Tour’19 Presentation PeloPics: Thousands of spectators watched the teams presentation on the Grand-Place in Brussels and honoured Eddy Merckx. Some teams held their pre-race press conference in the headquarters at Brussels’ Expo and others have issued statements. The 2019 Tour de France starts here.
The fans were in Brussels early for the Tour presentation
Looking at recent results this year, Romain Bardet took a low-key approach of the Tour while Jakob Fuglsang, on the other hand, expressed his ambitions to make the podium. Lotto-Soudal aims big on stage 1 on home soil with rookie sprinter Caleb Ewan before Cofidis will try to win a stage after a ten-year drought. Elia Viviani is ready for the sprints.
Big queue to see the first day fun
Maybe Bernard Hinault hasn’t retired just yet
The ‘Fan Zone’ in Brussels has been popular
Wanty-Gobert’s Guillaume Martin
“We tried to show ourselves and perform regular during the first two editions, but I feel more free now and aim for a stage victory. Therefore risks need to be taken, although I don’t let go of my goal to finish well in the general classification. The stage towards La Planche des Belles Filles is my favourite stage. Furthermore, I don’t have a plan, because the race not always develops as you expect, I will follow my instinct.”
Boasson-Hagen is in form
The teams rode through the shopping arcade
Home start for Greg Van Avermaet
Greg Van Avermaet: “We have more opportunities for breakaways this year”
Formerly known as BMC, the CCC Team will take part in its tenth Tour de France, for the first time without any GC contender. “I’m really happy with the Grand Départ taking place in Brussels”, declared Greg Van Avermaet who held onto the yellow jersey for eight days after they won the team time trial last year. “Having the Muur [of Geraardsbergen] and the Bosberg on stage 1 and the team time trial in Belgium is great for me. The first ten days are very important. We can have a great Tour de France is we have a good start. With this team, we have more opportunities for breakaways. I have personally targeted and reckoned stage 3 to Epernay. It’s similar to the stages I’ve been close to winning in the past, like in Longwy two years ago.”
Cofidis looking for a win
Cofidis wants to end a 10-year drought
Present in the Tour de France since 1997, the Cofidis team hasn’t won since stage 19 of the 2008 edition with Sylvain Chavanel in Montluçon. Their aim is to put an end to a too long drought. “There has been a lack of a determined strategy in the past few years”, general manager Cédric Vasseur said in a morning press conference in Brussels. “The team went astray. Let’s not forget that it’s been a Pro Continental team invited to the Tour de France for ten years. Now we have the ambition to return to the WorldTour. It would be good to justify our ambition with a victory at the Tour de France.” The French squad features two leaders but won’t target GC: the Mont Ventoux dénivelé challenge winner Jesus Herrada and sprinter Christophe Laporte. “My targets are the stages with little mountains before a sprint”, said the fast man from the Côte d’Azur. “I’m in the best period of my career and I want to profit from it”, added Herrada who led La Vuelta for two days last year.
ProConti team – Wanty-Gobert – Will they be in every break?
Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert):
“It is a victory to be at the Grand Départ! I’ve had a very difficult start to the season, but with courage I’ve come out taller, not in body length! Difficulties are on our path, but we still can hope to shine.”
Kévin Van Melsen (Wanty-Gobert):
“A first part of a dream has become reality, now I focus on arriving in Paris. I’m very happy that the team recompenses my work with this selection and gives me its confidence, which I hope to give back during this Tour de France.”
Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Gobert):
“I surprised myself in the Critérium du Dauphiné, giving me confidence for my first Tour de France. I believe I can play a role in the mountains for myself, and for Guillaume Martin.”
The fans were everywhere
Martin and Aru – UAE Team Emirates
Strange to see Peter Sagan in normal Bora-Hansgrohe team kit
Peter Sagan is back for a seventh green jersey
German outfit Bora-Hansgrohe shows up at the Tour de France with the confidence-booster number of 33 victories already collected this season, just as many as in total last year. Newly crowned national champions, Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann and Austria’s Patrick Konrad, add more depth to Peter Sagan’s entourage. The triple world champion confirmed he’s on the hunt for a seventh green jersey in Paris that would make him the sole recordman of victories in the points classification. “First, I have to finish the Tour”, the Slovakian hinted. “It’s true that Max [Schachmann] brings a big engine in our team. I’m very happy with Bora-Hansgrohe improving every year. It’s pretty nice to be here in Belgium for the Tour, I enjoy the weather more than during the Spring classics campaign. I also started my first Tour in Belgium [in 2012 in Liège]. I was a normal rider then. I wasn’t part of the press conference, now I try to also enjoy this part of my job. Stage 1 will be on some roads of the Tour of Flanders but it’ll be a completely different race at the Tour. Lots of riders want to win the first stage. The competition is always very big in the first. I’ll try my best from day 1. To get the green jersey again is my big goal, that’s why I’m here.”
Are sprint wins still possible for André?
