Made any plans yet for July?
Recent days have seen a glut of Tour rosters released by the ProTeams and the second-tier squads benefitting this year from the munificence of ASO.
While there are a few surprise selections, many in the peloton who blocked off a three-week period in July on their calendar almost as soon as the route was announced will have greeted the news with all the feigned surprise of a teenager on Christmas Day.
“What’s that? I’m going to the Tour? And Santa Claus has been?”
Adam Hansen's selection might have been predicted as he rode on to the Champs Élysées to finish last year’s Tour. Naturally, he has ridden a Vuelta and a Giro in between, just to keep in shape, you understand. The 102nd Tour de France will be his twelfth consecutive Grand Tour. July will be a strange month when he finally calls time on cycling.
Hansen will not be alone among the Grand Tour campaigners preparing again for battle just weeks after the Giro. He need look no further than Lotto-Soudal team-mate Lars Bak, who will find the Tour a lonelier race than the Giro, unless fellow Dane Chris Juul-Jensen receives an unexpected call up from Tinkoff-Saxo. “We chewed the ear off each other,” we can exclusively reveal from Rouleur’s blogger-in-chief.
IAM Cycling have summoned Sylvain Chavanel, their leader at the Giro, but not Clement Chevrier, one of an increasing number of future French stars, and a man who knows how to win on the coiling ascent of the Tour’s new hairpin fest, the Lacets de Montvernier, having done so as an espoir. A case of clarity, perhaps? Calls on race radio for Chava and Chevre might only lead to confusion.
Other young hopefuls will make their Tour debuts, however. Bob Jungels has made Trek Factory Racing’s Tour squad. For a man with ambitions to be a legend, a first Tour is a mere formality, of course, but even he may succumb to a little of the debutant’s excitement.
For others, there is heartbreak, disgruntlement, and perhaps even blessed relief. Fränk Schleck has succumbed to knee ligament damage, Jurgen Van Den Broeck will not, for the first time in aeons, spearhead the GC ambitions of the team now known as Lotto-Soudal, and Bradley Wiggins – pre-empting his non-selection from the BBC Breakfast sofa this time last year – will prepare instead for the distinctly less attritional opening round of the 2015/16 Revolution Series in August.
Team Sky made its selection the talk of the sport ahead of last year’s Tour, and despite no longer starting with the defending champion, they’ve managed it again already. A short longlist was published, then withdrawn, causing consternation among the Irish Twitterati (no Roche, no Deignan) and a frantic rewriting of the script for Phil Liggett. “And just who is that rider coming up behind because it looks like Nieve! It looks like Mikel Nieve!”
And, is it us, or are Tour announcements getting earlier, some 10 days before the Grand Départ? Sky might be said to be honouring tradition by waiting until Monday, an unusual stance for a team so defiantly modern that the idea of its leader sharing a hotel with his team-mates strikes them as outmoded.
Their selection will come soon enough, as it will from Movistar, Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana, the other teams hoping to win the race. One rider from each squad might be guessed already, unless Alberto’s talk of the double has been a wind-up, Nairo is sulking after finishing as runner-up at the Route du Sud, and Vincenzo has taken his commitment to tranquillo as far as staying at home with the family this July.
Others are playing their cards close to their chests. LottoNL-Jumbo have unveiled a new jersey and Tinkoff-Saxo have revealed a new bike. Quite who will use these accoutrements remains unclear, and we wait with breath, if not bated, then not fully exhaled. The Tour without Rick Flens? Unthinkable!
We will turn our thoughts next week to those who have missed the cut: those who by then might have limited their response to a terse “bonne chance” or vented their spleen on Twitter. David Millar might teach them a thing or two, but he has Maseratis to drive. A missed opportunity for a bike ride in Yorkshire must by now seem a small thing. Others will not have the calming benefit of hindsight. The next round of press statements might be more interesting than the first.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
11 – riders named on Team Sky’s accidentally published long list for the Tour
0 – riders currently named for the Tour on Team Sky’s website
Bradley Wiggins launches a pre-emptive strike from the BBC Breakfast sofa.
Jean Michel Jarre called. He wants his lazers back.
Bernard Thevenet repeatedly assaulted with microphones after winning on Pra Loup. Riders hope for more humane treatment when the Tour returns this year.