- Article published:
- July 04, 2014, 13:43 BST
- Peter Cossins
The tricolore jersey on his Tour debut doubles his feeling of pleasure
Almost all of the focus for Tour de France stage one has been on sprinting big guns Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and André Greipel, but keep any eye out too for newly crowned French champion Arnaud Démare.
The 22-year-old FDJ.fr rider goes into his debut Tour with the aim of learning as much as he can. But Démare says he’ll be ready to take any opportunities that come his way in bunch sprints having gained a huge confidence boost from winning the French title, which put him level with Cavendish on nine wins for the season.
“I’m really looking forward to getting some experience of the Tour. I need to keep my head on my shoulders and keep my confidence levels right up as well,” he said during FDJ’s pre-Tour press conference.
“I don’t think having the French champion’s jersey on my shoulders increases the pressure. In fact, it doubles the pleasure. Having the tricolore jersey gives even more significance to my Tour debut.”
Démare refused to be drawn on specific targets beyond his stated goal of gaining experience of the world’s biggest race, but said he won’t be overawed. “I might be young but there’s no reason to put up barriers or set limits on what I can achieve. I’ll be looking for opportunities from the very first day, although my priority is to experience the Tour and learn as much as I can,” said the French champion.
“My rivals have got experience and several Tours in their legs. This is my first Tour and perhaps that experience gives them a bit more confidence. But I’ve got a great team around me, a train that knows exactly what it is doing, and I’m going to race in my usual fashion.”
He revealed he is not sure yet whether he will target the intermediate...
- Article published:
- July 04, 2014, 14:40 BST
- Sadhbh O'Shea
American will ride in support of Costa
It is hard to imagine, but just under three months ago, Chris Horner was lying in an Italian hospital bed with a myriad of injuries that included a punctured lung and four broken ribs. However, the Lampre-Merida rider was in fine form just two days before he is set to ride the Tour de France.
Horner was due to ride the Giro d’Italia as the team leader, but he was unable to ride his bike after being hit by a car in April. Horner admitted that he thought his career was over when he found himself on the tarmac. Most expected that his Grand Tour comeback would be for his Vuelta a España title defence. Since the crash, Horner has staged a recovery almost as surprising as his Vuelta victory.
The road wasn’t easy for the 42-year-old, and the coming days will be unknown territory for him. “The form is alright, it’s not bad. I don’t know if it is winning form like the Vuelta but it’s something. I’ll take it and we’ll see what happens,” he told Cyclingnews with a wry laugh.
“First, it’s just about trying to get through the first week, that’s what I’m looking at. It’s just trying to get through the first week, don’t lose time and hopefully don’t get caught up in the crashes. It would be difficult to get involved in another crash so early in my recovery. Once we get to the mountains we’ll see what happens.”
World Champion, Rui Costa will be the team’s main leader at the Tour. Costa won two stages of last year’s race. Horner will be riding in support of Costa this year, with the potential to ride for the GC if his form holds out. Due to his recent injuries, Horner was reluctant to lay claim to joint leadership with Costa.
“At the moment I don’t want leadership, I just...
- Article published:
- July 04, 2014, 15:10 BST
- Stephen Farrand
Tinkoff Saxo leader in top form
Alberto Contador listened carefully to the questions put to him during his pre-Tour de France press conference on Friday, trying to hide his emotions behind carefully pondered answers.
His strategy appeared to be simple: put the press on Froome by declaring him as the big favourite but make everyone aware he is in far better shape than last year when he struggled to be competitive and finished only fourth overall.
"I’ve said this lots of times and so it maybe repetitive but the rider who’s shown to be the strongest in the last two years is Froome and he’s the number one favourite," he said, preferring to answer every question in Spanish.
"Have I got better form than last year? Definitely. I don’t know whether it’ll be enough. And there are other riders out there who can also have a huge influence on the race."
Contador did admit that this year's Tour de France will be special. Be it for the start in Yorkshire, the difficult early stages in the hills and on the cobbles and because of his rivalry with Froome.
"For me all of them are special but this one is exceptional, this is the one everybody wants to win," he said.
"I've come to this Tour very calm, in good shape, with lots of good race results. Froome is the top favourite and I'll ride day by day to see what happens. But yes, it’s a very special, important Tour."
"There's no doubt that I've come here in a good state of form, but the first week is not as decisive as perhaps other years (because of the lack of an individual or team time trial). There are key stages like the second and the fifth stages but it’s when we get to the Vosges when we'll see everybody’s real condition."