Having helped set up Alberto Contador for the win in Vuelta al Pais Vasco and made it into the main break at Amstel Gold, it’s fair to say that Rory Sutherland is making all the right noises and doing all the right things as he looks to secure a place in Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour de France team.
The Australian all-rounder is into his second season with the Danish WorldTour team and has his sights firmly set on making his Tour de France debut this July, but despite his impressive start to the season he is aware that selection will not come down to Bjarne Riis simply picking the strongest eight climbers to support Contador.
“I go through until Liege and then have a break in May. It’s been full on for the last month. The team is starting to figure who goes where after that, what Alberto needs and what Alberto wants,” Sutherland told Cyclingnews at the start of Amstel Gold.
“I think everyone wants to ride the Tour. We have 29 riders on the team and all of them want to do it. You want to do it more when Alberto is riding well, of course you do but you also need to be able to fill a specific role so it’s not necessarily about the best nine guys. It’s about the best nine guys who work together in different areas. You can’t take nine of the best climbers and forget about the flat or middle mountains.”
“I think I’m in the long list for it and we have around 14 riders ready to go but people get sick and injured so you never know.”
That long list will be narrowed down over the coming weeks. Sutherland will skip this year’s Giro d’Italia – a race he took part in last year – and focus on training in May. He’ll then be sent to either the Tour de Suisse or the Dauphine.
“At the start of the year I said that I wanted to do the Tour but I’m pretty realistic so I said that if I can fill a role on the team for the Tour, then great but if there’s someone better than me then that’s what’s best for the team. So while this is a goal it’s not the be all and end all of life.”
“For a big guy I can climb pretty well. Not the big mountains all of the time but in the medium mountains when there are 30 or 40 guys left I can be there. It all depends on what the team need.”
Part of the reason as to why Riis has so many competitive riders in the hunt for a Tour spot may lie in the fact that Contador has been in such a rich vein of form this season. Along with his Vuelta al Pais Vasco victory the Spaniard has taken the overall win in Tirreno-Adriatico as well as second place in Catalunya and Algarve.
“He has that flash in his eyes again,” said Sutherland.
“There’s less stress on he has a strong team behind him. He’s changed the training a little bit and once you get on that roll you have the confidence to keep going. He seems to be doing things in a smart way and it’s great to see and be part of that.”