Tour de France 2017: All out of luck, clean out of time

I doubt our guest VeloVoice David Fletcher, who writes in Spanish for http://www.sprint-final.com, was even thinking about Whitesnake’s lyrics when he spoke with Quick-Stepper Matteo Trentin and BMC’s Nico Roche about their hopes and dreams just days before the start of 104th Tour de France in Dusseldorf. But unfortunately, as it turned out, the lyrics are quite apt. All will be revealed.

Matteo Trentin

With three grand tour stage victories in his last four participations (Tour de France 2013 and 2014, Giro d’Italia 2016), you might think that 27-year-old Matteo Trentin would enjoy a freer role in the Tour de France. Not so, as he will once again be laying it on the line for his team leaders though, of course, he’s also hoping to increase his stage victory count.

Matteo: My role will be largely that of a domestique though with a certain amount of freedom. I hope I can try my luck in some stages. Of course, Marcel [Kittel] is our leader in the bunch sprint stages, while Dan [Martin] is our main man for the overall classification. But a Grand Tour has 21 stages, and there will be many possibilities.

With eight stage victories in 2017, Marcel Kittel appears to be the strongest of the leading sprinters ahead of the Tour. However, Matteo said that even with the large number of flat stages in the Tour, there are many more possibilities within the Belgian squad for capturing stage victories.

Matteo: Each year the competition gets tougher. Even so, I think Marcel is very well prepared and the team as a whole too. In theory we have a potential winner for each stage. We’ll be at the head of the peloton, or close to it, most of the time, trying to dispute all the stages and win as many as possible.

With less than two months before the Vuelta a Espana, the teams are already preparing their line-ups and even though Matteo’s never ridden the Vuelta, he doesn’t rule out being on the starting line in Nimes.

Matteo: My calendar for the first half of the season ends with the Tour de France. It’s a massive event, so you have to first finish it before deciding on what comes next. So I still don’t know, no one knows.

Postscript: Matteo was firstly caught up in the crash on stage 4 into Vittel and then again on stage 9, along with Geraint Thomas, Alberto Contador and Rafa Majka. He finished the stage out of time.

Matteo: I was climbing well and nice until being caught on a crash down from Col de la Biche, hurting the same spot I hurt in the sprint crash in Vittel and I had to deal for 40min with incredible pain. I left everything on the road to try to make it in before the time cut but for 3min, it did not happen. It is part of our sport. But I’m sure this experience will make me stronger as dealing with pain is never easy. Today I did it for 108km, most of them alone, and I’m really happy  how strong I could be mentally.

Nico Roche

Rest up Matteo and come back with a bang for the Vuelta where you’ll find yourself in the company of BMC’s Nico Roche, who came to Dusseldorf hoping his experience of being on a Tour-winning side at Sky would greatly help his current team-leader, Richie Porte. As he explains:

Nico: The team will be totally built around Richie. As for the Tour itself, because it is such a long effort, in the first week there are nerves and falls that always seem to result in losing some of the GC favourites. This edition is a bit different, in that there are not so many high mountain stages and these are more evenly distributed throughout the parcours. Because these stages are also shorter they may not be so decisive in determining the overall. I think it’s going to be a very open race.

Nico claimed his teammate was in the best shape possible, comparable to that of Chris Froome (Sky) in 2015, the year in which the Irishman was key to the British rider’s overall victory.

Nico: Richie has a very similar shape this year. The team is built around it. He’s demonstrated that form in the Dauphiné and we are confident that he can do it (in the Tour). There are only a handful of riders who have any real chance of winning, but predicting who will win is very difficult. Chris will be in the expected level and Quintana will be strong despite it being a Tour with few mountains. Fuglsang is exceptionally good, although the Tour cannot be likened to the Dauphiné, but it is a good indicator of form and we will have to watch out for him. There are also Valverde, Aru and even Contador, who will be competitive although he did not appear to be in great shape in the Dauphiné. Despite the number of favourites, I think Richie has the opportunity of a lifetime.

As for his personal aspirations, Nico clarifies that he’ll be at the Vuelta a Espana, race in which he already has two stage victories of stage and a top-five on GC, he’ll be at the start in Nimes with ambitious objectives.  

Nico: I hope to be able to do my own race and enjoy a little freedom. I like the Tour-Vuelta combination and I am very happy with my racing programme. With luck we will all go well in the Tour and I will be able to focus on the Vuelta. I would like to once again try my hand at the overall general classification.

Enjoying a successful season at BMC and a leader’s role in some races, the experienced Irishman claims to be very happy with his first year with the US-registered squad, reiterating his satisfaction with his competitive schedule and hoping to enjoy more successful seasons with the team.

Nico: The team made it easy for me to join, both my teammates and the technical team. The fact that I already knew and had ridden in previous years with so many of the riders helped. I am very happy with how I have been treated, I feel at home. Also, as I mentioned, my racing programme’s very good and the team trusted me when I told them I should concentrate 100% on the Tour. Consequently, I had a light build-up in the spring though the second half of the season will be more intense. I will have to return the confidence they have shown in me, I will be 100% in the Tour – even 110% in the Tour!

Postscript: Nico slid off in the first stage time-trial but was able to remount and continue racing, enjoying fourth place on stage 8. However, the team’s hopes were dashed when Richie, lying 5th overall just 39 seconds behind race leader Froome, crashed on the descent off stage 9’s Mont du Chat and sustained a fractured clavicle and pelvis. We wish him a speedy recovery. 

Those lyrics now fall into place. Porte was out of luck (again), while Matteo was clean out of time.

Header image: Matteo Trentin ©GETTY / Corbis Sport / KT

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