Dutch squad celebrates Kittel's third stage win in 2013 Tour
In 2009, when Argos-Shimano - then Skil-Shimano - made their Tour de France debut, the Dutch team were seen as a team of plucky underdogs. They were the Tour's whipping boys from the Pro Continental division, lacking a genuine leader and simply out to gain experience.
Their Tour that year was epitomised by sprinter Kenny van Hummel, a rider who was dubbed as the Tour's worst ever climber by ASO's Jean-Francois Pecheux.
In the years since, team boss Iwan Spekenbrink and his staff have slowly built the team into a force to be reckoned with, culminating in Marcel Kittel's third stage win of the race in Tours. There have been a number of stepping stones along the way: John Degenkolb's Vuelta a Espana in 2012 and Kittel's Scheldeprijs but Spekenbrink's men now shine on the greatest stage of all.
"This is unbelievable. For the team, it's a dream, and we're living in the clouds," Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews at the finish in Tours.
Spekenbrink certainly doesn't have one of the biggest budgets in the WorldTour. A lot of his riders are signed as promising neo-pros or haven't quite made the grade at other teams but what Spekenbrink has created is an environment where his riders can blossom under a clear and defined path that Spekenbrink says is founded on a strict anit-doping policy.
"We had so much prepared for this," he said in assessing the team's sprint train in Tours.
"We put so much new science and out of the box thinking into this with a lot of analysis of where and how we could improve. We looked at coaching too and then we went about building a sprint train. We knew that with the talent of the guys, that when we're all 100 per cent and do the job right, that we would be close to the win. This is the top of the very top in...
Director sportif John Lelangue said two races could develop on the race's longest stage, which is largely flat until the race hits the foot of the climb in Bédoin, almost 21km from the summit.
"It could be a big breakaway going for the finish," said Lelangue of the 242km stage. "There could be two races in one. Maybe there is one from the leaders and one for the stage. It's clearly going to be a difficult stage, it's a long stage, a really, really fast approach and then the climb," he said.
Meanwhile he said the team was on guard for any traps which could emerge on the next three stages – including today's 218km journey between Fougères and Tours – but refused to be drawn on how far up the general classification team leader Cadel Evans could rise.
He said: "You have to be concentrated – you never know what could happen in stages like this," he said. "There are a lot of mountain stages, one more time trial and a lot can change in the Tour so until the last day of the last week we cannot discuss anything."
2011 Tour winner Evans slipped to 23rd on the first mountain stage to Ax-3-Domaines. But on the second high mountain stage and yesterday's flat time trial, the Australian recovered and now lies 14th, 58-seconds behind the next rider on the GC, Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp).
Orica GreenEdge sprinter heading in right direction, says DS White
He may have been anonymous in the sprints so far in this year's Tour de France but Matt White is still expecting Matthew Goss to bounce back before the race reaches Paris with stages 13 and 14 suited to the Orica GreenEdge sprinter.
Goss suffered with stomach problems in the opening few days of this year's Tour and was unable to compete with the likes of Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel. Goss's blushes were saved by Daryl Impey and Simon Gerrans, both of whom wore the maillot jaune while the latter also won an individual stage. Goss was also part of the team time trial win in Nice.
"He's had some problems with his stomach and he's disappointed with the results he's had but it's going in the right direction and that's what matters," White told Cyclingnews after stage 12 from Fougeres to Tours.
"We've got a couple more opportunities in the week and we'll be fully committing to that."
Stage 13 and 14 should play out in sprints but an on form Goss would be ideally suited to the lumpy nature of stage 14 from Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon. With only one individual win in 2013 a debut Tour stage win would no doubt do wonders for Goss's confidence after the Australian drew a blank at the Giro in May.
"He got sick at the Giro but he had good form at the start of the year. He had a close call...
