For the 108th time in 118 years, a bunch of guys will race each other around France for three weeks, competing for a quartet of brightly colored jerseys and a variety of delightfully odd prizes for winning stages and whatnot. It’s the Tour de France, the Grande Boucle, the biggest stage race in cycling and one of the only opportunities for the sport to break into the mainstream consciousness, and it is back starting this weekend! Last year, the pandemic forced the Tour into a weird spot on the calendar, and the Tokyo Olympics have pushed it a few weeks earlier this year, but this will be the first mostly normal Tour in two years. The course is very balanced, with 58 kilometers of individual time trials and three summit finishes. There’s a little something for everyone.
What makes the Tour de France special is not just the quest for the yellow jersey. Within 10 or so days, we’ll know which three or so guys can realistically win it, and then it becomes a war of attrition. The most rewarding aspect of watching a Tour de France is its rich terroir: its delightful local flavor, its peloton packed with 184 weirdos, all here at the biggest race in the world looking for something different. Some want to win the whole race. Some want to win sprint stages. Some merely want to hang themselves out to dry in futile breakaways so their sponsors can get some TV time. So to celebrate this fruitful ecology of ambition, we are going to tell you something about every single one of the riders in this race.
UAE Team Emirates
- Tadej Pogačar – The Slovenian became the youngest-ever winner of the Tour de France last year. Bookmakers and experts have him down as the favorite to repeat, and why not? He won his first Monument classic this year, the course suits him, and the only stage race he hasn’t won was one in which he supported a teammate. His time trial victory last year was one of the greatest star-making performances this sport has seen in a very long time, probably the single most impressive ride of the post-Armstrong era. Pogacar won’t catch anyone by surprise this year.
- Rafał Majka – The two-time King of the Mountains winner had to abandon the 2017 Tour after falling hard on the cobbles of Stage 9 and more or less getting run over by a handful of unaware riders, though his team mounted a heroic effort to get him across the finish line.
- Marc Hirschi – Hirschi was the star of some rare, spicy offseason drama, the sort that’s red meat for NBA fans and mostly foreign to cycling fans. The breakout star of the 2020 Tour seems to have forced his way out of his deal with Team DSM to go to UAE, getting a 1,333.333 percent raise in the process.
- Vegard Stake Laengen – Here is a stat that tells you all you need to know about the Norwegian’s role on this team: He is the fourth-tallest rider in the Tour at 6-foot-5.
- Davide Formolo – The lovable Italian rider has his wife’s first initial tattooed where the ring goes.
- Brandon McNulty – Just 23 years old, America’s brightest cycling hope is on the fastest of fast tracks. After turning down World Tour interest in favor of an extra year of development, McNulty got tossed onto the 2020 Giro d’Italia squad and finished 15th in Milan after hovering around the top five for a few weeks. He once again forced his directeur sportif‘s hand this year by nearly winning the Tour of the Basque Country, showing he was simply too talented to keep home.
- Mikkel Bjerg – The tall Dane won three straight U-23 world time trial championships, and because the event did not take place in 2020, he’s also been the defending champ for almost four years now. Obviously, nobody has equaled that record.
- Rui Costa – Great rider, loves breakaways; also, he fought a guy with his wheel at the 2010 Tour de France.
- Geraint Thomas – Welsh fans love Thomas, so much that he’s pretty regularly regaled with renditions of an old Welsh song with the lyrics moved around a bit to wedge Thomas’s name in there. He won the 2018 Tour de France, a Tour he began as a lieutenant to Chris Froome. Once he won atop Alpe d’Huez and Froome started cracking, however, he assumed leadership and held off an impressive challenge from Tom Dumoulin. One year later, he watched as teammate Egan Bernal overtook him. This year, a somewhat similar dynamic could play out within the team, with four plausible leaders. Let’s learn about them now.
- Richard Carapaz – Carapaz is not only the first-ever Ecuadorian Grand Tour winner, he’s the first-ever Ecuadorian rider to get a contract with a European team. The country doesn’t have much cycling history or infrastructure, though he’s working to change that.
- Richie Porte – The Tasmanian is back with Ineos after serving as a super-domestique for Froome then striking out on his own and delivering a podium finish last year. He probably has Ineos’s second-best argument to start as team leader after Thomas, as he just won the Criterium du Dauphine, which is traditionally the most indicative tune-up race. He’s good at everything—climbs, time trials—except for the most impossible and maybe most important factor, which is having decent luck. Whoever Ineos solidifies around by Week Two will probably have the strongest team in the ride, even if UAE and Jumbo-Visma are all-in on this Tour.
- Tao Geoghegan Hart – TGH is the wildcard here, as the youngest, yet most recently crowned Grand Tour winner of the four “leaders.” He won an extremely weird and extremely COVID-maimed Giro d’Italia in 2020, and though he’s never raced the Tour before, he clearly knows how to navigate a three-week race and is clearly trusted by Ineos management. Also, this guy looks just like me, which usually I’d hate but he’s a cool enough rider that I’m pulling for him to, ah, well, I guess help Carapaz to another unlikely win.
- Michał Kwiatkowski – The other four guys on Ineos are here to support, and is tradition, the cast is absurdly loaded. Using their considerable wealth and prestige to sign up riders who might otherwise have a leading role or at least stage-hunting freedom to put their heads down and work as domestiques is what distinguishes this squad, and Kwiatkowski typifies this. He’s won a world championship, a bunch of classics, and even a Tour stage, and it’s a bit of a bummer that a rider this cool will spend the Tour riding for others.
- Jonathan Castroviejo – The Basque veteran is the ideal Ineos rider. He’s a time trial ace who uses his powers to keep his leaders out of danger as much as possible, and judging from his Instagram, he loves helping dudes win stuff. Seriously, all his pictures seem to be of his teammates.
- Luke Rowe – Rowe has spent his entire career supporting Ineos/Sky leaders, and has excelled in his role. He also has the distinction of being the only “winner” of the lanterne rouge, awarded to the last-place finisher, to take the start line this year. One month after that honor, he broke two bones in his leg jumping into shallow water at his brother’s bachelor party.
- Dylan van Baarle – DVB is a classics specialist who is reliable and all that, yes, yes, OK, my real point to make here is that he just recently shaved the worst mustache in the peloton, a strip of hair so blonde it took me a good 15 minutes of squinting at recent photos to see if it was really gone. Great rider!
