Jul 15, 2014

Midway Team Grades and Stage 11 Preview

We’ve reached the first rest day of the Tour de France. Also, with 10 stages in the books and 11 to come, it is close to the midway point. Time to grade each of the 22 teams so far. These grades are on a bit of a curve with expectations factored in.

A

Astana - The goal beforehand was for Vincenzo Nibali to challenge for the win. Mission accomplished with two stage wins and the yellow jersey in hand along with a stunning team display on the cobbles on stage 5.

Giant-Shimano - All about stages and Giant-Shimano has won three of them behind Marcel Kittel with a chance for more later in the race.

AG2R La Mondiale - The goal was simple. Get one of Jean Christophe Peraud or Romain Bardet into the top 10 and maybe get Bardet the White Jersey. Bardet is holding the white jersey and is 4th overall, Peraud is in the top 10 and the team has a stage victory from Biel Kadri.

Lotto-Belisol - Stages and a GC challenge for Jurgen Van Den Broeck is the objective. Van Den Broeck has not been great but he is 11th. Additionally, Andre Griepel poached a stage victory and Tony Gallopin got the team in the yellow jersey if only for a day. Good work so far.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step - Entered with a major lead out train for Mark Cavendish and some minor GC hopes for Michal Kwiatkowski. Considering Cavendish was lost on day one, this has been impressive. Two stage wins (Matteo Trentin for the second year in a row and Tony Martin) and two startling displays of attacking riding from Martin (his stage win and his long run pacing Kwiatkowski on stage 10) have brought renown and results to the team.

B

Team Sky - If you had told anyone Chris Froome would be lost early they would have though curtains for the team. Fortunately for the team, Froome was lost early enough that Richie Porte had yet to lose time helping him. Porte sits second on GC, but the expectation is to win, especially with Alberto Contador out of the race and Nibali is well ahead.

Belkin - There were GC goals and then a challenge on the cobbled stage. Lars Boom won the cobbled stage for the team and Bauke Mollema is in the top 10 despite a stomach issue over the last three stages. The rest day should help him.

Movistar - Getting Alejandro Valverde on the podium was job one entering this race. They have put him in position (3rd place), but done so very anonymously.

Cannondale - While their tactics have been bad at times, a Sagan stage win to go along with his inevitable Green Jersey would make this an easy A by the end of the Tour.

C

Lampre-Merida - Mostly invisible so far, the goal of placing World Champion Rui Costa in the final top 10 looks attainable with him in 9th place and Chris Horner riding himself in to shape to help in the latter stages.

BMC Racing - The cobbled challenge from Greg Van Avermaet never materialized and the team has seemed to lack cohesion, but Tejay Van Garderen is still in the top 10 with legitimate hopes of reaching the final podium.

FDJ.FR - Thibaut Pinot has been as good as what we expected two years ago when he won the white jersey. He sits 6th overall and finished 2nd on the summit finish on stage 10. The low grade is because after all the argument over which sprinter the team should take, chosen sprinter Arnaud Demare has only even contested one sprint after being dropped or out of position for all the others.

Europcar - Bryan Coquard’s green jersey challenge saves this team as Pierre Rolland is obviously wasted from his Giro effort and Thomas Voeckler seems to be aging in front of our eyes.

Netapp-Endura - Was in great position until Leopold Konig crashed on stage 8 (was involved in the Andrew Talansky crash) and Tiago Machado crashed from third overall on stage 10 (finished 44 minutes down on the stage and was thought to have abandoned for much of the stage).

D

Trek Factory Racing - Nothing much was expected from this team in this Tour. Maybe a stage win, but Fabian Cancellara did not win on stage 5 on the cobbles and he is now out of the Tour anyway. Prospects look bleak for the rest of this race. As it turns out, maybe it was smart to send the good team to the Giro. That team accomplished something that it likely would not have here and this team would have done nothing of significance there.

Katusha - With no GC hope, it has been about stages. And Katusha has yet to win one with only Joaquin Rodriguez close on stage 10 (he was passed by Nibali and then 7 others in the final kilometer. Rodriguez has turned his attention to the Polka Dot Jersey. If he wins it and a stage, this grade goes way up, but to reach an A either Alexander Kristoff or someone else on the team will have to win a stage in addition to Rodriguez.

Orica GreenEdge - Losing Michael Mathews to a crash on the eve of the Tour hurt. Then watching Simon Gerrans get taken out by Mark Cavendish on stage 1 hurt more. From there, the lack of results has been evident, especially with no Team Time Trial to fall back on and no developed climbers on the roster.

F

Tinkoff-Saxo - Losing Alberto Contador is a death blow. With Roman Krueziger out before the Tour (possible doping violation), there was no backup plan.

Garmin-Sharp - There was also no backup plan here. Andrew Talansky is still in the race, but after his continual battle with the tarmac, he is over 14 minutes behind Nibali and is now just a stage hunter.

Bretagne-Seche - Have failed to meet the even meager expectations of animating the race and getting men in the breakaway. It’s never a good sign when a team’s only role is to get men up the road to show the jersey off and they fail half the time.

Cofidis - What is this team trying to do? I get that Dani Navarro was hurt entering the race and that is why he is following up his 9th place a year ago with a terrible Tour, but what about the rest of them (other than Cyril Lemoine who at least got himself in the Polka Dot Jersey for a few days despite having no discernable climbing talent).

IAM Cycling - This team has been unable to avoid the crash. Heinrich Haussler has gone down a few times and team leader Mathias Frank is out with a broken leg suffered in a crash. Additionally, Sylvain Chavanel has looked every bit of his 35 years except for the one day he was in the breakaway. Not good from a team most expected more from.

Stage 11 Preview

Expectations Entering the Stage: Breakaway central. The sprinters aren’t going to be able to make it over the last few climbs, but those climbs aren’t long and are far enough from the finish that there will be no GC attackers. That said, the break best make sure either Peter Sagan or another Cannondale rider is in the break if they would like to succeed as this stage profile has Sagan written all over it if he has the legs.

Jersey’s in play
  • Yellow Jersey - Once again, Nibali might allow someone to go in a break and take the yellow jersey. That said, about the only rider who is high enough on GC and not a threat to actually win the Tour is former leader Tony Gallopin. Beyond him, the next threat is Cyril Gautier (Europcar) but he is over 7 minutes down and the break is unlikely to get that long of a leash with another breakaway day coming on stage 12.

GC items of note: With Contador gone on stage 10, the race is now Nibali’s to lose, especially after he attacked to win the stage on his own. The question going forward is whether he will be attacked or if the others in the peloton will ride to protect their places. No matter, any questions other than Nibali giving up the yellow jersey again will remain unanswered until the Alps get here on Friday.

Stage Pick: Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge)

Albasini has a knack for picking correct days to go in the break, and if he is in a breakaway, he packs one of the better sprints from a non-sprinter. Back at the Tour of Romandie, he won three of the first four stages, all from reduced peloton sprints.

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