A couple of big names gave a press conference two days before stage 1 of the 105th Tour de France set to kick off in Vendée-Pays de la Loire. GC ambitions, mountain stages and sprinting were the main topics. Here’s Richie Porte, Romain Bardet, Mark Cavendish, Warren Barguil and Guillaume Martin had to say.
RICHIE PORTE: “WE ALL HOPE TO END FROOME’S WINNING STREAK”
Speaking in the first press conference of the day ahead of the teams presentation, Richie Porte explained how he hopes to capitalize on his Tour de Suisse recent victory to make the podium of the Tour de France for the first time: “I’m super motivated for his Tour. I don’t think there’s a huge favourite for the overall. It was nice to see Chris Froome ride the Giro. I hope he’s bugged. I was here in 2011 [at the start of the Tour de France in Vendée] with Alberto Contador, so I know how difficult it is to win Giro and Tour the same year. If anyone is able to do it, it’s Chris. He’s done the Giro with a super strong team, he’s here with an even stronger team. He’s obviously here for doing it but I hope that he is tired. Vincenzo [Nibali] and Nairo [Quintana] will never give him an easy day, we all hope to end his winning streak. Personally, I hope for no bad luck along the road. I’m looking forward to stage 3. We’ve got all places covered for the team time trial. Maybe one of us will take the yellow jersey. It might be too early but it would be absolutely brilliant for my team. We have the horse power to go through those first nine tricky stages. The pavés aren’t really my sort of things, but [Paris-Roubaix winner] Greg Van Avermaet is not so bad on the cobbles… It’s the most fearful stage to look at on paper, but we can turn it into something positive. Not all GC teams have the guys we have for this stage.”
ROMAIN BARDET: “WE HAVE TO BE IMPECCABLE AND IRREPROACHABLE”
Romain Bardet who made the final podium of the past two Tours de France expressed his fears and ambitions ahead of the 105th edition: “I have some experience by now as this is my sixth Tour de France. I’ve never had such a great support from my team but I’m cautious and humble because I found the field more competitive than ever. We’ll fight stage after stage for the yellow jersey and the objective will take shape as we go along. The route has many pitfalls. We have to be impeccable and irreproachable. We’re very ambitious. We know where we want to arrive but we’re aware of the vagaries of the racing. I’m aim at not losing too much time at the beginning of the Tour and I wish for some luck because there are some tricky stages. In my mind, the level of difficulty of stage 9 is equal to a high mountain stage. The pavés will surely create some big differences between the leaders. Even though I’ve never raced Paris-Roubaix, I’ve never hidden my love for the classics. I find them thrilling in front of my TV, especially when the friends are doing great like [runner up] Silvan [Dillier], Oliver [Naesen] who is a master on the cobblestones, Tony [Gallopin] who is not bad either. Let’s hope for the best before we resume racing in Annecy on a different terrain.”
MARK CAVENDISH IN SEARCH OF ALL-TIME STAGE WINS RECORD
Team Dimension Data principal Douglas Ryder underlined that Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday on July 18 will make their fourth participation to the Tour de France even more special, even though it’ll be stage 11 from Albertville to La Rosière in the Alps, not exactly a race for their star rider Mark Cavendish to shine. But the 33 year old British sprinter has plenty of space earlier on to try and equal the all-time record of 34 Tour de France stage victories that belongs to Eddy Merckx. He’s got 30 under his belt. “Physically, I have pretty much won every race I could so the only target left is to reach that great number, I’ll keep trying before the end of my career, that’s for sure”, admitted the Manxman who left the race after crashing heavily on stage 4 last year. “I wasn’t the first person to have an injury. I just tried and deal with it. But 2017 is in the past. I’ve been injured again this year. Now I’m in my best form of the year. I have a strong team to get some result at Tour de France. The yellow jersey to be awarded to stage 1 winner this year [like two years ago] isn’t a factor but we’ll try and win that stage. The sprinting field is incredibly stronger because of the amount of depth in sprinting teams that has come up. The green jersey isn’t a goal for me. It hasn’t been my thing for a few years, since Peter Sagan came along. It’s not worth putting your eggs in a non-reachable goal.”
South Africa’s Jay Thompson is a Tour de France debutant at the age of 32. He fills the shoes of Stephen Cummings who won the team’s first ever Tour de France stage on Mandela Day (July 18) in Mende where stage 14 will end this year.
WARREN BARGUIL: “I DREAM OF WINNING ANOTHER MOUNTAIN STAGE”
The 2018 King of the Mountains Warren Barguil is back with the aim of playing a free role like last year. “I’m super happy, motivated and ready for my fourth Tour”, the Frenchman from Fortuneo-Samsic declared. “I will be hard to do just as well as last year. I won’t be racing for GC at all. I might do it next year but I’m giving myself one more year of racing with freedom. Nobody talks to me about my eighth place overall at La Vuelta but many people remember that I won two stages as a neo pro. I’m targeting one mountain stage win. I’ve had a difficult early part of the season but I didn’t give up and I won’t give up until the very last day of my cycling career. It will be hard to stay quiet during the stages in Brittany but my team-mates will be on the offensive. We are keen to do well on home soil. I can potentially ride well on the cobblestones but on stage 9 it’ll depend on whether or not I’ll need to lose more time in the overall ranking to be able to attack in the Alps the day after. I dream of winning another stage. It would confirm that I worship the Tour.”.
GUILLAUME MARTIN: “I START WITH HIGHER AMBITIONS THAN LAST YEAR”
Belgian outfit Wanty-Groupe Gobert will take part in the Tour de France for the second straight year. The reigning Europe champions animated the race with numerous breakaways in 2017. The profile of their sole leader Guillaume Martin has raised significantly since their first stint at the Grande Boucle. “I learned from my experience last year that it’s very special to do sport for three weeks and compete in kind of a marathon every day”, the Frenchman said. “Physically, it builds a sportsman. I was young when I started one year ago. I felt that my body had changed after that. I stepped up a level thanks to the Tour. I hope for the third week to be less complicated than last year. We’ve learned how to deal with the length of the race. Now I just come out of a good Dauphiné where I placed 12th while racing at the front with the best climbers. It boosts my confidence even though I know it was only a one-week race and some of the protagonists of the Tour de France weren’t present. I start with higher ambitions on GC than last year [23rd]. But I’m aware of the specificities of the first week. I hope to be up there after stage 9 in Roubaix. If so, I’ll target the top 15 overall or the white jersey but if I lose some time in a crash or else, it won’t be the end of the world. I can as well turn my focus on other goals.”