20 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 8 - Vacansoliel-DCM

The big news from Directeur Sportif Jean-Paul van Poppel is that his son Boy is no longer the youngster on this team. His younger brother Danny who doesn't even turn 20 until after the Tour reaches Paris will take that honour and may even be the youngest rider in the Tour. But they don't have a real GC contender so it will be breakaways and possibly sprints for the van Poppel boys that might be the aim for the team.

26 year old Belgian Thomas de Gendt has been named the leader for Vacansoliel, probably based on his podium finish in last years Giro d'Italia where he came third behind Ryder Hesjedal and Joaquim Rodriguez. This will only be his second Tour having taking part in 2011, and fourth Grand Tour with a Vuelta also under his belt in 2012. This season hasn't been that great for him so far but he endured the heat of the Tour of California and the cold of the Dauphiné. Vacansoliel must be hoping that he will have the legs when it comes July and hope that the French weather then will be a little bit more predictable so he can show the form he demonstrated round Italy last May.

Lieuwe Westra is the Dutch rider who could step up if required. After finishing second to Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Paris-Nice he was 8th this season. He was also 3rd in the Volto ao Algarve. This is his third successive Tour, though he was one of the three Vacansoliel riders who had to abandon on stage 11 last year. As he showed in the Queen stage of last year's Paris-Nice and in the first stage of the Tour of California this year he is not afraid to go on a late attack for a stage win. Update: Westra won the Dutch national time trial championships ahead of the Tour.

Johnny Hoogerland is of course most famous for that French TV car wiping out have the breakaway on stage 9 of the 2011 Tour when he ended up in the barbed wire fence. He had done enough on the road before that incident to have reclaimed the King of the Mountains jersey, which after he remounted and got patched up by the medical car he was able to claim. Earlier this year while preparing for the Tour Méditerranéen he collided with another car fracturing 5 ribs, bruising his liver and some fractures to his spine. He will be no doubt for a Tour like 2012 rather that 2011. However, he is the sort of rider who is capable of getting into escapes in the early stages to go after that polka dot jersey again. Update Hoogerland won the Dutch national road race championships the weekend before the start of the tour and will wear the national jersey in the Tour.

Boy van Poppel won the points classification in last year's Tour of Britain with 6 top ten finishes over the eight stages, finishing ahead of Mark Cavendish. He did that without replicating his only professional stage win in the 2008 Tour of  Missouri. This will be a real test for the sprinter coming up against the best in the world over 3 weeks and getting over some of the toughest climbs in order to carry on sprinting. The 25 year old elder son of the Directeur Sportif is making his Grand Tour debut.

If  younger brother Danny van Poppel completes his debut Tour in Paris he will be only six days older than Henri Cornet who is historically the youngest rider to complete when he won the 1904 race. But he already has that winning experience taking three of the stages in last years Internationale Thüringen-Rundfahrt U23, while still only 18, to come third in the points classification. He was also 5th in the points in last year's Tour de l'Avenir so there is potential there.

Juan Antonio Flecha is a classics rider with 4 podiums and four other top ten finishes in the five monuments, but as of yet has yet to grace the top the top step. This season he completed his fifth straight year in the top ten of Paris-Roubaix finishing 8th. His first Tour was in 2003 and apart from last season he has appeared each year since. Though his only triumph in the Tour was on stage 11 of that first appearance where the peleton didn't quite catch the breakaway he was part of. He was in a different team from Hoogerland when that car pushed into him sending the Dutch rider into the wire.

26 year old Belgian sprinter Kris Boeckmans made his Grand Tour debut in last year's Tour. He managed three top ten finishes in Rouen, Pau and on the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées he had his best finish 5th. This season he managed a 4th place on one of the stages of the Tour of California behind Tyler Farrar and Gianni Meersman.

Sergey Lagutin from Uzbekistan is making his Tour debut, though he has taken part in both the Giro and Vuelta in each of the last two seasons. Last year he also managed to come third in the Olympic Road Race losing out in the sprint for bronze to the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff.

Wout Poels is a 25 year old Dutch all round rider. He's been in the top ten of Tirreno-Adriatico in each of the last two years. He also was second in the Tour de l'Ain in both 2010 and 2011. He was also second in last years Tour of Luxembourg. No doubt he be used by the team to get into a break away at some point.

The teams hasn't really got a GC contender in their midst but with the two van Poppels and Boeckmans have some speed merchants that could form a lead out for which ever one is designated as the one the others will help. Expect to see the team getting men into the breaks, there is plenty of ability there to try and stay away on any given day. The sprinters will be tested there are better men in the race than them but it will be a learning experience for all of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment