Pro Challenge champion Garmin-Sharp hopes to make some noise in 100th Tour de France
Defending Pro Challenge champion Christian Vande Velde, a two-time top-10 finisher in the Tour, was among the nine riders Garmin-Sharp named to its Tour team this week, but he will ride mainly in a support role and is not expected to take the lead as one of the squad’s top riders.
Vande Velde and Garmin-Sharp stunned BMC Racing member and Boulder favorite Tejay van Garderen, a former best young rider winner at the Tour, in last year’s Pro Challenge, which featured stages in Beaver Creek and Aspen. But the veteran Vande Velde will back up a cadre of talented young Garmin-Sharp riders in this year’s Tour.
“We have a deep team with a lot of options as we head into the Centennial Tour de France. Our goal is to animate the race, and with an aggressive strategy we will aim to place high in the general classification,” Garmin-Sharp CEO Jonathan Vaughters said in a release. “We have a few guys capable of achieving that.”
The squad for the 100th Tour de France includes 2012 Giro d’Italia champion and former top-10 Tour finisher Ryder Hesjedal; young American Andrew Talansky, making his Tour de France debut; 2013 Liege-Baston-Liege winner Dan Martin; recent Giro d’Italia stage winner Ramunas Navardausaks; and Tour rookies Jack Bauer and Rohan Dennis.
“Ryder’s won a Grand Tour and placed in the top 10 of the Tour de France; Andrew is young, and while it’s his first Tour de France, he is coming off a great season; and Dan Martin is having a breakout year with his wins in Catalunya and Liege-Baston-Liege,” Vaughters said.
“We will protect our best GC options and see how the race shakes out. Our approach is a little unconventional, but we’ve managed to come up with surprises every year at the Tour, and we’re hoping for the same as we head into Corsica.”
Wily vets Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, of Boulder, and five-time Tour stage winner David Millar round out the Garmin-Sharp team. All three riders are coming of six-month suspensions for doping confessions, and all three played key roles in testifying against former seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong.
Their reception at this year’s Tour remains to be seen, but their veteran presence is seen as a plus for Garmin-Sharp, which espouses a philosophy of racing hard and racing clean.
“We have a good mix of guys with a lot of experience combined with young riders competing in their first Tour de France,” said Charly Wegelius, Director Sportif for Garmin-Sharp. “We have options when it comes to general classification and we also have riders who are capable of stage wins, so we’ll be looking for those opportunities as well. It’s going to be an exciting three weeks.”
The Tour favorite this year is Sky Procycling’s Chris Froome, who finished second to teammate Bradley Wiggins last year. Wiggins, recovering from injuries and illness, will not defend his Tour title and is focused on finishing the season strong after the Tour.
Top-ranked for the first time has committed to send a team to this year’s USA Pro Challenge, which runs Aug. 19-25 and includes stages in Vail, Beaver Creek and Aspen. But it’s unlikely Wiggins will be on that squad.
“My main focus for the rest of this year is the World Time Trial Championships at the end of September,” Wiggins said in a release. “I’ll be riding the Tour of Britain before that as preparation, and I’m really pleased about that.”
Depending on how he does in the upcoming Tour, Froome could compete in the Pro Challenge in August.
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