- Primož Roglič – Our other Slovenian contender, Roglic has opted for a very different path to the Tour than the other top contenders. He won the Basque Tour (notably by walloping the UAE boys), had an uneventful Liege-Bastogne-Liege, then shuffled off to a couple of high-altitude training camps rather than race his way into form. History shows us mixed record for this sort of approach, though it’s certainly better than what happened last year, when Roglic fell hard in a tune-up race and had to spend a week or so off the bike right when he would normally have been grinding hard to finish off his prep. Also, Roglic was famously a big-time ski jumper before moving over to the bike, and I talked to him a bunch when he won the 2015 Tour of Azerbaijan and he seemed pretty nice.
- Wout van Aert – There is the battle for the yellow jersey, yes, though equally enticing will be the battle between van Aert and fellow ex-cyclocross prodigy Mathieu van der Poel for stages, breakaway positions, and general glory. Van Aert showed out during his first Tour, and Stage 1 is right there teed up for him to ride his way into the yellow jersey. Here’s hoping his team doesn’t stick him on permanent Roglic duty so he can fight MvdP for three weeks.
- Steven Kruijswijk – He’s a cool rider who’s useful in the mountains and has distinctive bike positioning thanks to his big broad shoulders. I’ll always root for him after his upset Giro bid went awry after he crashed into a snowbank.
- Sepp Kuss – Kuss, like McNulty, is a hot American prospect here to support a Slovenian contender, though unlike McNulty, he’s done it before, serving as Roglic’s best lieutenant in his second-place Tour campaign and subsequent Vuelta a España triumph. Kuss was mostly a mountain biker coming up, and he only got his first real bike fitting after he’d already impressed Jumbo-Visma enough to get signed.
- Robert Gesink – This guy has been around forever. He’s been a core part of this team since it was called Rabobank, then Belkin, then Lotto, and so on and so forth. Gesink is a real rider’s rider, someone who’s been at the highest level for a decade and a half with a few nice wins and a basketful of top-fives and top-10s in the best races in the world yet no signature achievement. That’s probably fine, winning any bike race is a weird cosmic impossibility, and anyone who’s come back after some horrific crashes and heart surgery is a winner in my book.
- Tony Martin – Martin was the protagonist of one of the great forgotten Grand Tour stages, Stage 6 of the 2013 Vuelta. The German machine jumped from the gun and stayed away until the literal final second of the race, losing what would have been one of the greatest wins in modern cycling history in the worst way possible.
- Mike Teunissen – Teunissen is a dedicated lead-out man and classics ace with impressive cyclocross bona fides, though he’s most well-known for his shocking win of the opening stage of the 2019 Tour.
- Jonas Vingegaard – After Roglic’s second-in-command Tom Dumoulin stepped away for a sabbatical, Vingegaard became the natural replacement on the Tour team. He’s just 24, though he’s put together a quite impressive season this year. Think of him as a Danish Brandon McNulty.
- Emanuel Buchmann – Buchmann is probably the team’s best GC rider, though he targeted the Giro this year, so his legs are more suited for support. The German climber broke the world Everesting record last year (given to the rider fasted to climb 8,848 meters, the height of Mt. Everest) by 12 minutes, though the gatekeepers invalidated it on some dumb technicality.
- Wilco Kelderman – Kelderman will contend for the GC, and though he’s never won a Grand Tour, he came very close his last time out. Kelderman’s teammate Jai Hindley rode on ahead while his leader was suffering late in the 2020 Giro, and while Kelderman hung onto the leader’s jersey and stayed on the eventual podium, there was some real confusion about whether Hindley knifed his own team leader or not. It seems like Kelderman never would have had the legs, but Tao Geoghehan Hart won the overall anyway.
- Patrick Konrad – Konrad will get to wear the Austrian champion’s jersey to the tour for the second time in his career. The skilled climber will be tasked with hanging around with Kelderman, though his manager has explicitly deputized him to win stages if he can.
- Daniel Oss – Peter Sagan’s right hand man is one of the premier lead-out men in the entire pro peloton and a respected hardman who lives for pain. The self-described “grunge cyclist” writes that “I spit my soul out and I never have regrets when cutting the finish line. To tell the truth, however, I have one regret: once I wanted to stop for a beer with some fans cheering along the Alpe d’Huez. I was cycling my fifth Tour de France. I did not stop and I am still regretting it today.” His height and huge mane of hair make him one of the most recognizable guys in the race.
- Lukas Pöstlberger – The Austrian rider, who spent a day in the maglia rosa at the 2017 Giro, attended a music high school and is notoriously particular about the music that gets played on the Bora team bus.
- Nils Politt – The lanky German got the lesson of a lifetime when he reached the fabled Roubaix velodrome alongside Philippe Gilbert, tried his absolute hardest not to get outfoxed, and then got outfoxed and finished second. Politt’s a true classics specialist
- Ide Schelling – Schelling’s an intriguing young piece in France for his first Tour after he earned serious honors during his time as a U-23 rider. He is on the record as a big-time Brandon McNulty fan.
- Peter Sagan – There was a time when you could pencil in Sagan to win the green jersey, a handful of stages, and do something outrageous in an unexpected place. His run from 2013 to 2018 was one of the most dominant half-decades the sport has ever seen, which only made his rough 2019 and extended drought in 2020 all the more surprising. Does he still have some magic left at 31? The signs are better this year, but the field is catching up. At the very least, we’ll get to watch him ride up a handful of climbs on one wheel, or otherwise show off his outrageous bike-handling skills.
AG2R Citroën Team
- Ben O’Connor – “Our team has an attractive face, between young wolves and experienced riders,” AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu said last week when he named his team. O’Connor is the leader of said wolfpack at 25, with three respectable Grand Tour finishes and a Giro win to his name. He was initially slated to support Bob Jungels, though the Luxembourger’s absence means he Aussie can shine.
- Greg Van Avermaet – GVA’s win at the 2016 Olympics means he can enjoy a fifth year racing on a gold bike before he has to cede the honor following the Tokyo games. Good for him! Van Avermaet is a cool guy who upended the narrative that he was just a lovable loser by winning the Olympics then Paris-Roubaix, and he’ll be gunning for stage wins.
- Benoît Cosnefroy – A Benoit “Beubeu” Cosnefroy fact that I learned from a very active English-language fan account is that Cosnefroy’s first win came at the Prix Louis Cosnefroy, which is named after his great-great-grandfather.
- Aurélien Paret-Peintre – Paret-Peintre won the first World Tour race of 2021 this past January, when he pipped Thomas Boudat at the line to take the GP La Marseillaise.
- Oliver Naesen – Naesen’s an experienced classics rider with a Milan-San Remo podium to his name, though he’s realistic about his chances of seriously derailing the van Aert-MvdP holy war. “Sometimes I really wonder how the hell am I supposed to attack those guys with a bike,” he said. “It’s exactly like MotoGP with them.”