The new French champion – Warren Barguil
EF Education First will back Rigoberto Uran
Can Vincenzo Nibali win another Grand Tour?
Vincenzo Nibali will draw a plan after stage 6
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) took a low profile as he expressed his ambitions in front of the media at the headquarters at Brussels’ Expo. “The first week of the Tour suits the fast riders, so we’ll support Sonny Colbrelli”, the Italian stated. “As for myself, I’ll evaluate the situation after La Planche des belles filles, which is the only climb of the first week. It’ll be time to talk tactics and consider the various hierarchies by knowing a bit more about our rivals, even though we are already aware of Ineos having the strongest team here. I don’t know if I have recovered from the Giro. I rode the national championship last weekend and I didn’t go particularly well. Anyway, the third week of the Tour is the hardest and it’ll be the most important for all GC contenders.”
Stage wins for Niki Terpstra
Total-Direct Energie could pull some surprises
World champion Alejandro Valverde is bound to do something
Have we seen the best of Nairo Quintana?
New team and jersey for Richie Porte – Can he fulfil his promise
The other French team – Groupama-FDJ
Caleb Ewan – Looking forward to stage 1
Caleb Ewan: “Pressure is on all sprinters for stage 1”
Lotto-Soudal is one of the three Belgian teams (along with Deceuninck-Quick Step and Wanty-Groupe Gobert) under the spotlights for the Grand Départ in Brussels. “But the pressure for winning stage 1 and getting the first yellow jersey is on all the sprinters, not only those of the Belgian teams”, Caleb Ewan stated ahead of his first Tour de France. “Any young cyclist growing up watches the Tour de France. Maybe because I’m from Australia, at the time I thought the only race in the world was the Tour de France because the other races weren’t televised, or I didn’t know they were. Taking part for the first time comes a bit later than I would have liked. The Tour de France will never start in Australia, so the next best thing is to start at the home of my team.” Lotto-Soudal will also target other stage wins than potential sprints with Tim Wellens, Thomas De Gendt, Tiejs Benoot and Maxime Monfort. “My first two participations to the Tour de France weren’t great indeed”, Wellens said. “One problem was the heat. We’ve worked hard with the sponsors on equipments and nutrition. There’ll be opportunities for breakaways on stage 5, 8, 9, 12 and 17.”
Another sprinter looking success on day one – Arnaud Démare
It will be interesting to see what Wout Van Aert will do in his first grand Tour
European champion – Matteo Trentin
Movistar are strong, but will Quintana disappoint?
Lotto Soudal will want to win in Belgium
Romain Bardet – The big French hope?
Romain Bardet: “I hope for consistency and perseverance to pay off over three weeks”
AG2R-La Mondiale’s team manager Vincent Lavenu pointed out the pride of his team to ride the 2019 Tour de France on Eddy Merckx bikes, due to the Grand Départ being a tribute to the great Belgian champion. He made clear that they’ll target stage wins as well as supporting Romain Bardet for the overall. “The first part of the season hasn’t been up to my expectations”, Bardet told the media in the race headquarters. “But I’ve worked all year with the team to have a good Tour de France. I hope for consistency and perseverance to pay off over three weeks. There will be the hardest third week I’ve ever seen at the Tour de France. My focus is on the long and hard climbs where we can foresee some big gaps. My team-mates will go in the breakaways to serve my ambitions. It’s not the first year that there are big expectations from French people for a French rider to win. It’s been a long wait since Bernard Hinault. But this year, the pressure is not only on my shoulders and it’s good for French people to have guys to support along the road. We’re thrilled.”
Astana always bring a good team – Jakob Fuglsang, Gorka Izagirre, Omar Fraile, Magnus Cort, Pello Bilbao, Luis León Sanchez, Alexey Lutsenko, Hugo Houle
Jakob Fuglsang could go for the overall
Jakob Fuglsang: “Bonus sprints can be decisive on GC”
After he won the Critérium du Dauphiné, Jakob Fuglsang opted for altitude training at Isola 2000 and went to reconnoitre the three Alpine stages of the 106th Tour de France. “They look very hard but they might not create differences as big as on paper”, the Danish rider from Astana testified. “Riders who aim for the yellow jersey will have to be close on GC and we have to see the influence of the bonus seconds. Theses bonus sprints [awarding 8, 5 and 2 seconds to the top three riders at that intermediate point during stage 3, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 19] can be decisive on GC. It looks more open without Chris Froome who is a very good road captain by the way he guides his team-mates but let’s not forget that Ineos is still the strongest team and they have the defending champion [Geraint Thomas]. I still believe they’re the favourites. My goal is to try to arrive on the podium. As long as I make the top 5, it’ll be fine and the dream is to win the Tour. The yellow jersey is the symbol of the leader in cycling. It’s not pink, it’s not red. Everyone knows that the rider in yellow is the leader.”
