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This year's contest could shape out to be a close one with Movistar and Garmin-Sharp marked out as the pre-race favourites. The Spanish squad has three riders in its line-up that could all finish in the overall top 10.

Photo: Sirotti

TOUR DE FRANCE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
28.06.2013 @ 17:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Usually the teams classification plays a minor role at stage races but like in most other aspects, the Tour de France is also different in this respect. The title as the best team in the world's biggest race is a huge honour and many teams keep a firm eye on the classification throughout the race. While it is never the only pre-race target, no team will shy away from the possibility of standing on the podium in Paris with the entire team.

 

The teams classification is calculated by adding the times of the three best riders of each team in each of the 21 stages. While the mountain stages and time trials play an almost equal role in the individual classification, the climbs and team tactics usually decide the teams classification with the time trials only playing a minor role. The potential time differences between the three best riders are much larger in a tough mountain stage than they are in a time trial and so the teams with a realistic chance of taking the teams classification win are those with at least three strong climbers in their line-up.

 

Strength in numbers is much more important than an outstanding individual which is reflected in the winner's list. Radioshack won in both 2010 and 2012 and only had Chris Horner and Haimar Zubeldia in 9th and 5th as their best riders on GC. Garmin was crowned winner in 2011 despite Tom Danielson being the team's best GC rider in 8th. The most recent team to win both the GC and the teams classification was the excessively strong Astana team in 2009 which lined up Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer and Haimar Zubeldia in what was by far the strongest Tour team in recent years.

 

The other crucial factors are team tactics and aggressiveness. At some point during a grand tour, a breakaway is likely to stay clear all the way to the finish with a huge gap on the peloton. If a team misses out on such an opportunity, it is very unlikely to step onto the podium in Paris. Hence, a team with a sole focus on the GC has little chance of winning the teams classification as it is unlikely to allow domestiques to chase success in breakaways.

 

This year's contest could shape out to be a close one with Movistar and Garmin-Sharp marked out as the pre-race favourites. The Spanish squad has three riders in its line-up that could all finish in the overall top 10. Alejandro Valverde targets the podium and his 2nd place in last year's Vuelta proves that it is certainly a realistic objective. Nairo Quintana has won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco this year and the cycling world looks forward to seeing the Colombian battle it out with the best in the mountains. Finally, Rui Costa impressed most with his performance in the Tour de Suisse and if he can maintain that blistering condition all the way to Paris, he could very well enter the top 10 in a grand tour for the first time. Andrey Amador and Ruben Plaza are capable back-up riders, should one of the main riders fall out of contention in one of the mountain stages.

 

The team is usually an aggressive one, always chasing successes from breakaways. That is likely to happen also at this year's Tour and it is safe to expect Plaza and Amador enter one or more breakaways in the big mountain stages. The team has just finished a hugely successful Giro d'Italia and could very well add another successful Tour de France to its blistering run of grand tour success that has seen them take wins whenever they have lined up at a three-week with the telecommunications company as main sponsor.

 

Their biggest rival is likely to be Garmin-Sharp who have skipped their usual dual focus on the GC and the sprints to focus entirely on their overall ambitions. If Ryder Hesjedal's performances in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour de Suisse can be used as a gauge for his level at the Tour, the Canadian could very well finish on the podium. Andrew Talansky also targets the GC in his first ever Tour and his 7th place at last year's Vuelta shows that he has what it takes to be competitive, the American having even stepped up his game a further notch this season.

 

Daniel Martin has had an outstanding season with wins in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Volta a Catalunya and proved at the recent Tour de Suisse that he has timed his condition perfectly. Veterans Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson have both finished in the top 10 in the past while young Rohan Dennis makes his debut without any pressure but could create a surprise in one of the hard stages. Thus the team has no less than 6 strong climbers of which 5 have finished in the top 10 in a grand tour and they have promised to race aggressively throughout the race. It will be a tough ask for Movistar to beat this powerful American super squad.

 

Saxo-Tinkoff and Team Sky both have teams that should be strong enough to win the teams competition but they are unlikely to give it much priority. Sky will certainly not chase breakaway success and while Saxo-Tinkoff could put a rider into a decisive move one day, they will focus most of their attention on Alberto Contador's GC chances.

 

As usual, defending champions Radioshack have plenty of strong climbers in their line-up and with riders like Andy Schleck, Haimar Zubeldia, Andreas Klöden, Maxime Monfort and Jan Bakelants, it would be a mistake to discount them. Nonetheless, the first four riders have certainly not impressed in the first part of the season and they have to significantly step up their game if they want to repeat last year's win.

 

Ag2r (Peraud, Bouet, Bardet, Gadret, Dupont, Riblon), Belkin (Mollema, Ten Dam, Gesink, Nordhaug), Katusha (Rodriguez, Moreno, Losada, Vorganov, Trofimov) and Cofidis (Taaramae, Navarro, Coppel, Le Mevel) are all outsiders that are unlikely to win but could finish in the top 3.

 

The favourites:

*** Movistar

** Garmin-Sharp

* Saxo-Tinkoff

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