Here’s the second part of our overview of the 22 Tour de France teams, their main protagonists and their eclectic mix of title sponsors. The final list of participants is subject to change in the last few days before the race, but these are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing.
Sponsor: A Russian business conglomerate.
Overview: Pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez, second and third in last year’s Giro and Vuelta respectively, wingman Dani Moreno plus countryman and cohort Alberto Losada will be leading the GC charge for the Russians, ably supported by a mix of Russian and Eastern European riders. Their sprinter Alexander Kristoff will be left to fend for himself. We can also expect to see teammates heading up the road in breakaways and then, in the dying kilometres, time-trialling away from their companions only to be recaptured by the peloton before the finish line.
Sponsors: An Italian sheet steel manufacturer and a Taiwanese bike manufacturer.
Overview: Damiano Cunego, whose best Tour placing was seventh in 2011, will lead the largely Italian team. However, with the talent at this Tour, he’ll be hard pressed to replicate that placing. To assist him in his ambitions, he’ll have help in the mountains from Jose Serpa, while Adriano Malori will lend muscle and expertise in the team time trial and aim for a top five position in the individual ones. The appropriately named Roberto Ferrari will be looking to light his after-burners in the sprints.
Sponsors: The Belgian lottery and a Belgian window and door manufacturer.
Overview: Lotto-Belisol have an eye both on a high GC placing with Jurgen Van den Broeck, fourth in the 2010 and 2012 Tours, and on the green jersey for German national champion Andre Greipel, whose sprint train has been working its magic in the first half of the season. Will he win more than last year’s three stages? Of course, fans will no doubt be treated to daily Twitter exchanges between those masters of wit in 140 letters: Kiwi Greg Henderson and Aussie Adam Hansen.
Sponsor: A Spanish mobile telecoms operator.
Overview: Alejandro Valverde, whose best placing was sixth in the 2007 Tour, will be playing the lead but he brings with him a strong supporting cast of similarly dimple-chinned riders, including Rui Costa, who has scored back-to-back wins in the Tour de Suisse, and Vuelta al Pais Vascowinner and Tour rookie, Nairo Quintana. Newly crowned Spanish time trial champion Jonathan Castroviejo will be looking to dazzle in the two individual time trials as well as guiding the team around the TTT parcours in Nice.
Sponsors: A Belgian pharmaceutical company and a Belgian laminate flooring manufacturer.
Overview: OPQS are coming to the Tour with their eyes firmly on the prize of the green points jersey. To that end, new British road race champion Mark Cavendish has a dedicated sprint train capable of challenging those of the Germans – Greipel, Kittel and Degenkolb – but what about Sagan? Cav can also count on support on the road from time trial world champion Tony Martin, who will also be looking to shine in the time trials. Possible stage wins could come via young Pole Michal Kwiatkowski and that wily French veteran Sylvain Chavanel.
Sponsors: A conglomerate which provide chemicals and explosives for the mining industry and a wealthy Australian businessman.
Overview: The team will once again be hunting for stage wins but as the team is less sprint-heavy than usual, those stage wins might be in the fertile middle-mountain hunting ground. Supporting Matt Goss in his sprint ambitions are Brett Lancaster and Daryl Impey. On other stages the squad will look to Simon Gerrans – the first Australian to win a stage in all three Grand Tours – and Michael Albasini for stage wins. Road captain will be Stuart O’Grady, who has appeared in every Tour since he made his debut in 1997. This will be his 17th Tour!
Sponsors: A US electronics retailer and a Luxembourg businessman.
Overview: It is rumoured that Trek are looking to take over the team providing they can hold onto the team’s stars, including Fabian Cancellara who’s not riding this Tour. [Is that Kitty sobbing uncontrollably in the background? – Ed.] Andy Schleck looks to be regaining a bit of form after a horrendous crash last year but whether he’s reached the level required to challenge for a podium place remains to be seen. The team may have to look to their Tour regulars such as Maxime Monfort, Jens Voigt – both recent VeloVoices interviewees – Andreas Kloden and Haimar Zubeldia for stage wins.
Sponsors: A Danish and a Russian bank.
Overview: Saxo-Tinkoff enters the race this year with one of the Tour favourites and former multiple Tour winner, Alberto Contador, who will bring his faithful mountain guard of Jesus Hernandez, Sergio Paulinho and Benjamin Noval. The team has been bolstered with the additions of former GC contenders Nico Roche, Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger. On paper the team looks almost as strong as that of Sky, but only time will tell.
Sponsor: A satellite television broadcaster.
Overview: Last year’s runner-up – and the bookies’ red-hot favourite – Chris Froome will be leading the team in their pursuit of back-to-back Tour wins. With victories in this year’s Tour of Oman, Criterium International, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, Froome has been looking sensational and will be the man to beat on a parcours that plays to his strengths. He’ll be supported, as he was at the Dauphine, by Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte as well as by Vasil Kiryienka, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ian Stannard and David Lopez. You have to figure that the Tour is his to lose.
Sponsor: A producer of soya-based edible products.
Overview: The all-French squad is a mixture of emerging talent and experience, which will be looking for every opportunity to animate the race. With no real overall GC contender, the team’s best bet may lie with Jonathan Hivert, who enjoyed early season success in the Etoile de Besseges, or their climber Brice Feillu, a former Tour stage winner. In any event, expect them to figure in every breakaway.
Sponsors: A European organiser of luxury camping holidays and a Belgian farm supply company.
Overview: The team have had a disappointing season, weighed down by the burden of looking for replacement sponsors, so a stage win here or a good overall placing wouldn’t hurt. No doubt they’ll continue with their strategy of aggressive riding that finds favour with the fans, particularly from the new Dutch national road race champion, hard-man Johnny Hoogerland. Led by Juan Antonio Flecha, their best bet for GC is probably Thomas De Gendt.
Header image by Davide Calabresi.