The 109th Tour de France, the 24th starting from abroad, begins with an individual time trial in Copenhagen. First rider on the ramp: Jérémy Lecroq at 16.00. Last rider to start: Marc Soler at 18.55. Mathieu van der Poel to hunt for the yellow jersey in the first week like last year. Tadej Pogacar feels stronger and more confident as he aims for the triple crown.
ENRIC MAS’ CONFIDENCE IS AT 10 OUT OF 10
There is no trident this year, not even a leading duo: Enric Mas is the unique leader of Movistar Team for the 2022 Tour de France. “I will have one more rider at my service to solve any problem”, said the Spaniard in a pre-race press conference. “We’re here to make the podium in Paris. At the confidence level, I’m at 10 out of 10..., or even more. The physical form has been good throughout the year, and it has been the falls that have deprived us of getting a good result in the races contested so far. Let’s hope the bad luck is over.” The rider from the Baleares didn’t manage to finish Tirreno-Adriatico and the Critérium du Dauphiné due to crashes. He went down on the last stage of the Itzulia Basque Country as well and lost a few places to end up ninth overall. “I improved my way of working and I trust my training at 100% now”, he added. “It is normal that Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic are the references. If they focus too much on their duel, others will have to take advantage of it. However, we have to look for a result and I’m not going to attack just for the sake of attacking. The first week is very complicated. I’m very motivated by the pavé stage. We’ve recognized it two or three times. On that day, you can make as many differences as on the high mountain stages. For me it’s a new challenge, something to learn.”
VAN DER POEL SEES THE HUNT FOR THE YELLOW JERSEY MORE DIFFICULT THIS YEAR
Mathieu van der Poel is set to take part in his second Tour de France with the same kind of ambitions but a completely different run in. This year, he missed out on the early part of the season due to injury and completed his first Grand Tour with the Giro d’Italia in which he wore the pink jersey in the first three days. With a time trial to start with, it might be more complicated for the Dutchman to take the Maillot Jaune but he still believes in his chances. “Tomorrow, if I can put myself in the top 10 and do a good time trial then maybe there’s something possible again, but it’s going to be more difficult than it was one year ago. Last year, with the first two stages, the yellow jersey was really a big chance for me. I’ve made it so it’s a bit less of a stress factor. I just have to see what’s possible. I don’t know where I will be against specialists in a time trial, and if I lose 10 to 15 seconds, which would be a really good performance, then I can maybe try something in the days after, in the Roubaix stage or another one. I prefer to be in a breakaway than in the peloton but I will also be there some days to help Jasper [Philipsen] in the sprints. We’ll share the chances of winning stages.”
ROMAIN BARDET: THE COME-BACK
Romain Bardet hasn’t competed on French roads since the 2020 Paris-Tours he finished 7th on his last season with AG2R. He’s back to the Tour de France with Team DSM. “We’ve had a nice teams’ presentation that made me realise how much I missed the Tour last year. Now I appreciate the greatness of the Tour even more. I come back with an even greater desire through the eyes of a kid again.” Forced to pull out of the Giro on stage 13 while he was fourth overall, he resumes racing at the Tour. “I’m unsure of my level”, he admitted. “I’ve done my best at training but racing is a different story. So I’ll first evaluate where I’m at compared to the other riders and I’ll race offensively like we did last year at La Vuelta with the whole team.”
CHRIS FROOME FEELS “PRIVILEGED” TO RIDE HIS TENTH TOUR DE FRANCE
As his team Israel-Premier Tech launched a campaign “Help Fund the Field of Dreams” to support woman cycling in Rwanda, Chris Froome expressed his happiness to start his tenth Tour de France despite all the hiccups he went through since his horrendous crash in June 2019. “Getting to Paris last year was a huge accomplishment as I had to overcome quite a few hurdles”, the four-time winner of the Tour de France said, “but yesterday was just a whole new experience. Chapeau to Copenhagen for that team presentation. I feel privileged to be part of the race. Only the last few months I’ve been feeling issue-free for the first time in three years. From January to now, except for the sickness at the Dauphiné, I’m on an upwards trajectory. I haven’t had a chance to test myself properly in a race environment. It’s unknown where I am, but rest assured that I’m gonna give 100% and I’d like to rise the occasion to win a stage.” Both his team-mates Jakob Fuglsang and Michael Woods expressed the same desire to win a stage over riding for GC. The Dane mentioned the cobblestoned stage 5 that brings him memories from the 2014 Tour de France in which he finished second at Arenberg.
DEFENDING CHAMPION TADEJ POGACAR EXCITED TO AIM FOR TRIPLE CROWN
After winning the Tour de France in the past two years, Tadej Pogacar declared: “I’m excited to start the Tour again. Like at any other race I want to do my best. This is the biggest race of the calendar, I’m happy to be at the start to fight for the title. The preparation went well with an altitude training camp and the Tour of Slovenia. I think my shape is good, not too much different compared to last year. Maybe I feel more confident, I also feel stronger but we’ll see in the race if it’s true or not. There will be difficult moment but I hope that I won’t have a bad day. There’s a tricky first week with possible crosswinds on the flat, bridges and cobbles. If we manage to remain united as a team, we don’t need to ride aggressively, we just have to fight for positions. We’re ready for that so we shouldn’t be worried. Looking at the weather forecast, we have decided that I’d be the third rider from the team to start. This is the most comfortable way. I don’t think I can win it but I’ll give the maximum and I can go well. It’s not too long. As soon as there’s a chance to take the yellow jersey, everyone likes to that, myself included. You never say no to the yellow jersey!”
PETER SAGAN: “WHO SAID I’M NOT GOING FOR THE GREEN JERSEY?”
Superstar Peter Sagan is once again at the Tour de France but for the first time with French squad TotalEnergies. “Finally I’m here at the Tour de France after some complications”, the Slovakian said. “I’m glad that tomorrow we can start. The Tour de Suisse confirmed that my preparation has gone well and I’m still able to win. I don’t think I’m doing that bad… It’s hard to predict what will happen in the race. All we can expect is three weeks of hard racing. I’ll try and win some stages and do my best. We are here with a very good team. It’s a new team for me. The atmosphere is very nice and very relaxed. It’s important to have some good time in this period as Covid makes life difficult for everyone. The first time trial will decide who will be able to hunt for the yellow jersey in the second and third stages. I will try to lose the less time possible. After that we’ll see… After stage 4, we’ll have a very interesting stage with cobbles. Who said I’m not targeting the green jersey anymore? Not me for sure…”