Howard replaces Devenyns in IAM Cycling Tour de France team
Dries Devenyns has been forced to withdraw from IAM Cycling’s Tour de France team just three days before the Grand Départ due to illness. The Belgian had already been struggling with a throat infection in the final days of the Tour de Suisse and then suffered from gasto-enteritis at the Belgian national championships.
After abandoning the road race on Sunday, Devenyns began to realise that his participation at the Tour was at risk and, after consultation with his team on Tuesday, the 32-year-old withdrew.
"It was getting better but I hadn’t trained for four days," Devenyns said, according to RTBF. "I barely managed to eat anything during the Belgian championships and I had a fever on Monday. I still gave myself a 50 per cent chance then of taking the start."
IAM Cycling later announced that Leigh Howard will replace Devenyns in the Tour line-up. The Australian, who won the Clasica de Almería earlier this year, is making his Tour debut.
Péraud explains Tour de France absence
Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), second overall at the 2014 Tour de France, has confessed to a degree of relief at missing out on this year’s edition, in what is set to be his final season as a professional.
The Tour was not originally part of Péraud’s programme, but after he was forced out of the Giro d’Italia by a crash on stage 3, manager Vincent Lavenu looked to persuade him to line out in the race, which gets underway in Mont-Saint-Michel on Saturday. After struggling during his return to racing at the Tour de Suisse, however, Péraud was not selected for the Tour, and will instead make his final Grand Tour appearance at the Vuelta a España.
"The Tour de France is starting and it will be without me," Péraud told L’Équipe. "In fact, I never wanted to do it… But Vincent Lavenu called me to Chambery to fill me in on the idea of being at the start for the challenge of a final Tour de France participation. I listened to his arguments but on my way home to Lyon, I already knew that I wouldn’t go."
The 39-year-old admitted that the Giro crash had been a particular blow to his morale, given how assiduously he had prepared for his debut in the corsa rosa and in light of the ill-fortune that has plagued him in the past two seasons.
"For me, it was just the continuation of a year and a half of hell," said Péraud, who confessed that he might have called time on his career there and then had he failed to finish the Tour de Suisse. "I forced myself to finish because I felt a bit better in the final days of the race. Not finishing might have meant bringing my career to a premature end."
Instead, Péraud will ride the Tour of Poland and Tour de l’Ain before tackling the Vuelta, which starts on August 20. He also confirmed that he will not compete at the Rio Olympics. "I acknowledge that there are other French riders who will have a role to play there," he said.
Landa: My goal is to learn and to help Froome
Mikel Landa has insisted that he enters his debut Tour de France with no ambition beyond helping his Team Sky leader Chris Froome claim a third overall victory in Paris.
Landa led Sky at the Giro d’Italia in May but was forced out in the second week through illness. A solid showing at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month was enough to earn the Basque selection for the Tour, and he told AS that he would set out from Mont-Saint-Michel on Saturday with no specific personal targets.
"Man, I'm not thinking about it. My goal is to learn and to help Froome," Landa told AS. "What is clear is that there are many days and the race can take many turns. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to seek my own interests, but my starting idea is another."
On abandoning the Giro, Landa had told reporters that he would be willing to line out at the Tour and he felt that he proved his worth with his displays at the Dauphiné. "After the Giro, being at the Tour was the only motivation. I wanted to compete as soon as possible," Landa said. "In the mountains [at the Dauphiné] I did a good job for Froome and the team saw its value. Froome himself was happy and we’ll be together again at the Tour."
Landa is also hoping to earn a berth in the Spanish team for the Rio 2016 Olympics, given that national coach Javier Minguez has stated that lining out at the Tour was a pre-requisite to selection. “Unfortunately, I had to abandon the Giro, but it’s opened the doors to the Tour and, all going well, the Olympics,” Landa said.
Kelderman targetting stage wins over GC at Tour de France
Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) has stated that he will target a stage win rather than a high overall finish in his second participation at the Tour de France. The Dutchman finished 79th overall on his debut a year ago after picking up a back injury in a crash in the opening week.
"What would be better? Riding for 15th overall or winning a stage at the Tour de France? Give me the latter," Kelderman told De Telegraaf.
Kelderman showed his ability over three weeks by placing 7th overall in the 2014 Giro d’Italia but said that he would take a more relaxed approach to the opening skirmishes of this year’s Tour. The 25-year-old is willing to concede time early on rather than risk another race-compromising crash.
"My biggest goal in the first week is to get through it in one piece," Kelderman said. "Last year, I was so focused every day on sitting right at the front. Too focused, actually. I raced with tension and things went wrong. I don’t want that this year. In the Netherlands, people want to hear that I’m racing for GC but that’s not my priority this year."
With Robert Gesink absent through injury and Steven Kruijswijk preparing for the Vuelta a España, Kelderman is LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader in the mountains at this year’s Tour, while debutant and newly-crowned Dutch champion Dylan Groenewegen will look to make an impact in the sprints.