The AG2r-La Mondiale team has set out its ambitions for the Tour de France, confirming seven of the riders that will make up its nine-man roster.
Unsurprisingly, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet, who finished second and sixth respectively last year, have made the cut. Bardet is likely to be the primary general classification rider after leading the team at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he impressed with victory on stage 5 and was only denied a top-5 overall finish by a crash the following day.
"He’s a sure bet for the team for the general classification. He gets stronger every year and is among the best in the world in the stage races," said the team's general manager Vincent Lavenu of the 24-year-old.
This year’s Tour route is loaded with mountains and it is there where the general classification men, provided they make it through a tricky opening portion of the race, will fight it out for overall honours. Bardet is very much at home in the mountains and will have support in those stages from Mikaël Chérel and Alexis Vuillermoz.
The 28km team time trial on stage 9 is also likely to provide a GC shake-up and is an area where AG2R look a little light on the ground. They finished in 13th in the 24km Dauphiné TTT, where Bardet lost a minute. Patrick Gretsch, who was fourth in the individual time trial at the Giro d’Italia in May, will be there for the Tour stage to limit the damage. Ben Gastauer and Johan Vansummeren round out the rest of the support team.
The final two members of the line-up will be confirmed on 29 July following national championships. Domenico Pozzovivo, who crashed out of the Giro, has impressed on his return to racing at the Tour de Suisse, finishing second on queen stage to the Rettenbach glacier, but will not figure in the line-up.
Lavenu has high hopes for his subjects and wants to replicate the success of last year’s Tour, when the team had a two riders in the top 10 - including Peraud's podium finish - a stage win and top spot in the team's classification.
"The last couple of weeks have proved our worth as a team and confirmed the value of the work we’ve done, particularly during our training camp at altitude at the Col du Lautaret," he said. "But we are all aware that the Tour is a unique test that is difficult and unforgiving, and one that must be undertaken with a generous amount of humility."
AG2R-La Mondiale for the Tour de France: Romain Bardet, Mikaël Chérel, Ben Gastauer, Patrick Gretsch, Jean-Christophe Péraud, Johan Vansummeren, Alexis Vuillermoz.
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