With its GC hopeful, Christian Vande Velde, in uncertain form following serious injuries sustained in a crash in the Giro d'Italia, the Garmin-Slipstream team is sending a team of diverse talents to capitalize on any opportunity in this year's Tour de France.
Speaking with Cyclingnews on Thursday, manager Jonathan Vaughters gave some insight into how he and directeur sportif Matt White formulated this year's team.
"The final call was Matt's, but in this case we agreed on the line-up," said Vaughters. "We wanted to pick nine riders who would work well as a team, but we tried to diversify it more than if we were going in with a strict focus on supporting Christian for the GC."
The team will be able to support Vande Velde should he show the form that propelled him to a top five finish in last year's Tour, but will also focus on the bunch sprints with Delta Tour Zeeland winner Tyler Farrar and Kiwi Julian Dean.
"Time trials will also be a focus, but [Fabian] Cancellara is going pretty fast right now."
The team still has a good chance for the team time trial in Montpellier on stage four with US champion David Zabriskie, David Millar and Bradley Wiggins as engines, yet several of the squad's strong time trialists were left out of the line-up.
Canadian Svein Tuft is one rider who many would have been expecting to see on the roster as the world championship silver medalist would have brought more kick to the team time trial, but Vaughters said Tuft hasn't shown in recent weeks that he was ready for the Tour.
"Svein is going to have a great season, but he had some rough luck this year. We took him out of the Giro team because he was coming back from an injury, and then he had some rough luck in Catalunya and crashing in the long time trial at the Dauphine.
"He has tried so hard this year because it is his big chance, but he may have overtrained a bit. He's learned from it, and will be great for the Vuelta and the World Championships."
The team added newcomer Dan Martin as a pure climber who could surprise in this year's Tour. "You never know what Martin might do," said Vaughters of the Irish rider who put Alejandro Valverde into difficulty at the Volta a Catalunya on his way to second overall.
Martin's inclusion came at the expense of another Garmin veteran, Tom Danielson.
"Tom actually is starting to be a much more stable rider. He did a solid Tour de Suisse. But if I was going to take a spot out away from a time trialist or a lead-out man, I wanted to dedicate it to a pure climber. Tom is almost to the point where he's re-finding his crazy fast climbing legs, but he's not quite there - he will be before the end of the year.
"Added to that, he raced the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de Suisse - if we sent him to the Tour he'd have 30 days of racing before the Tour."
The team should have solid climbing support from Millar and Wiggins, both of whom are starting the Tour at the lightest weights of their careers.
"Wiggins is 72kg - the lightest he's ever been. I was talking to him about possibly going for the world hour record, but he wants to focus on doing a good Tour de France. Maybe in 18 months he'll try for the record."
To complete the roster, White and Vaughters selected Danny Pate and Ryder Hesjedal, both of whom started last year's Tour.
"Danny showed himself well in the Giro, getting third on one stage from a breakaway. He's a good all-around rider and has a nose for the breakaways," said Vaughters.
After focusing the Giro d'Italia team on the opening team time trial, Vaughters has covered all his bases for the Tour.
"We've built a versatile team. We can go into the race with the ability to adjust as it goes along. We can lead-out Tyler for the stage wins, or if Wiggins takes the jersey, we can defend that."
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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