While you were distracted by that Italian thing, a milestone event took place on a computer somewhere in the Netherlands... Warren Barguil was officially added to the preselection for team Giant-Alpecin's 2015 Tour de France squad. Needless to say, it made headlines at L'Equipe. But Barguil's ultimate selection should be a foregone conclusion, and with it, we should be looking at one of the more interesting storylines for this year's Tour de France.
Giant-Alpecin, the Dutch/German squad, has a ten-year track record dating back to its Skil-Shimano days, but only truly came to fruition as a top team in 2014, when Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb and Tom Dumoulin led the way to a 41-victory season, second in cycling to only Omega Pharma-Quick Step. This year, it's June and the team is improbably stuck on eight wins, including two monuments for Degs but zero victories of any kind for Kittel. It's hard to say if they are having an off season or just laying extra low for a massive assault on the Tour. My guess is that their fortunes will look brighter in July than in any previous month of this season.
Barguil is a total wild card in this effort. At 23, and with the home nation watching, the Breton will home to climb to some sort of respectable position for a rider in his first Tour. The White Jersey would be a possible goal, though I'm pretty sure Nairo Quintana will remain eligible for one last Tour, so Barguil might be more likely to host the maillot blanc temporarily (while Quintana is wearing another jersey?). Still, his track record suggests that he could rank as one of the more consistent climbers in the race. Barguil improved to eighth in the Vuelta last fall, his second appearance there (and second grand tour), a hopeful sign that his body was adjusting to the rigors of three-week racing. Only Fabio Aru of Astana finished ahead of Barguil among the young rider set (the Vuelta does not officially award a Young Rider classification). A better result would prove impossible without some progress against the watch, but time and talent should point Barguil in the right direction.
Still, the Tour is a different animal entirely. After a season marred by crashes (and thankfully only minor scrapes and bruises), Barguil enters the Tour with nothing to lose. His team will either put him in service to Dumoulin or let him hunt stages if and when opportunities arise. Nobody in their right mind thinks he's going to light up the Tour, an especially loaded affair this year. This is about the experience -- soaking in the scene, putting his body through the ultimate test, and hoping that a more seasoned rider comes out on the other end.
I'm not going to obsess over Barguil, however. Just look for him in some of the mountain stages and hope he shows his stuff now and again.
Cycling Fever has a Tour Startlist coming together slowly. They are undoubtedly not the only sources for such information, but a reliable and well-updated one. If you are looking for more stories there, try these:
- The Tour debut of the Yates twins (Simon rode last year but Adam is there for 2015)
- Sam Bennet makes his Tour debut as well. Nacer Bouhanni makes his first appearance at the Tour for Cofidis.
- Fabian Cancellara returns to racing, supposedly. Robert Gesink is back, we can hope.
- Etixx-Quick Step will be loaded for stages (Cav, Kwiatkowski, Panzerwagen).