In the latest episode of the Cyclingnews podcast - brought to you in association with Sportful, Pinarello and Floyds of Leadville - we go behind the scenes with EF Education First Pro Cycling team at their training camp in Girona, Spain, as they finalise their Tour de France roster.
The three-day camp took place last week and formed the backdrop for the team's final selection process for the Tour de France, which gets underway in Brussels on Saturday.
Present at the camp were Woods, van Garderen, Urán, Tanel Kangert, Mitch Docker, Lawson Craddock, Tom Scully, Sebastian Langeveld, and Simon Clarke. Alberto Bettiol, who was in the mix for a Tour de France spot, was racing the Italian nationals at the time.
Team director Charly Wegelius takes Cyclingnews through the process of team selection on the final morning of the camp and explains his goals and what he's looking for from the riders as they set out on their final test. He must narrow down a list of 10 to eight by the end of the day and watches on from the team car as the riders do two lots of 13-minute team time trial tests.
Cyclingnews follows in the second team car, with the opportunity to listen and observe as Wegelius offers instructions over the radio before the team then begin their internal de-brief, providing a fascinating insight into team tactics and morale within the squad.
Wegelius then brings everyone together. He praises Woods and Kangert on taking shorter pulls on the front in order to keep the pace high, and he tells Scully that his skill in moving off the front of the line is so smooth that it's like watching an experienced pursuit rider in action.
Back at the team hotel, and under the baking sun, we sit down with Urán for a short interview. It's a rare moment to talk to the 2017 Tour de France runner-up about the camp and his season to date.
We then look for a place to interview van Garderen. There are a set of benches in the shade a few meters away from the team buses but they are currently occupied by Wegelius and another director, Andreas Klier, who are both deep in conversation with road captain Simon Clarke. It's obvious that a decision on the team is about to be made.
Van Garderen - no stranger to successful team time trial squads - takes us through how EF Education First communicate during TTT efforts. We also talk to the American about how much effort goes into the off-the-bike preparation at camps of this nature, and of course his aspirations at the Tour after his fine second place in June's Critérium du Dauphiné.
By the time van Garderen has left, Klier and Wegelius have done the same. They've retreated back inside the hotel for a final conference before going door-to-door at the hotel and breaking the news to the riders at the camp as to whether they have made the selection. For most, it's good news, but for Craddock and Docker this is as far as it goes. Although Bettiol has missed the camp due to the Italian nationals, he will make the Tour team.
After spending time with the riders, we sit down with Wegelius. We ask him about how the team has gelled as a unit over the last three days and also how important the team time trial is in the balance of selecting their entire Tour de France Tour team. Wegelius' task is unenviable but he's selected a squad for the Tour that can fight on a number of fronts and even the riders who have unfortunately missed out have played their part in spurring on the eight who have been selected.
Urán will challenge for the overall podium, Woods will support and target stage wins, van Garderen appears revitalised since his move to the team, Bettiol will have chances. There's also experience and horsepower, with Langeveld, Scully, Clarke and Kangert running the engine of the team.
With the camp now over, the team disperses. Some riders, like van Garderen, remain in Girona for extra training, while others, like Urán, head back to their European base in Monaco. Within a couple of hours, everyone has checked out, the trucks are loaded up and the team have moved on. The next stop is Brussels and the Tour de France.
However, there's one final chance to talk to Michael Woods. He has loaded up his car and is ready to head home but he agrees to sit down with us to talk about the camp and, of course, what will be his Tour de France debut.
Overall, this was a successful camp for EF Education First. There were some tough moments in terms of the selection process but the riders selected are of the highest caliber and they head to the Grand Départ with realistic goals. This podcast offers a rare glimpse into the minds of the riders and staff of a WorldTour squad on eve of a Grand Tour, and provides a more relaxed environment in which the athletes can talk about their training, the cohesion within the squad, and their hopes for the Tour de France. With the team finally announced publicly on Tuesday, now all they have to do is deliver.
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