The dearth of time trialling was the biggest surprise when the route of the 2015 Tour de France was unveiled in Paris on Wednesday, and the initial feeling in the Palais des Congrès was that the innovative parcours favours the chances of young French talent Romain Bardet rather than his veteran Ag2r-La Mondiale teammate Jean-Christophe Péraud, who finished second overall this year.
Speaking to Cyclingnews shortly afterwards, however, their team manager Vincent Lavenu was not convinced that Péraud would be unduly hampered by the fact that there is just one individual time trial – the 13.7-km test in Utrecht on the opening day – on the route of the 2015 Tour, pointing out that he had followed Vincenzo Nibali at summit finishes at Risoul and Pla d’Adet this past July.
“There’s no long time trial but Péraud is an all-rounder. Indeed, he’s actually more of a climber than a rouleur,” Lavenu said. “Sure, he’s certainly one of the very best time triallists among the climbers. He moved up to second in the last time trial at this year’s Tour but he was already lying third overall before that. He’d also lost 1:30 on the pavé in the first week, so I think physically he had the capacity to be second in the Tour without that time trial. So it’s a good Tour for Péraud, even if for Bardet it’s maybe a little bit better because right now he still has room for improvement in the time trial.”
Péraud acknowledged that he would be hard pressed to match his feat of 2014 given the likely strength in depth at next year’s race, but Lavenu reckoned the biggest obstacle between the 37-year-old and a repeat performance might be the tense opening week. Péraud only made the switch from mountain biking to racing full-time on the road in 2010 and still struggles with his positioning in a nervous peloton on flat, fast roads.
“That’s true, but it’s the case for a lot of other riders too. Even Contador lost time on the pavé this year. Froome, Contador and Quintana will be like Péraud, a bit worried by the first part,” he said. “There’ll be teams like us who are trying to keep things organised and keep their leaders safe and towards the front, and then there’ll be teams of the rouleurs and sprinters who want to break everything up. So it’s going to be very interesting.”
The first week of the Tour will also help Lavenu to decide on the hierarchy and subsequent game plan of an Ag2r-La Mondiale team where both Bardet and Péraud will have ambitions of a high overall finish in Paris. Despite the mountainous denouement to the race, however, he said that the Italian climber Domenico Pozzovivo was unlikely to make his Tour debut. “I know that Pozzo would love to do the Tour de France but the problem is the pavé. It doesn’t suit him at all,” Lavenu said.
“The first part of the Tour is going to be delicate for us, with the wind in Holland, the pavé, the stage to Le Havre, where we’re along the coast for a long time. We’ll take stock after the first nine days and then we’ll see how we organise ourselves in the remainder of the race. The first part is dangerous and we’ll need to protect our leaders. But the second part of the race is very difficult and should be to our advantage.”