The 100th edition of the Tour de France kicks off on Saturday in Porto Vecchio, Corsica. Set to take the start line are 198 riders representing the 19 WorldTour teams and three wild-card Pro Continental teams. Here’s a run-down of all 22 teams, their title sponsors and names you should be looking out for in the three weeks. Team line-ups are subject to change in the final few days before the race starts, but were accurate at the time of writing. Part two follows tomorrow.
AG2R La Mondiale
Overview: Unusually, the all-French line-up has just one leader, the consistent Jean-Christophe Peraud, whose best Tour placement was ninth in 2011. Diminutive sprinter Samuel Dumoulin will be vying for stage wins, while Maxime Bouet, Romain Bardet and Blel Kadri will be lending Peraud a helping hand in the mountains. Keep an eye out for the memorable Ag2r kit in breakaways, as riders get precious airtime for their sponsor and maybe, just maybe, a stage win – Hubert Dupont won their last Tour stage in 2010.
Sponsors: An independent Dutch oil company and a Japanese manufacturer of bike parts and accessories.
Overview: It’s all about the sprints for these boys with their one-two punch of Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. Kittel will be looking to score on the flat stages, Degenkolb on some of the lumpier ones. The boys have an impressive sprint train under team captain Roy Curvers with key lead-out men Tom Veelers and Koen de Kort. The team could also get some good results in the time trials from Tom Dumoulin and Simon Geschke.
Sponsor: A Kazakh business consortium.
Overview: In a recent interview, Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov outlined their Tour ambitions: a top five for team leader Jakob Fuglsang and King of the Mountains jersey for Fredrik Kessiakoff, who was beaten by Thomas Voeckler last year. Janez Brajkovic, who finished ninth in the 2012 Tour, will be lending a hand in the mountains. Assan Bazayev and under-23 world champion Alexey Lutsenko will be making their Tour debuts.
Belkin (formerly Blanco)
Sponsor: An American provider of wireless home networking and entertainment hardware.
Overview: Tour de Suisse runner-up Bauke Mollema gets the nod over eternal Grand Tour hopeful Robert Gesink, largely due to the number of podium placings he earned in recent one-week stage races. Mollema will enjoy the support of experienced grand tour rider Laurens ‘Wolfman’ ten Dam and rising Norwegian star Lars Petter Nordhaug. For their new sponsor, the team are leaving nothing to chance in the quest for GC glory. They’ll be using their classics riders Lars Boom, winner of this year’s Ster ZLM Toer, and Sep Vanmarcke as experienced road captains.
Sponsor: A Swiss bicycle manufacturer.
Overview: BMC are throwing their collective support behind 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans, after his podium finish in May’s Giro d’Italia. He will be mounting a strong challenge to Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff with six of the eight riders from his 2011 winning team, including grand tour stalwarts such as Amael Moinard and Marcus Burghardt. Tour of California champion Tejay van Garderen, who was last year’s best young rider and fifth overall, and Brent Bookwalter get seats on the team bus, along with current world champion Philippe Gilbert, whose last Tour stage win was in 2011.
Overview: This year, the Cannondale team will be riding in support of prolific stage winner and Slovak national champion, Velvet Samurai Peter Sagan. His successful debut last year of three stage wins and the green points jersey means he will be a rider everyone will be watching – we’ll just have to wait and see if he’s added to his repertoire of victory salutes. Tour debutant and Strade Bianche winner Moreno Moser will be given the freedom to target stage wins – could he also achieve a top ten finish? Also making their Tour debut are maple syrup connoisseur Ted King and Dauphine stage winner Alessandro De Marchi.
Sponsor: A French credit company.
Overview: Jerome Coppel, Daniel Navarro and baby-faced Rein Taaramae will lead a three-pronged attack in the hopes of stepping up from top 20 to top ten on GC with Taaramae in particular looking for his first Tour stage win in his fourth start. The trio will be supported by a mixture of experienced riders such as Christophe Le Mevel and Luis Angel Mate while Yoann Bagot and Rudy Molard will be making their Tour debuts. GC ambitions aside, rather like Ag2r, expect them to be ever-present in breakaways to secure that all-important airtime, and maybe even a stage win, to placate the man holding the purse-strings.
Sponsor: Paris-based hire car company.
Overview: Pierre Rolland, who earned eighth overall last year, is undisputed team leader this year with Thomas Voeckler given free rein to hunt down stage wins. These two will be ably supported by one of the team’s recent revelations: Boucles de la Mayenne winner and Criterium du Dauphine stage winner, David Veilleux. Team manager Jean-Rene Bernadeau is hoping to tie up the team’s future and new sponsorship before the Tour concludes in Paris, so a good performance will go a long way for this team. We wish him well in his endeavours.
Sponsor: A Basque telecoms provider.
Overview: Fielding an all-Basque line up, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s leaders will be mountain goats Mikel Nieve and Igor Anton, the latter hoping to rediscover the form he was enjoying in the 2010 Vuelta. Anton has suggested that he might aim for the King of the Mountains jersey. The experienced Mikel Astarloza, former under-23 world champion and Tour rookie Romain Sicard (who was born in the French Basque country) and the Izagirre brothers, Jon and Gorka also make the team. Expect to see those orange jerseys in the mix every time the road heads skywards and particularly in the Pyrenees where they’ll have their usual fanatical support.
Sponsor: The French national lottery.
Overview: After last year’s iconic stage win by Thibaut Pinot, urged on by team manager Marc Madiot, and his tenth place overall, expectations are high this year. FDJ are fielding a relatively young squad, lead by the experienced Pierrick Fedrigo and including former French champion Nacer Bouhanni, who will be looking for sprint wins, and the newly crowned French champion Arthur Vichot. Support in the mountains will be provided by Arnold Jeannesson and Alexander Geniez. Look for Jeremy Roy to be active in the breakaways.
Sponsors: A US-based multinational manufacturer of GPS systems and a Japanese technology provider.
Overview: Last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal, sixth in 2011 Tour, will lead the team, and enjoy strong support in the mountains from the pairing of Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin. There’s no Tyler Farrar to mix it in the sprints but time-trialling colossi Dave Zabriskie, David Millar and Ramunas Navardauskas will be chasing a result in the individual time trials so we also expect the team to do well in the team time trial around Nice. The boys are going to pursue an aggressive strategy in the hope of a decent GC classification or two.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the remaining eleven teams, from Katusha to Vacansoleil-DCM.