE)
With Fabio Aru’s star fading, UAE Team Emirates are banking on top prospect Tadej Pogacar, the best Under-25 rider of the 2019 Vuelta. The Slovenian is only 21 but his climbing abilities will make him a rider to watch. Italian Davide Formolo, who has been in great from since the re-start, is worth watching.
TOTAL DIRECT ENERGIE (FRANCE)
Sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio and Lilian Calmejane will spearhead Total Direct Energie’s charge to stage wins.
B§B HOTELS VITAL CONCEPT (FRANCE)
Pierre Rolland has shown promising form at the Criterium du Dauphine and he could target stage wins in the mountains. His last Tour stage win, however, was in 2012. Bryan Coquard will contest the sprints.
TEAM ARKEA-SAMSIC (FRANCE)
The French team recruited Nairo Quintana hoping to shine on the Tour de France after French champion Warren Barguil failed to establish himself as a podium contender. The Colombian, whose last Grand Tour podium was in 2017, will be the unique leader after years of sharing duties at Movistar.
If he has shaken off his knee problem, the 30-year-old can still make an impact on the fight for GC.
ISRAEL START UP NATION (ISRAEL)
The team might struggle to shine as Dan Martin’s preparations were hampered by a bone fracture in his lower back sustained at the Criterium de Dauphine. If he fully recovers he can hunt stage wins. They will be more in the spotlight next year when four-time champion Chris Froome joins the team.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman
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