TdF – Info with two days to go

Key points:
 The teams’ presentation in the Tivoli gardens at Copenhagen marks the beginning of a popular Grand Départ in Denmark.
 Lots of ambitions expressed by the riders during the pre-race press conferences: Taco van der Horn, Wout van Aert, Michael Matthews, Geraint Thomas and Ben O’Connor are the selected few.
 Groupama-FDJ to race with David Gaudu as sole leader.

The teams set to take part in the 109th Tour de France have gathered in the Tivoli gardens, the world’s oldest theme park (since 1843), to be introduced to the fans. It gives the riders an indication on the crowds that also await them on the road sides for the first three stages to be held in Denmark. The teams’ presentation is also an occasion to discover the Tour de France special jerseys, since Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe, EF Education-Easypost, Israel-Premier Tech, Trek-Segafredo and Alpecin-Deceuninck have decided to modify their image. It’s party time as well, hence the presence of the Lukas Graham band, well known worldwide on the pop scene a couple of years ago and still very popular on home soil, maybe as much as the likes of Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic and especially local favourites Jonas Vingegaard, Mads Pedersen, Kasper Asgreen and Michael Morkov…

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux opened the series of pre-race press conferences to express their multiple ambitions: GC with Louis Meintjes who aims at delivering the first top 10 overall for the team that had Guillaume Martin 12th in 2019 as their best final result so far, sprint stages with Alexander Kristoff and breakaways with the likes of Taco van der Horn and Georg Zimmermann. “The chances to win from a breakaway are very small but I’ll take them as much I can”, said Van der Hoorn ahead of his first participation to the Tour de France. “We also have a good sprint train with Andrea [Pasqualon] and Adrien [Petit]. Furthermore we have Louis for GC, I told him: don’t count on me on the last climb but on the first climb I’ll be there. He showed he was good at the Dauphiné.” The Belgian squad also sets his sights particularly on stage 5 featuring the cobblestones including a pavé sector dedicated to his local rider Adrien Petit.

Jumbo-Visma also has multiple ambitions in the 109th Tour de France: the green jersey with Wout van Aert and the overall win with either Primoz Roglic or Jonas Vingegaard. “Going for the Maillot Jaune is the dream this group has been hunting for a couple of years already”, Van Aert explained. “I’ll contribute again but the green jersey takes energy as well. I’ve showed that I can as well help the team and go for stages. I’ll have more freedom to try and catch as many points as possible. It’s a good thing to have two captains for GC because some bad things like crashes can also happen. Wearing the yellow jersey myself at the beginning of the race has also been a big goal for me all season. I don’t want to give up on that with just a setback. I don’t really feel pain anymore but I have to be careful with my knee every day. It’s quite a technical course, a bit longer than a prologue and it suits me. I’m looking forward to this start in Denmark. The first time I rode in this country, I was surprised by the amount of people on the road sides. After two years, we can finally have a Grand Départ with huge crowds as it should be.”

Australia’s Michael Matthews gave some interesting comments regarding his seventh participation to the Tour de France and his new cooperation with Dylan Groenewegen at Team BikeExchange-Jayco: “The Tour de France has been a roller coaster for me, with lots of lows”, the fast man from Canberra said. “Right now I’m just excited to be back on the bike (Giant) I won the green jersey with (in 2017). But I’m not aiming for the green jersey this year. To win it, you have to go for every intermediate sprint and bunch sprint. With Dylan [Groenewegen] who is the fastest guy in the world at the moment, our goal is to try and assemble as many stage wins as possible. Ahead of the flat sprints, I’ll put him on the best position, on the undulated stages when it’s too hard for him, I’ll go for it. I also want to see on Friday how close I can be to the time trial specialists because I have the big goal to take the yellow jersey in one of the first few stages but many fast riders have the same goal and it’ll it a very interesting first week.”

One of the three Tour de France winners back in contention along with Chris Froome and Tadej Pogacar, Geraint Thomas, the 2018 victor, offered his views on the 109th edition. “In the past we had one of the big favourites coming into the start: Froome, Wiggins, myself, Egan…”, the Welshman said, “whereas now, Roglic, Pogacar, the MVPs for the last couple of years, are our rivals. In the end, men will be men. We’ve got a strong team, we will have numbers come certain moments of the race… and we hope to use them to our advantage. The vibe on the team is as good as ever. It’s been a good group and it’s the same now. We have a good atmosphere at the minute and we will try and enjoy a great Tour de France together.”

Third of the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, Australia’s Ben O’Connor thus confirmed his fourth place at the Tour de France last year. “I wasn’t that far off the best riders of the world, so even though Primoz [Roglic] and Jonas [Vingegaard] were one step above, I’m maybe the best of the rest. Lots of things are going, so I might be at their level or even ahead of them at the end. I’m here to try because occasions like this are rare in a cycling career.

Team boss Marc Madiot opened the Groupama-FDJ press conference with some news. “Earlier this year we said we were going to ride the Tour with three GC guys, David Gaudu, Thibaut Pinot and Michael Storer”, the Frenchman said. “But things have changed during the season and our sole leader is Gaudu. Pinot will be his garden angel in the mountains.” Clearly, the recent stage winner at the Tour de Suisse who finished third overall at the France back in 2014 and appeared like a potential winner in 2019 until he injured his knee before the Alps will target mountain stage wins and will alternatively support Gaudu. Pinot confirmed that he didn’t feel himself able to ride for GC this time around. The team’s ambitions are openly to place the Breton climber on the final podium. “Except for two or three Slovenians, everyone else is playable”, Madiot noted.

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