- Nans Peters – The Giro and Tour stage winner is nicknamed Le Pingouin (the penguin) “because I have big eyebrows and I move my shoulders a lot on the bike.”
- Michael Schär – Schär is a dedicated domestique, serving a variety of team leaders through each one of the past 10 Tours de France. He was an unfortunate casualty of a baffling new UCI rule banning the tossing out of spent water bottles to the crowd, which fans love. After being booted out of the Tour of Flanders, he wrote a long post about how special it can feel to receive a memento like that.
- Dorian Godon – The tall French rider has four wins to his name: two wins at the prologue to the Boucles De Mayenne and two wins of the one-day classic Paris-Camembert. Consistency.
- Julian Alaphilippe – The Great French Hope is an unlikely one. After spending the first few years of his career winning one-day races on an impressive variety of terrains, Alaphilippe fucked around and nearly won the 2019 Tour. Why not try for the whole thing again? The course unfortunately does not suit him, however, he has become a better time trialist and also, he’s a Real Bike Rider so maybe he can make another run.
- Mark Cavendish – Hell yeah buddy hell yeah! Hell yeah!!!! Cav is of the greatest sprinters of all-time, and he’s second on the list of all-time stage wins at the Tour with 30. When he won his most recent quartet of stages at the 2016 Tour, it seemed like a formality that he’d pass Eddy Merckx, but the decline of Cav’s career came quick. Years of heartbreak nearly caused him to retire, and after he ended his 2020 season in tears of disbelief, it really felt like an ignoble end was nigh for one of the greatest riders of his generation. However, a small injury and a nasty spat with management knocked defending green jersey winner Sam Bennett out of the race, which means Cav is back to chase 34. I don’t think he’ll get there—Alaphilippe is the focus here—though a stage win would be incredible.
- Kasper Asgreen – Arguably the best of an impressive crop of young Danish stars, Asgreen’s biggest win came against the most imposing of opponents. Asgreen found himself contesting the sprint of the Tour of Flanders against Mathieu van der Poel, a true freak on the bike, and he stuck to MvdP so hard the Dutch destroyer pulled up and shook his head before Asgreen even got to the line and raised his fists. The dude can ball.
- Tim Declercq – The Belgian hardman is one of the least decorated yet most important riders for this superteam. He is a pure domestique, whose only job is making life easy for his team’s leaders. That requires fighting for position throughout the entirety of a race, sprinting hard into corners to make sure Alaphilippe or whoever gets to stay in the best spots, and controlling which riders are allowed into the breakaway. Declerq won’t ever get to race for himself, and he’s cool with that. He’s nicknamed The Tractor, and he’s earned he hell out of that one.
- Michael Mørkøv – Like so many of his teammates, Mørkøv is a highly respected veteran who’s made a name for himself by supporting others. When he has raced for himself, it’s mostly on the track and he has silver medal at the Olympics and three golds at the worlds. In 2016, he went down hard on the opening stage of the Tour, yet persisted for seven days, all the way until the first mountain stage, before finally being forced to drop out of the race. Cav couldn’t ask for a better helper.
- Mattia Cattaneo – One of Alaphilippe’s mountain helpers, Cattaneo’s inclusion over Yves Lampaert is a bit controversial, as Lampeart is significantly more accomplished and probably more prepared. Cattaneo is a much better climber, which means perhaps this team is more serious about supporting Alaphilippe than initially suspected.
- Davide Ballerini – Ballerini is one of the youngest riders on this team at 26, though he’s already working his way up the ranks. His sprint at Omloop het Nieuwsblad was a full-power ass-kicking off the front, the sort of win you don’t see all that often. He’ll probably take lead-out work, but he’s a hell of a contingency plan.
- Dries Devenyns – Follow this training plan and you too can ride the Tour de France.
- Arnaud Démare – The rare French guy who can actually win races, Demare has been FDJ’s talisman for almost a decade now, despite being just 29. His classics record is as solid as his Grand Tour sprinting record, and his 2020 Giro was his best-ever three-week race. FDJ’s team ambitions are traditionally split between Démare and Pinot, another French guy who I love that can win races, but Pinot’s out injured, so this year, it’s Démare and Gaudu. I guess one last Arnaud Démare fact is that he’s very handsome. FDJ’s director Marc Madiot went absolutely nuts when Démare won the French championships last year.
- David Gaudu – This guy could very quickly become a French guy who actually wins races! He’s got a smattering of very impressive finishes to his name, and though the bulk of his team’s energy will be devoted to Démare, he can absolutely hang in the mountains with the best. He’d be a sneaky upset pick to Do Some Stuff.
- Valentin Madouas – Hey, the Tour starts in Madouas’s hometown! Lucky guy. Madouas has a nice record in his two Grand Tours, and he’ll be Gaudu’s only buddy in the mountains. He treats his Instagram like a little blog, so I guess that’s cool.
- Stefan Küng – The Swissman is a time trial specialist who’ll ride hard into the wind for Démare and Gaudu, then try to get his against the clock. Now that Fabian Cancellara has retired, Küng is free to actually win national championships, and this month he extended his streak to five years in a row.
- Miles Scotson – Scotson earned his first victory this year at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, though it was quite an eventful one. The Aussie broke solo and opened up a 60-second gap, which was abruptly halved when he slipped and fell with four kilometers left, nearly costing himself a victory in the dumbest way.
- Jacopo Guarnieri – Life, according to Guarnieri’s Twitter bio, is “funny but not ha ha funny.” The Italian rider is a dedicated lead-out man, who was part of Alexander Kristoff’s lead-out train during the best years of his career, and he’s also been part of most of Démare’s major wins, including both of his Tour stages.
- Ignatas Konovalovas – The Lithuanian is another time trialist and core member of Démare’s lead-out train. “I’m also a “diesel” kind-of rider,” he said late last year, “And like to prepare the old fashioned way.”
- Bruno Armirail – The FDJ team was at the 2020 UAE Tour, which took place in late February, and as such, turned out to be a COVID nightmare. After an outbreak placed the FDJ team on lockdown on the fourth floor of their hotel, Armirail somehow managed to escape, get a taxi to the airport in shorts and flip flops, and make it back to France to lockdown in his home rather than wait it out.
- Pello Bilbao – Every team wants riders like Bilbao. When he has the license to go hard, he produces, with two stage wins and two top-six finishes at the Giro. His instincts are tremendous, whether its catching two leaders on a descent then owning them in the sprint, or turning himself inside out in service of his team leader.
