Last year Argos-Shimano were only a wild card invitee unto the Tour, this year they are a fully fledged WorldTour team that are in the race as of right. So what are they planning to do to celebrate being part of the elite?
Once again Argos Shimano are gearing up to support sprinter Marcel Kittel in a race with Mark Cavendish and the other sprinters such as Andre Griepel and Matt Goss for the green jersey. Kittel will be hoping for a better and certainly longer Tour that he experienced on his first attempt last year when an hour into stage 5 he withdrew suffering from a viral infection. He has had ten wins this season so far including 3 stages of the Tour de Picardie in which he not only won the points jersey but the yellow jersey. The German only has one Grand Tour stage win under his belt from the 2011 Vuelta, and the Argos Shimano lead out needs a little work on delivering the final product looking at all the work they did in the Giro d'Italia for Luka Mezgec that came to nothing.
His support comes in the form of 3 fellow Germans and five Dutch riders.
Tom Veelers is a 28 year old Dutch rider, the highlight of his Palmarès is the 2006 U-23 version of Paris Roubaix. He will serve as one of the final lead out men, probably handing over to Degenkolb for the final delivery for Kittel. He has a number of stage wins in other races but none in the really big events, so his sprinting power will be utilised in the build up for the big explosion for the line. As well as riding in last year's Tour he also took part in the 2011 Vuelta.
Koen de Kort is from the Dutch town of Gouda famous for the cheese. He won the Paris-Roubaix U23 title the year before his team mate Veelers in 2005. He spent two frustrating years with Astana in 2007-8 when the team was largely restricted due to the positive tests of Vinokourov and Kashechkin before moving to Skil-Shimano before the Argo sponsorship changed the team name. He is an all rounder so may well go up the road in breakaways on the medium mountain stages to try and stay away for additional stage wins. He has actually taken part and completed each of the last three Grand Tours.
Roy Curvers is a Dutch classics specialist he is taken part in his second Tour having completed last year's race. His only other Grand Tour was the 2011 Vuelta, that year he had won Halle-Ingooigem. However, he will be acting as the brains on the road as road captain for the team. Having feature quite often in the top ten of some of the one day races around Flanders he will also be a powerful engine for Kittel to try and reign in breakaways on days that his German sprinter wants to put down his mark.
Albert Timmer is lining up for his second Tour. He got around Le Grande Boucle last year. The 27 year old Dutchman will serve as one of the engines on duty for Argos Shimano. He has been part of the Shimano set up since he turned pro in 2007. He has already completed this year's Giro as well as two previous Tours in 2012 and 2009.
Tom Dumoulin is the fifth and final dutch man on the team is just 22 making him the youngest rider on this Argos Shimano team. However, this year he has already won the King of the Mountains classification in the Vuelta a Andalucía (he'd come 6th overall in that race in 2012) and was best young rider when he finished 5th in the Tour of Belgium last month. He is certainly one to watch for in the future as a GC contender but he is making the step up for his first Grand Tour in la centième bouclé. His only previous Grand Tour was last season's Vuelta but he only got to stage 8.
Johannes Fröhlinger from Gerolstein, who started his career on the now defunct Gerolsteiner team, that team disbanded in 2008 after its German stars Berhard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher tested postive for CERA. The then 23 year old Fröhlinger moved to Milram before joining Shimano in 2011. He doesn't have any Palmarès of note so is just a journey man cyclist aiding his team leader wherever he rides. This will be his ninth Grand Tour and he has finished his previous two Tours, plus his four Vueltas and one Giro.
We've seen already this season that Argos Shimano are good at setting up their long lead out train from some distance out. They do however, tend to suffer inside the final kilometre in making sure that their man is the one to get to cross the line ahead of the field. Coming into the Tour where all the best sprinters will be present they are going to have to be on the top of their game and Kittel may well have to find the wheel of someone else should his lead out implode too early as they have done in the past. However, you can expect to see a long line of white forming for most of the flat stages, they will also get into breakaways when the road gets hillier as they have no current GC contender in their line up.