Jack Bauer (Garmin Sharp) is in the midst of his Tour de France debut and in this exclusive video with Cyclingenws the 28-year-old New Zealander relates his evolution from a teenage mountain biker in New Zealand to his current position on road racing's WorldTour plus his plans for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Bauer started his foray on the road in his early 20s, raced a few years as an amateur in Belgium, then spent two seasons (2010-2011) at Endura Racing, a British-based Continental team. The New Zealander signed with Garmin in 2012, a year in which he was part of Garmin's team which supported Ryder Hesjedal in his historic Giro d'Italia victory, as well as an Olympian for both the road race and time trial at the London Games.
"I came to it (road racing) really late so I guess you can say I'm really green to it," Bauer told Cyclingnews. "I do have a different outlook based on coming to the sport so late. Coming from rural New Zealand, road cycling is not a popular sport - rugby is, and the two are worlds apart."
Dutch squad still searching for headline sponsor during Tour de France
This year's Tour de France is yet to go according to the pre-race plan for Dutch squad Vacansoleil-DCM and it appears things could get even worse. The team is still on the hunt for a new headline sponsor with reports that it requires a further 60-70 percent of its budget to remain at the WorldTour level. If the funds cannot be found the team may look to drop to Professional Continental status in 2014.
The WorldTour outfit came into the race with last year's third-place finisher from the Giro d'Italia in the form of Thomas De Gendt but so far the winner atop of the Tourmalet from the 2012 Italian race is yet to show any real climbing form.
The team's best-place GC rider, Wout Poels is currently in 23rd and more than 13 minutes behind maillot jaune Chris Froome. Visibility has been plentiful throughout the first half of the three-week race with Juan Antonio Flecha and
Sitting in 160th place overall in the Tour de France general classification, Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) isn't an overall contender. Instead, he's been hard at work as a domestique for his team during the first 12 stages of this year's race, his first Tour.
"Our team leaders are doing great - better than expected, and everyone is really motivated," said Vanmarcke, who said he particularly enjoyed what he called the "most beautiful finish ever" of stage 11 into Mont-Saint-Michel.
"The Tour de France is more about me helping others," said Vanmarcke. "Maybe in September and October, I can do something for myself again in the semi-Classic races."
The Belgian rider said everything was going well with the team's new sponsor and its all new equipment, delivered just in time for the Tour.
Sky Sports reports that former pro cyclist Twan Poels, who is a member of the race's organising committee, sad, "We may be looking for a sprinter, but Cavendish is not that. I have seen the TV images of the sprint together with the board and I decided to take him off the list.
"Simply put we find his actions not very good. The jury may think he is not responsible for the fall of Tom Veelers - we absolutely believe otherwise."
The decision was met with a woof-shrug from Omega Pharma - Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere. "It says more about them than Mark Cavendish. Classless."
Cavendish himself wasn't even aware that racing there had been a possibility in the first place. “I don’t think I’d ever been invited," he said. "I wish them luck with the criterium.”
Kittel becomes Germany's fifth three-time Tour winner
Marcel Kittel's sprint win in Tours earned him membership of an elite circle of German riders as well as that of currently the fastest sprinter in the peloton.
The Argos-Shimano is just the fifth German rider to win three stages in the same edition of the Tour de France. Also in the 3x climb are Andre Greipel –who won three stages last year, Erik Zabel –who won three times in 2001 and 1997, Jan Ullrich –who won three stages in the 1998 Tour but lost overall to Marco Pantani and Rudi Altig –who win three stages in 1963 and...
The 2013 Tour de France has not gone well for Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Last year's best young rider and fifth overall finisher has suffered bad luck, crashed in the first week and has struggled to find the kind of form he showed last year.
Van Garderen went down twice in the first week, and then had a disastrous two days in the Pyrenees, losing a total of 35 minutes.
The 24-year-old isn't sure why he hasn't been going well, but he hasn't given up on the idea he can show his true talents in the race.
"This Tour has been a bit of a struggle for whatever reason the legs haven't been there like they've been at the start of the season," he told Cyclingnews in this video interview.
"Compared with last year it's night and day. I'm trying to stay positive because I think I can still make something happen in the third week. Maybe try and go for it or just show myself."