- Wout Poels – Poels’s racing career is a miracle of sorts, as an infamous crash at the 2012 Tour known as the Metz Massacre nearly cost him a kidney and a few other assorted organs. He recovered to become one of Team Sky/Ineos’s most reliable lieutenants, helping Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas slide into their yellow jerseys. He’s nicknamed DJ Breadsticks because he’s rail-thin.
- Jack Haig – The Australian moved to Europe in 2014 to pursue a full-time career as a pro cyclist, and he says he hasn’t been back down under since. He and his wife ran the Orange Goat Cafe in their home in Andorra, though they closed it down during quarantine. He’ll serve as the team’s GC hope in France.
- Sonny Colbrelli – The 31-year-old Italian is on the form of his life, excelling at the Dauphine and winning the Italian national championships this past week. He’s capable of stealing wins when opportunities present themselves, especially when the racing gets tough, as it did at the Dauphine.
- Dylan Teuns – Teuns earned a win any rider would be proud of when he took a stage of the 2019 Tour atop the dirt roads of La Planche Des Belles Filles (either referring to a local legend about local girls throwing themselves into the lake to avoid Swedish invaders or a weird translation of “beautiful trees”). What did he do during quarantine? “I helped a lot at a friend’s potato company. I like to drive the tractor: plowing, preparing the field, spraying, and so on. [It’s] ideal for clearing your head.”
- Matej Mohorič – Mohorič is another decorated Slovenian rider, who is incredibly lucky to be here in France after suffering a truly freaky crash at the Giro a month ago. It’s really bizarre: his back wheel locked up on a descent, flipping him immediately onto his head at high speed. Somehow, he was pretty much fine, even though his bike snapped in half. His helmet probably saved his life.
- Fred Wright – Wright is the youngest cyclist in the Tour at 22 years old, as he beats out Maxime Chevalier by one month.
- Marco Haller – Haller is a breakaway specialist, though I mostly remember that time when an Italian fan tried to grab a bottle out of his mouth after a stage of the Giro.
- Rigoberto Urán – The 34-year-old Colombian is enjoying a resurgent 2021 season, nearly winning the Tour de Suisse and taking a time trial stage in the process. Urán has come close to winning The Big One dozens of times over the course of the past decade without ever breaking through. I’ll always remember his agonizing near-miss at the 2012 Olympics, when he slowed down and looked over his shoulder at the worst time, letting himself get outfoxed by old-ass doper Alexander Vinokourov.
- Michael Valgren – This guy is easily the blondest man at the Tour de France. Per his Twitter bio, “Love to ride my bike.”
- Sergio Higuita – Higuita could be Colombia’s next big thing. He just won best young rider at Paris-Nice, he took a stage at the 2019 Vuelta, and he was having a nice debut Tour last year when Bob Jungels swerved right into him and sent him out of the race.
- Neilson Powless – Powless is a promising young American time trialist who seems primed for a breakout in his second Tour de France. He comes from an impressively athletic family—his sister is a pro and his mother ran the marathon at the 1992 Olympics—and he is also the first Native American cyclist to start the Tour, as he has Oneida and Cherokee heritage on his father’s side of the family.
- Magnus Cort – The Dane is a prolific winner, with four Grand Tour stages to his name, and he’ll look to snipe sprint stages out from under the big favorites. He also either, uh, really got enthusiastic writing ad copy for a sponsor a few weeks ago or got hacked.
- Stefan Bissegger – Bissegger’s a special rider, and someday, maybe this month even, he’s going to start producing big results. The 22-year-old already stage wins at the biggest one-week races of the season, and his time trial skills already put him among the world’s best.
- Jonas Rutsch – The German classics specialist is tied as the tallest rider in the race at 6-foot-6. This EF team really is loaded with cool guys.
- Ruben Guerreiro – Guerreiro won a stage and the King of the Mountains at the 2020 Giro, becoming the first Portuguese rider ever to win any classification at any Grand Tour. He went back to the Giro this year, where he was having a nice race before he crashed out. Most fans will remember when he got so invested in an argument with an opponent that he lost contact with his team.
- Nairo Quintana – I’ve been rooting for this guy to win a Tour de France since he came over to Europe in 2012, and though he’s fallen short every time, seems to be diminishing a bit as a Grand Tour leader, and there was that, uhhhhhh, odd hotel raid last year, I’m still enough of a romantic to convince myself that this could be his year. Probably not, but this is my blog post!
- Nacer Bouhanni – Cycling is as far away as possible on the physicality spectrum from fighting, yet Bouhanni proves horseshoe theory is true. He’s a former amateur boxer, and he also has several prominently pugilistic incidents on his record.
- Warren Barguil – At just 29, Barguil has lived through it all. He roared onto the scene in 2013, winning two Vuelta stages, but in Jan. 2016, a British woman ran into Barguil and five of his teammates head-on at speed, nearly killing the whole group. He says he nearly retired, though he had a great 2017 Tour, won the 2019 French road racing championship, and put together a resurgent 2020 season.
- Connor Swift – He’s got a real cool hound dog and he’s veteran rider Ben Swift’s cousin.
- Dan McLay – Per a translated version of his team bio, he was asked the question, “A video game, a book?” and he said, “Scar-Tissue, the autobiography of Anthony Keidis from Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
- Anthony Delaplace – This guy is Mr. Normandy. He’s won two combativity awards at the Tour, both for getting in the break and riding hard when the race has visited his hime region. According to his team bio, again, translated from the French, “To cut with the bicycle, it is towards gastronomy that the Norman turns.”
- Élie Gesbert – Best-known for getting punched by Gianni Moscon at the 2018 Tour, he seems to have a decently active fan club for some reason.
- Clément Russo – OK something I noticed reading the biographies of some of these Arkéa guys is that several riders have their relationship status listed (Russo is taken), though not everyone does. Could be a weird Google translate thing, I don’t know. Anwyay. Three words that describe him, per the Arkéa site? “Smiling, Determined, Impatient.”
- Miguel Ángel López – “Superman” Lopez has finished in the top 10 of every single Grand Tour he’s ever finished, though he nearly retired this past offseason because the toll of being a team leader was wearing on him. Though he’s won a Tour stage and accomplished a ton, he’s had his troubles too, including some hard crashes and an incident at the 2019 Giro when he punched a fan after he got knocked off his bike.
- Enric Mas – Fifth at both the Vuelta and the Tour last year, Mas will start off supporting the slightly more experienced Lopez, even though he finished one place ahead of him last year. Mas has been thought of as Spain’s next potential Tour de France winner for years now, and all it will take is one bad day for his Colombian leader for Mas to seize the reigns.
