Three Weeks to Go. We’re approaching mid-June, and the cycling world in Europe is building to a frenzy of anticipation: three weeks ’til the Tour!
Most teams will have had five or six of their riders locked in as starters since before the season began, with only a badly-timed injury preventing big hitters like Thor Hushovd, Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde from Garmin from starting.
The next couple of riders will have been selected on form, the potential roles that they can fill for their team, and their experience and past performances in Grand Tours.
There are then usually one or two spots still open that three or four riders will be striving to take. Who is the team’s priority rider? How can the team achieve their best results?
These are the first two factors defining which decisions will be made — teams that are built around a sprinter obviously have little to confuse matters, but teams with GC contenders are another story. There are only so many climbers talented enough to help at the pointy end of the big mountain stages of the Tour, and most of these men are potential leaders for their team.
So when looking at filling the 8th and 9th spots, the dilemma may be — do we take another strong domestique to ensure our leader has as much cover as is possible for as long as it is flat, or take someone who is a good climber on his day, but not consistent/experienced/team focused enough to be picked on their merits in the “definite starters” list.
It’s all very interesting, and so there are a few blokes from many of the teams who will be riding their hearts out through the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse this month trying to stake their claim for a spot in the biggest show there is for bike riders.
I’m thinking of getting involved in a tipping competition myself, but haven’t selected my starters either as yet! Either way, the anticipation in pre-Tour month is always awesome.