Sprinters have no secrets for Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who captured the first stage of the Tour of Poland on Sunday. The Belarus rider is one of the riders who scrutinizes bunch sprints on videos, sometimes dozens of times a day.
"The last Tour de France was interesting," he tells Cyclingnews, "although some riders have been affected by crashes and would probably have been more successful without – I think about Andre Greipel".
Hutarovich didn't notice major surprises among the Tour's sprints but welcomed new names such as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), 27-years old, winner of stages 12 and 15. "Since he won Milan-San Remo [in March], he is increasing the pressure," Hutarovich says. "He works very hard and trains a lot, following the Norwegian culture."
About the new French generation, "Huta" seems quite enthusiastic. "Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni [who didn't ride in the Tour] are all interesting and different," added the Belarus national champion, who has raced and lived in France since 2002.
"Démare (FDJ.fr) is super fast when he gets his lead-out, Bouhanni (FDJ) can perform without a solid support, and finally Coquard (Team Europcar) is a 'pure sprinter', who can produce a strong jump on a short distance."
Even if the sprinters' teams don't lead the peloton in the last hour like they used to do in the 1990s, and sometimes take the head of the field only in the final five kilometers, Hutarovich insists lead-outs are "essential to win".
"That's perhaps the difference between Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel," he explains. "It's hard to say who is the number one in sprints now. Kittel has more results and he's really strong while Cavendish is often 'à contre-temps' (off-beat). That's a question of support. In his recent teams, Cavendish lost the men he used to have around him [at HTC]. But if he finds a good lead-out again, he can become again the number one sprinter in the world. That's because he has more 'pure speed' in the legs than Kittel."
Hutarovich, 30-years-old, lost his lead-out himself when he signed at Ag2r-La Mondiale last season. A stage winner in the 2010 Vuelta a España (ahead of Mark Cavendish and Tyler Farrar) he used to be ranked as a very serious contender for bunch sprints and would claim numerous victories each year with Française des Jeux.
"The guys at Ag2r-La Mondiale do their best for me," he says. "But it's clear we are more a climber's team than a sprinter's team and I must do my own sprints. Fighting in the last kilometers to keep your position means you have no energy in the final kilometer. You don't necessarily need seven riders helping you, two or three are sometimes enough."
"Huta" says his hope is to get his "lead-out back and ride the Tour de France against the great sprinters".
Still in talks for a team in 2015, the Belarus fast man wishes he can compete in the next Vuelta and capture some good results.