- Alejandro Valverde – This guy’s back, I guess. Valverde is comfortably the oldest rider in the peloton at 41, and after going winless in 2020, he looks something like his usual self. He excelled at the Ardennes classics, as usual, and though he’ll theoretically be in France to support Mas and López, he’s traditionally less of a helper and more of a guy who also happens to be riding in the same group as his leader. Valverde will get his, because he’s done this forever. I think I’d feel a lot cooler about Valverde if he wasn’t such an unrepentant doper from back in the day, and it’s certainly eyebrow-raising to see someone this old and this confirmed as dirty still achieving into his 40s, but this is cycling so I guess I should get over it.
- Marc Soler – Soler is the fourth of Movistar’s impressive roster of climbers. His inclusion is a bit of a surprise, since he crashed out of the Giro a month ago.
- Iván García Cortina – Garcia Cortina’s profile is that of a future Paris-Roubaix contender, which is not the traditional loadout of a Spanish rider. He’s a strongman who’ll keep everyone safe on the flats.
- Imanol Erviti – The Basque press announced the Movistar team as “Imanol Erviti and seven other cyclists.”
- Carlos Verona – Verona studied marketing in school, and he has some actually good ideas on how to grow the sport.
- Jorge Arcas – Having a good time on the bike.
- Mads Pedersen – What was most impressive about Mads Pedersen’s shocking 2019 World Championships win was his patience. The Danish rider was front wheel of a three-man group, with the shark Matteo Trentin glued to him. Pedersen never blinked, never tried any wacky shit, and never got fazed by the moment and went too early. He slow-pedaled it, kept his eyes on Trentin, then outgutted him. The Danish commentary to his win is a delight.
- Vincenzo Nibali – The Sicilian enjoys the distinction of being the only rider to break up Sky/Ineos’s 2010s strangehold on the yellow jersey, destroying the field by over seven minutes in 2014 after Froome crashed out. It’s been six years since he was actually competitive at a Tour de France, but who knows, he’s wily as hell. Nibali has the distinction of being the best descender in the peloton, and with organizers leaning into descent finishes following big summits, he could get owned on the uphill but make up big chunks of time on the downhill.
- Bauke Mollema – Mollema’s great! He’s always in front groups, making moves or dutifully protecting his leader. He finally got his signature win at the 2019 Giro di Lombardia, which rules, though I suppose I’ll always think about him getting furious at his SRAM componentry.
- Jasper Stuyven – Stuyven has been steadily and quietly great in the classics for years, but this year, he finally broke through and won Milan–San Remo by holding off the sprinters for just long enough. He and his cousin run the chocolate shop Chocolade Atelier Stuyven.
- Toms Skujiņš – Skujiņš suffered a violent crash at the 2017 Tour of California—nobody knows exactly what happened, since he doesn’t remember and the TV motorbike was around a bend—and the image of a visibly concussed Skujiņš being let on his bike set off a serious debate over rider safety. Skujiņš returned the next year and won a stage.
- Julien Bernard – Like his father, Julien Bernard is a Tour de France stage winner! Unlike his father, Julien’s “win” was during the first and hopefully only virtual edition of the race, held online last summer before the real thing.
- Kenny Elissonde – The Frenchman marked himself for big things in 2013 when he won stop the Vuelta’s most famous climb, the Angliru. Elissonde is a pure climber, weighing just 115 pounds, and though he hasn’t followed up on that Vuelta win yet, he’s a very capable mountaintop helper for his leader. He was part of an infamous crash at the 2017 Giro when a haphazardly parked motorbike took out him and Sky leader Geraint Thomas.
- Edward Theuns – Theuns first rode the Tour back in 2016, his first season as a World Tour pro. He was having a great race, until the high winds during the Stage 13 time trial sent him tumbling over the handlebars and into a ditch. The image of Theuns laying splayed out in the ditch unconscious, was singularly haunting, and thankfully he managed to rejoin the peloton within a year after recovering from extensive back surgery.
Intermarché–Wanty Gobert Matériaux
- Louis Meintjes – This will be Meintjes’s first Tour de France since he was considered one of cycling’s most promising young climbers a half-decade ago. The tiny South African climber finished eighth in back-to-back years, though three years of bad luck and injuries have stalled him out. It’d be great to see the little guy put on a good show in France with this tiny Belgian team.
- Danny van Poppel – (L-R): Danny van Poppel, Danny van Poppel
- Loïc Vliegen – The Belgian rider almost had the race of a lifetime, leading Liege-Bastogne-Liege after attacking from a seven-man break within the final 25 kilometers. Vliegen is from Liege, and soloing into a Monument win or podium would have been an amazing result for the hometown hero, but sadly, he cramped up so bad he couldn’t move his bike.
- Jan Bakelants – Here are the only two things you need to know about Bakelants: He won the yellow jersey kind of by accident in 2013 with a kind of ‘Oh, let’s just try something‘ attack that basically never works; four years later, everyone got really mad at him for publicly lusting after the podium girls.
- Jonas Koch – So many of the German riders at the Tour, including Koch, seem to be designated lead-out men. He’s here to help set van Poppel the younger up for success. Koch got to stand on the podium with his teammate Georg at the German championships last week.
- Boy van Poppel – Boy, despite his name, is six years older than Danny. Not only are both brothers pros, their dad won 22 Grand Tour stages and their mother was a pro who represented the Netherlands at the 1984 Olympics.
- Lorenzo Rota – Rota was having a decent Tour de Suisse until his whole team pulled out of the race after a staff member came down with COVID.
- Georg Zimmermann – Georg Zimmermann, NOT George Zimmerman. The German climber is just 23, but he showed out in his Vuelta debut last year, finishing 21st. He’ll be glued to Meintjes’s side.
Cofidis Solutions Crédits
- Guillaume Martin – Martin is Cofidis’s team leader, but more importantly, he has a master’s degree in philosophy and he wrote a book called “Socrate á Velo.”
- Anthony Perez – Perez will try to redeem his effort at the 2020 Tour, where he held the virtual King of the Mountains jersey, but crashed out after falling into his own team car at high speed.
- Christophe Laporte – When Laporte was coming up through the ranks, he rode for La Pomme Marseille, which now has some different, worse name. That team had the coolest kits, with the split-colored apple right in the center.
- Jesús Herrada – Herrada has been teammates with his brother Jose for almost a decade, though the two are on a curious rotation that began with Movistar and continues on Cofidis: Jesus rides the Tour, while Jose ride both the Vuelta and the Giro. They’ve ridden 21 cumulative Grand Tours as teammates, but only two together.
