In the absence of star sprinter Marcel Kittel, it will be Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb that will lead the Giant-Alpecin team at the Tour de France. Time trialist Tom Dumoulin and French climber Warren Barguil -who is making his Tour de France debut, will also form a key part of the team’s line-up.
“There are two objectives for the team,” Giant-Alpecin team manager Iwan Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews. “We would really like to win a stage, that would be our goal, and that the new riders in the team can really can develop and that this race can be a great step in their career.”
Cyclingnews broke the news of Kittel's absence earlier on Thursday with the team confirming that he would not form part of their nine-man line-up. While the team have chosen Degenkolb as the new leader, they’re adamant that they will not try and fit him into Kittel’s role.
“John Degenkolb is not a replacement for Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb is another rider with other qualities,” said Spekenbrink. “On the pure-Marcel Kittel days he will not be the favourite. He is not the guy when it is totally flat, he is more the kind of sprinter who can do well when it’s more selective. We have a team built around him to stand by him in those stages.”
The obvious highlight for the German will be the cobbled stage four, after he claimed victory at Paris-Roubaix earlier this season. The green jersey is also up for grabs for Degenkolb but the team say that they will not target that competition from the outset. Degenkolb will be supported by Koen de Kort, Albert Timmer and road captain Roy Curvers. Simon Geschke adds yet more experience to the team.
Dumoulin and Barguil riding for experience
Dumoulin is making his third Tour de France appearance and comes into the race in strong form after winning the two time trial stages at the Tour de Suisse and finishing third overall. Giant-Alpecin have won the yellow jersey on the opening stage of the last two Tours - at the hand of Kittel - but with a time trial opener of 13.8 kilometres they stand a chance to do it again with Dumoulin. Despite the Dutchman’s recent form, Spekenbrink doesn’t see him as the clear favourite for yellow.
“The big favourite are Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara, they are really for the power men these flat time trials,” said Spekenbrink. “These guys have proved themselves over and again that they can win time trials in the Tour de France. Tom Dumoulin is younger and is in a different place in his career. He is a talented time triallist but he is not yet at this level because he’s young.”
Barguil will be one of three Tour de France rookies in the Giant-Alpecin line-up, along with Georg Preidler and Ramon Sinkledam. The team decided not to send him to the Tour last year but to the Vuelta a España, where he finished eighth overall. After two years of Grand Tour experience, the team feel that he is ready to ride his home Grand Tour. While he has shown himself as a future GC rider, the team says that this year is all about learning the ropes and they haven’t set him a specific target in the general classification.
“We cannot put the pressure on Warren that he has to get a stage win but he always has to go for it and believe in it. This is a very important Tour de France for his development,” Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews. “We have always had the goal for Warren Barguil that in three years’ time he can be a really good GC rider if he makes the right steps in his development and this Tour de France is a step for him. It’s about experiencing the Tour de France and we don’t have a real objective for him.”
Giant-Alpecin for the Tour de France: John Degenkolb, Simon Geschke, Roy Curvers, Albert Timmer, Ramon Sinkledam, Tom Dumoulin, Koen de Kort, Georg Priedler and Warren Barguil.
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