A 2012 Tour de France Team Summary - Part 2
Twenty-two teams are contesting the 2012 Tour de France and I break down their chances. Part 2.
(Click here for part 1 of our Tour de France team roster summary)
We are in the final stretch before the 2012 Tour de France, and with each passing day teams are releasing the names of the riders on their squads for this year's Tour. Some teams are focused on the overall classification, others on stages or opportunistic moments. I thought we'd take a look and see what each team's goals are and who they brought to support that aspiration.
The marquee rider on this squad is big man Andre Greipel. Although he's realistic about his chances at winning the Green Jersey and tips Sagan for that honor, he'll battle with Cav for stage wins the first week. Apparently Lotto has a bit of a lead-out train for him, so that will spice up those closing kilometers. On a personal note I love the fact that Greg Henderson made the cut and is on the squad. He's a strong lead out rider and that will pay off with at least a couple of stage wins for Greipel.
Their go to guy in July is Alejandro Valverde.
In a Google-translated press release team director Eusebio Unzue said, "Last year we went for stage victories, but this season, having Alejandro must make us more ambitious."
Unzue claims they're "convinced he can fight for a podium place."
Well sure, you have to say that if you're in charge of the team, but respectfully he'll be a constant top finisher in the mountain stages and that's it.
Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Levi Leipheimer is on a squad that has allowed him to shine. He had a great early season, but then he was hit by a car in Spain, which put a damper on his Amgen Tour of California chances. Regardless, when many pundits thought he might drop out after a couple of days, he finished. I spoke to Leipheimer after California and he said a top five was still possible in the Tour de France. And you know what - I believe him.
Leipheimer seems really motivated this year. He's been climbing with the best and the guy can time trial. The only question mark is has the strength returned after the accident?
If Leipheimer can't do it, Peter Velits is the guy the team likes to talk about for the future. However, the future may already be here for Velits and he may be called upon if Levi falters.
Any chance of success for Team GreenEdge is on the shoulders of sprinter Matt Goss. Team director Matt White has admitted as much.
"We've said from the start that the overall is not a goal."
That's the smart strategy. Grab stage wins and plan for the future as there's probably another Evans somewhere in Australia inspired by the country's success.
Robert Gesink showed that he can climb on the steep slopes of Mt Baldy in the recent Tour of California. Also recently he showed that he has made improvements in the race against the clock. However, he's racing with the big boys in July and I don't see him on the podium. Next year...
It seems like every day this team is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Chris Horner, an obvious choice for the 2012 Tour de France, was left off the long list for selection. Then an about-face and he's on the Tour squad. Then you have the USADA investigation that accused team manager Johan Bruyneel of facilitating drug use during the Postal Service days. As a result he wisely decided to not show his face in France. Oh, did I mention that their best hope, Andy Schleck, is out due to a cracked pelvis? Then there's the rumor that the Schlecks are jumping ship to a German team to be formed in 2013 - contracts be damned!
Possibly older brother Frank Schleck might finish in the top ten, as well as Horner. Recently crowned Fabian Cancellara is their only hope for stage victories in the time trials.
Well there's always next year ... oh wait ... never mind.
Sure they have pretty boy Ivan Basso as one of their leaders, but he seems to have lost that special something these past few years. I can't figure out why...
Peter Sagan is a good choice for the Green Jersey. He can sprint, climb fairly well, and I believe he'll give Cavendish a run in the bunch sprints. Sagan, AKA "The Velvet Samurai," could take intermediate sprint points and finish consistently in the stages that matter to accumulate enough time to finish in Paris with Green.
For the Yellow Jersey, Vincenzo Nibali has a proven track record of good finishes in a Grand Tour. His climbing has improved. Plus he'll have Basso to back him up. I like "Nibbles" for third on G.C.
To no one's surprise Team Sky is focused on Bradley Wiggins to win the 2012 Tour de France. But what about Mark Cavendish who is almost guaranteed stage wins? Looking at the roster Cav is going to have just a couple of guys to help him as the bulk of the team's roster is all about Wiggo all the time. That said, I think Cav can do it with minimal support. And no matter how much I hear he's going to finish the Tour, Cav could pull the plug before Paris so he can recover for the London Olympic Games, so why waste riders on a guy that might not go the full distance?
If the Dauphine is any sign of how strong the team is, Team BMC Racing will have their hands full. That said, I still like Evans as I wonder if Wiggins hit his form too soon. We'll see.
This team gained fame last year with Johnny Hoogerland's horrible crash into a barbed wire fence. Then to show how bad-ass he was, he got up, remounted and completed the Tour. A legend was born that day.
The team isn't competing for the general classification, but they have Hoogerland, a solid performer in the mountains and Lieuwe Westra who can time trial, winning the Dutch national championships in that discipline.
This team's only chance at Tour de France fame this year is with sprinter Marcel Kittel - one of the few men that have beaten Cavendish in a sprint. As a result he has a squad composed of lead-out men. Expect Kittel to be within a bike throw of Cav for the sprint finishes.
For a short while the cries of France could be heard as the team's leader Thomas Voeckler was complaining of knee pain threatening his chances for the Tour. However, it looks like Voeckler's knee is okay and you can see him and his ever flicking tongue aggressively racing at random points of the Tour. If I was a sponsor I'd get a Europcar sticker on that thing as it gets enough air time on TV.
This team got a wildcard invite only because, stating the obvious, they're French. And that's the only thing they have going for them.
Okay, that might be a little harsh as they have Estonian Rein Taaramae who was 11th last year. Interestingly David Moncoutie said earlier this year he wasn't racing the Tour de France and instead saving himself for the Vuelta a Espana and his quest for a fifth King of the Mountains jersey. I guess the directors didn't get that memo as the 37 year-old is on the squad as well.
Saur - Sojasun
An entirely French squad is going to be led by Jerome Coppel who finished in lucky 13th place last year. Stage winner Brice Feillu is back in the Tour for the first time since 2009 where he won a stage. Perhaps the squad will win something on Bastille Day, which would send the country into fits of uncontrollable jubilation not since since ... I don't know when. But I doubt it.
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