- Pierre-Luc Perichon – Perichon appears to be quite active in the French cyclists’ union, so chapeau Pierre-Luc!
- Simon Geschke – In a sport mostly populated by waifish little guys, Geschke stands out as a beard-haver of distinction. Seriously, he looks so cool. He’s a vegan, he won a really impressive stage at the Tour a few years ago, and he has remarkably good reviews on Cameo.
- Jelle Wallays – Wallays and his girlfriend run a little bed and breakfast in West Flanders, where they promise to “always receive their guests with open arms.”
- Rubén Fernandez – Once thought to be Spain’s brightest cycling hope, Fernandez’s career has stalled out a bit. He put himself on the map by winning the 2013 Tour l’Avenir, though mouth injuries and foot problems have slowed him down.
- Jakob Fuglsang – Fuglsang is probably the most accomplished all-around cyclist never to finish on a Grand Tour podium. He has a truly impressive resume in one-week and one-day races, including two monument wins and an Olympic silver medal, though his career as a Grand Tour leader has been snakebitten. So this year, he said he’s no longer worried about the GC, and will instead hunt stages.
- Omar Fraile – The newly crowned Spanish champion and skilled climber really needs to shave that goatee.
- Alexey Lutsenko – Lutsenko is one of two Kazakh riders on Astana, who were managed for years by notorious former rider Alexander Vinkourov until he was abruptly fired on Thursday, just two days before the race kicks off. Seems bad! Anway, Lutsenko wins a ton and he’s on good form right now.
- Ion Izagirre – Izagirre is a no-bullshit climber with wins at all three Grand Tours. Izagirre usually races alongside his brother Gorka, though he’ll have to do it without him this year.
- Stefan de Bod – De Bod’s first-ever Tour de France will be a little harder than he anticipated, as it seems Air France just lost his luggage.
- Alex Aranburu – Aranburu got his first World Tour win this year at the Tour of the Basque Country, his home region.
- Hugo Houle – The French-Canadian rider is also here to hunt stages, and it seems he has his eye on Stage 7. Houle is the team’s road captain, so he has some responsibility for shifting the team’s efforts around to support whichever rider will go for the stage win on any given day.
- Dmitriy Gruzdev – The 35-year-old Kazakh has earned two golds, two silvers, and two bronzes at various Asian Cycling Championships through the years.
- Caleb Ewan – The Aussie is the heir apparent to Cavendish, which not everyone is happy about. Eddy Merckx called him out on some back-in-my-day shit after Ewan abandoned the Giro this year to either deal with knee pain or get ready for the Tour. Is it really all that disrespectful to the Giro to use it as a tune-up ride to the only race that gets mainstream attention? I don’t think so, and either way, Ewan is tuned the hell up. He’s been a winning machine the past two years now that he’s settled with Lotto. Like Cav, he’s a tiny little guy who pushes out into a really aggressive position to stay aerodynamic while fighting for the line. He’s the best pure sprinter at the race and he really should win a few of the seven or eight stages for the sprinters, though van Aert and MvdP loom as serious foils.
- Philippe Gilbert – Gilbert is an all-timer, and he’s won basically everything there is to win. Milan-San Remo is the only monument missing from his collection, though it’s not like he really needs it. I will always remember when Gilbert won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2011 despite getting stuck in the final group with both Schleck brothers. They huffed, puffed, and traded attacks in an attempt to shake off Gilbert, but the Belgian was too strong for both of them, and he romped to the win.
- Tosh Van der Sande – Cycling photo by Tosh Van der Sande:
- Harry Sweeny – Sweeny had COVID a few months ago, but thankfully that couldn’t stop him from making his Tour debut. He’ll be one of the earliest links in Ewan’s lead-out train.
- Thomas De Gendt – The breakaway specialist is one of the most beloved teammates and riders in the peloton, and he’ll do his work for Ewan on flat stages and try to snipe opportunities when the race gets topographical. Even if everyone knows he’s on the prowl, De Gendt is a master escape artist, and he’ll make breaks that nobody wants him in. He earned my undying fandom in 2018, when he and a teammate simply rode home to Belgium after their season ended at Il Lombardia, some 1,000 kilometers away.
- Roger Kluge – Kluge is lucky to be starting the Tour de France. He suffered a stroke in 2018 and had to have heart surgery to fix the issue. Kluge is the final member of the lead-out train for Ewan, and he’s responsible for delivering him to the best position before he goes.
- Jasper De Buyst – As of press time, this is De Buyst’s most recent tweet:
- Brent Van Moer – Van Moer was all set up to win the Ronde van Limburg, riding into the final kilometer with a 10-second edge when he, well, took a wrong turn.
- Simon Yates – The 2018 Vuelta champion is here without his twin brother Adam and without the tether of having to go for the general classification. He just raced the Giro and he wants to go to Tokyo, so why crush your legs when you can hunt stages instead?
- Michael Matthews – The former bad-boy sprinter has matured into a crafty veteran, and he’ll go after flatter stages. His nickname is Bling, since he used to race with a big gaudy earring.
- Amund Grøndahl Jansen – The Norwegian champion’s jersey that he wore in 2019 was the coolest version of that kit I’ve ever seen.
- Lucas Hamilton – The team’s GC leader is also one of its least experienced riders. Hamilton turned in a solid 25th place at the Giro two years ago, and he has the sort of obvious skills and eye-catching results you want in a 25-year-old contender. He’s got a strong team around him and two former GC guys who are probably happy to be free of the pressure to help him.
- Robert Stannard – Stannard is probably the most exciting Australian cyclist coming up through the ranks, and he’s been cranking out steady results in one-day races over the past two seasons. An Australian outlet said he seems to have been “formed in a laboratory in a quest to assemble the perfect cyclist,” which makes my coverage of American soccer prospects look measured and tame.
- Esteban Chaves – Gone are the days of Chaves as a top-tier Grand Tour contender. It’s hard to believe the Colombian is already 31, since his beaming smile makes him look like a kid, but he’s enjoyed a nice long career with the Australian team. And Chaves is a rider whose presence here, at the Tour and as a veteran of the pro peloton, is something to be celebrated, since he endured one of the worst crashes in modern memory back in 2013. He couldn’t move his arm for six months, and doctors were skeptical he’d ever ride again. He’s mostly free to hunt stages, as long as he also supports Hamilton when he needs him.
- Christopher Juul-Jensen – Juul-Jensen is a Danish rider claimed and beloved by Irish fans. He grew up in Ireland, though he moved to his parents’ home country when he was 16 because their school system allowed him to more comfortably pursue his racing career.