Jumbo-Visma – Dylan Groenewegen, Steven Kruijswijk, Wout Van Aert, Tony Martin, George Bennett, Amund Grøndahl Jansen, Laurens De Plus, Mike Teunissen
Steven Kruijswijk – Jumbo-Visma’s man for the overall
Can Simon or Adam Yates add to the family palmarès?
Alaphilippe in the hills and Viviani for the sprints
Elia Viviani: “Focused to start Le Tour on the right foot”
The Italian fast man is confident ahead of his tenth career Grand Tour start.
Best sprinter of the past 18 months, Elia Viviani is returning at the Tour de France for the first time since 2014 with a clear objective in his mind: to get at least a win and complete his set of Grand Tour stage victories, which at this moment counts a total of eight successes at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.
Now back in the standard Deceuninck – Quick-Step kit after an impressive twelve months in the famed Italian Champion jersey, the 30-year-old talked about his expectations at the team’s pre-race press conference, hosted Thursday afternoon in the unique and spectacular setting of Lidl Sterrebeek, which gave a warm welcome to riders and guests alike, making this event a truly special one.
“We want to start well, but we are aware it won’t be just us in the bunch gallops. I don’t know how many opportunities there will be for the sprinters over the next three weeks, but that’s not important; the most important thing is to kick off the race on the right foot on Saturday.”
So far this season, Elia has earned six victories, all on the World Tour, at Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Road Race, UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Suisse, and it was at the latter that his well-oiled sprint train made headlines with the way they stomped their authority on the race and delivered the experienced Italian in a perfect position from where he blasted to two consecutive victories.
“We know how strong we are and what our lead-out is capable of. I am very happy to have these guys around me, you could already see at the Tour de Suisse how easy they make my life and I am confident we can be there, in the thick of the action, at the right moment. When it comes to sprinting it’s not just about power, but also about precision, and we are focused and committed on what we have to do”, concluded Elia, the active Italian rider with the most wins to his name, hours before attending the team presentation.
Team Ineos will want to follow on from Team Sky – The teams 7th Tour win
Michał Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Dylan Van Baarle, Jonathan Castroviejo, Wout Poels, Gianni Moscon and Egan Bernal – Ineos, never to be ignored
Michael Matthews – Green jersey?
Statistics: The peloton of the 2019 Tour de France points to the north
30 nations are represented among the 176 starters of the 2019 Tour de France. The four traditional cycling countries top the list: France (34), Belgium (21), Italy (15) and Spain (13). It’s the biggest number of Belgians in the past 25 years but for the first time since 2003, there’s no rider from Luxemburg. All continents are in contention. There have never been so many Scandinavians before: 15. 9 is a record for Denmark, so is 6 for Norway that had a maximum of 4 in the past. Also inside the French contingent, there’s an increased number of “men from the north”, literally those from Normandy: 7. It’s unusual to see this region with the biggest number of riders. They are: Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie) Amaël Moinard and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic), Mikaël Chérel, Benoît Cosnefroy and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale).
Stage wins are possible for Michael Matthews, Wilco Kelderman, Nicolas Roche, Søren Kragh Andersen, Lennard Kämna, Nikias Arndt, Chad Haga, Cees Bol
Jasper Philipsen, 21, is the youngest, Lars Bak, 39, is the oldest
The average age of the 176 riders is 29.23, slightly lower than the two previous editions (29.37). Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), born on 29 May 1990, is the closest to that number. The youngest is Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates), 21, while Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Lennard Kämna (Sunweb) are 22 year old. A total of 28 u26 riders are eligible for the white jersey of best young rider. The oldest rider is Lars Bak (Dimension Data), 39. He was born 100 days before world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data), 38, Amaël Moinard (Arkéa-Samsic) and William Bonnet (Groupama-FDJ), 37, follow them on the list. Valverde has the most starts at the Tour (11) but Moinard and Marcus Burghardt have the most finishes as they completed all 10 Tour de France they started. Dimension Data has the highest average age of all teams with 32. Sunweb and Jumbo-Visma are the youngest with an average of 27 year old.
Sunweb will miss Tom Dumoulin
33 newbies at the start
Two former winners are back: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) who won the 2014 Tour de France and defending champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos). Among the 143 riders who already competed in the Tour de France, 33 have won at least one stage in the past. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic) top the ranking with 11 wins each. Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) and Nibali have five under their belt. The Tour de France is new to 33 riders. 8 of them have never taken part in any Grand Tour before: Frenchmen Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie), Cees Bol (Sunweb) from The Netherlands and Belgians Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Aimé De Gendt, Xandro Meurisse and Kevin van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), the latter being aged 32!
Thomas or Bernal?
Lucky numbers for Pinot and Nibali
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) got the bib number 51, which is considered the lucky one in the legend of the Tour de France since Eddy Merckx had it in 1969 on his first participation, so did Luis Ocaña in 1973, Bernard Thévenet in 1975 and Bernard Hinault in 1978. But only those four riders won the Tour with number 51 in 105 editions of the race. Nibali carries the number 41 just like in 2014.
The hero of Belgium – Eddy Merckx