- Luka Mezgec – Mezgec won a stage at the Giro in 2014, though since then, he’s matured into one of the best lead-out men in the peloton. He helped Caleb Ewan for a few years, and now Matthews is his charge.
Israel Start-Up Nation
- Chris Froome – Well well well, Chris Froome is finally back. The four-time winner, a rider who was once so dominant that it seemed mere formality that he’d win a record-breaking sixth yellow jersey, has been in the wilderness for two years following a severe crash that could have easily ended his career. As much as I’ve ragged on this guy over the years, it really is good to see him back after suffering all those horrific injuries in 2019. He won’t win this year, since he doesn’t have the form and he’s here to support Woods, but finishing in Paris will be its own sort of achievement for Froome.
- Michael Woods – Woods is this team’s true leader. The Canadian climber has some impressive results on his record, and he’s entering this Tour on what looks like the form of his life, though in true Canadian fashion, he’s seriously downplaying his chances. “I don’t think I deserve to be in that conversation for the win,” he said last week. Come on man, you have to go for it.
- André Greipel – Hey it’s André Greipel! Not many expected the 38-year-old sprinter to come back for his 11th straight Tour, but after his first win in Europe since 2018 this year, why not give him a shot? Greipel hasn’t won a stage since 2016, though he’s gunning for his third win on the Champs-Elysees. It’d be nice to see him and Cav go at it for old time’s sake, even if it’s for like seventh on a sprint stage.
- Rick Zabel – Greipel’s dedicated lead-out man, Zabel is the son of all-time great sprinter Erik Zabel. His dad won the Tour’s points competition six times in a row and has 11 stages to his name. Rick isn’t that level of rider, but he’s earned his spot in the peloton on his own and he’s a steady rider.
- Dan Martin – The sole Irishman at the Tour. Martin has been reliably excellent for the better part of a decade now, and after a successful Giro, he’s won stages at and finished in the top 10 of all three Grand Tours. Fans love Martin since he rides bravely, never afraid to attack on any stage with his trademark punchiness. Of all the old guys on this team, Martin is my favorite.
- Reto Hollenstein – Time for another entry in our running tally of tall guys: Hollenstein is tied with Jonas Rutsch for tallest rider in the race. Someone should make them stand back to back so we can see who the champ is.
- Guillaume Boivin – Boivin has been around for a long time, and now he finally gets to start a Tour de France. The Canadian rider has the distinction of being part of a tie, extremely rare in cycling, when he and Taylor Phinney threw their bikes at exactly the same time at the 2010 U-23 World Championships.
- Omer Goldstein – Goldstein’s manager called him an “offensive rider,” who’s primed to jump at opportunities to attack. The 24-year-old Israeli will be making his tour debut, and though he tends to look for stage win opportunities, he’ll be responsible for protecting Woods.
- Edvald Boasson Hagen – The Norwegian’s past his prime now, but his 2011 Tour was really something to behold. In recent years, Boasson Hagen made a (quickly neutralized) escape across an active train crossing and put down a ludicrous 212-kilometer ride on a cycling treadmill.
- Julien Simon – Red, blue, and green is a pretty tragic color combination, though I can’t help but love the garishness of this team’s wheelsets.
- Pierre Latour – This is a pretty important Tour for TotalEnergies leader Latour. The Frenchman finished 13th and won the best young rider classification at the 2018 Tour, and he seemed poised at that point to really start delivering on his promise. Things have seriously stalled out since then, and this will be his first Tour as a team leader with dedicated support.
- Fabien Doubey – Doubey’s skills as a cyclocross rider will probably come in handy keeping Latour upright. Don’t just take my word for it, here’s his team biography’s reference to CX: “This discipline, which turns out to be harsh, allowed him to build a steel mind to go into battle.”
- Anthony Turgis – Turgis has posted an impressive smattering of top 10s at very prestigious races, and I hope he can continue to ride professionally for a long time; two of his brothers have both retired after learning of a heart condition.
- Victor de la Parte – When asked whether he considers himself Spanish or Basque, de la Parte said, “I have to say Basque! They’re all crazy there – I couldn’t say anything else.”
- Jérémy Cabot – Cabot once finished in the top 10 of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, which is the coolest named race in the pro calendar. I hope it comes back in 2022.
- Cristián Rodríguez – Rodriguez will make his Tour debut this weekend, after a pair of Giros and a pair of Vueltas. He is among a distinguished group of Tour riders who already have 2021 stage race wins under their belts, though his was the Tour of Rwanda.
- Michael Gogl – Because Gogl has two top 10s at Strade Bianche, everyone’s favorite race, he seems like a prime candidate to chase stages and place himself in breakaways on punishing stages. His nifty bike handling skills and overall sneakiness have earned him the nickname “The Austrian Interloper.”
- Victor Campenaerts – Qhubeka is here at the Tour to win stages, not compete for any overall honors, unless you really think that Sergio Henao redemption arc is coming down the pipe. Campenaerts is their best bet, as he just won a stage of the Giro. More impressively, Campenaerts is the current holder of the Unified Hour Record, which is what it sounds like. He went 55.089 kilometers in an hour back in 2019, at the end of a period where it felt like every time trial rider tried to advance the record.
- Carlos Barbero – Barbero was named to the team this week to replace Fabio Aru. He has a tattoo on his left calf that reads “Live To Ride.”
- Sergio Henao – Henao was a hotshot up-and-comer on Team Sky during the Froome days, though a doping investigation derailed his progression to possible Giro leader, and he hasn’t looked like nearly the same rider since leaving the British setup.
- Nic Dlamini – Dozens of white South Africans have started the Tour de France, but until Dlamini’s entry into the race this year, no black South African has ever had the honor. In December 2019, the climber rode up into Table Mountain National Park for a training ride when he was detained by park rangers, shoved up against a van, and injured severely. In a sickening video from the scene, you can hear his left arm snapping as the cops harass him. Thankfully, the assault hasn’t derailed Dlamini’s racing career, and after two stints at the Vuelta, he’s all set to make his Tour debut.
- Max Walscheid – Unfortunately, the German rider is best known in the cycling world for causing Florian Sénéchal to crash in 2019, which made Sénéchal so mad he sucker punched (or, more accurately, tried to sucker punch) Walscheid during a TV interview. After the incident, Sénéchal apologized, though he also said, “A lot of riders congratulated me for hitting him.”
- Sean Bennett – Bennett is one of four American riders at the Tour, and the only one from the Bay Area. In his most recent interview, he and the hosts got into a lengthy argument about toilet paper geometry.
- Simon Clarke – This guy rules. Clarke’s always competing in the King of the Mountains classification, and without a team leader, he’ll be free to do so here. He wore the leader’s jersey for a day at the 2015 Giro, a race in which he later made headlines for sacrificing his own ambitions to help Richie Porte change wheels after Porte punctured. Porte, like Clarke, is Australian, but was not on Clarke’s team. Some people got mad about it, but come on, it’s a cool thing to do.
- Tiesj Benoot – DSM is here to snipe stage wins, a pursuit they excelled at last year, and Benoot is one of the two riders who they’ll support. Benoot’s up for it, since he won the 2018 Strade Bianche while covered in white mud. At the Tour last year, he crashed hard into a guardrail, though he still finished the race.
- Cees Bol – Cees Bol is not Max Walscheid, though it should be easier to keep from confusing the two tall guys since they’re no longer teammates. He finished in the top 10 four times last year and is back to try and finish in the top one.
- Søren Kragh Andersen – Speaking of a top-one finish, SKA did it twice last year, winning two stages by attacking from breakaways late. The team didn’t bring any of the GC contenders on their roster to France this year, so the Dane will have plenty of opportunities to chase wins.
- Casper Pedersen – Pedersen is Bol’s dedicated lead-out man, a role he relishes despite his own obvious talent as a racer. He won Paris-Tours last year, though in an interview afterward, he was realistic about his prospects as a big-time sprinter, saying he knew he could be a middling sprinter but potentially a great lead-out rider.
- Mark Donovan – Donovan is of the youngest riders at the Tour as well as one of the most intriguing. The 22-year-old Brit put forth an impressive showing at the 2020 Vuelta, and without any backs to watch, he’ll be allowed to hang with the big boys as long as he can in the mountains.
- Nils Eekhoff – Eekhoff is impossible not to root for after what he went through at the 2019 U-23 World Championships. The Dutchman won the race on the road, only to be denied his world championship after the race jury deemed that he was given an illegal advantage when he briefly rode behind his team car after a crash some 130 kilometers earlier. Not only is this relatively standard procedure, Eekhoff had just fallen hard and set his own dislocated shoulder.
- Joris Nieuwenhuis – Like Defector’s Dave McKenna, Nieuwenhuis is obsessed with guitars.
- Jasha Sütterlin – The talented German time trialist has a huge bull tattooed right on his sternum.
B&B Hotels p/b KTM
- Bryan Coquard – Coquard has been a winning machine throughout most of his career with Pro-Continental teams, though never at the highest level on the road. A silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics, Coquard will try to win sprint stages for this team, who I can’t not call Europcar, but, well, he’s outgunned as hell.
- Pierre Rolland – Given his experience and level of achievement, Rolland will serve as this team’s road captain. He’s exactly the sort of leader you want for a pro-continental team who are here at the Tour to try and punch above their weight. Rolland helped Thomas Voeckler steal the show during his immortal 2011 upset bid that fell just short, and in the intervening decade, he’s ridden hard almost every year, almost always finished in the top 20, and is always hanging around in the high mountain stages. The only Tour he’s missed since 2009 was the 2019 edition when he moved to a new team that didn’t earn a wildcard berth.
- Cyril Barthe – Our run on Cyrils starts with the least experienced. Unlike van Baarle, his now-departed mustache was actually good.
- Cyril Gautier – During the final stage of the 2017 Tour de France, Gautier proposed to his girlfriend by uncrumpling a piece of paper with the question “Caroline, Veux tu m’éspouser? Je t’aime” written on it. She said yes!
- Quentin Pacher – Pacher spent his debut Tour attacking relentlessly in a bid to make breakaways and get exposure for his team’s sponsor. Good lad. The peloton will pass through his hometown on Stage 19, and he’s already said he’s going to try to ride out front on that day.
- Maxime Chevalier – Let’s get the scouting report from his team’s site, since this 22-year-old rider has very little experience: “The time is no longer for discovery, but its learning continues. Climber, puncher, very good roller and endowed with remarkable faculties of recovery.”
- Franck Bonnamour – Name translates to Frank Good Love.
- Cyril Lemoine – Lemoine has been a pro since 2005, and his whole thing is that he never stops riding. By the time the Spring Classics rolled around, he’d already logged more racing days than most of the peloton, so he’s the type of guy you want in support.
- Mathieu van der Poel – Simply put, MvdP is an unstoppable winning machine, and though cycling is the sport of no guarantees, his standard is so high that wins feel inevitable. His long-awaited Tour de France debut promises fireworks. He just won two stages at the Tour de Suisse and two at Tirreno-Adriatico, and the mixed parcours of the first week are the perfect terrain for him to go wild and produce magic. The only thing that could limit him is how early he wants to take off for Tokyo, where he’ll compete in the mountain bike events, since, naturally, he’s also the best mountain biker and cyclocross rider in the world.
- Jasper Philipsen – MvdP has himself a really impressive pair of lead-out men (maybe) in Phlipsen and Merlier (more on him in a second). Philipsen won a stage at last year’s Vuelta, so he’s got the chops. In a team interview, he repeatedly stressed the importance of “small steps,” but also said “I have a goal and I will try to reach that goal as fast as possible.” Which is it bud!
- Tim Merlier – Merlier is the pure sprinter to MvdP’s all-round stage hunter, and even though he won a stage at the Giro last month, I imagine Alpecin will prioritize letting MvdP go wild and do his thing. His old team, Corendon-Circus, had some really cool-ass kits.
- Petr Vakoč – Vakoč was a real hot prospect when he was with Quick-Step, and he really popped off in the spring classics there for a while. He hasn’t raced a Grand Tour in five years, though his pedigree suggests he’s certainly the sort of guy you want toting around MvdP. As a big-time Zdenek Stybar fan, I’ll always root for cool Czech riders.
- Xandro Meurisse – This is the second Tour for the impressive young Belgian rider, who claims he doesn’t look at the race course of profile map until the day of the stage. That got him 21st place in 2019, pretty good.
- Jonas Rickaert – The Belgian rider bought a house four years ago. I kid you not, it is the most ominous house you’ll see today.
- Kristian Sbaragli – The first win of the Italian’s pro career was a Grand Tour win at the 2015 Vuelta. He hasn’t won one since, but he finishes in the top 10 a lot. He’ll be making his first Tour de France team after being in the pro peloton for eight years.
- Silvan Dillier – What did the former Swiss champ do during quarantine? He trained a lot (“it was nice to be able to get outside on the bike”) and spawned a son (“it was very nice to be around him.”)