Mark Renshaw (HTC-Highroad) anticipates that the Tour de France's new structure of just one intermediate sprint per day will lead to larger breaks going clear and that it will take longer for those groups to form at the beginning of each stage.
"It's uncharted and we don't really know what to expect," Renshaw said in Les Herbiers on Friday. "I think we'll see bigger breaks, with maybe seven or eight riders and longer periods of attacking at the start of the stages."
The Australian estimated that on some stages, it could take over two hours of high speed racing before the peloton allowed a break to forge clear. "There could be stages where we see 100km of attacking, which we've seen in the past in the Tour," he said.
Allied to the already high motivation of escapees at the Tour, Renshaw acknowledged that the new tactical situation could make life all the more difficult for HTC-Highroad to bring the race back together for a bunch sprint.
"At the Tour, riders going for the breaks are really giving it 100 per cent, unlike in some other races where really they're just getting in the breaks to do their jobs," he said. "Here everybody wants success, and if there are more riders in the break then that will make it a lot harder."
While Mark Cavendish again leads the line at HTC-Highroad, the one-time pretender to his crown at the team makes a belated Tour de France debut in the colours of Omega Pharma-Lotto. André Greipel has not enjoyed the most successful of spells since making the move during the off-season, but Renshaw felt that his former teammate might benefit from his low-key build-up.
"He's been little spoken about in the whole media," Renshaw said. "I didn't race the Tour de Suisse, so I don't know how his form was. It was interesting to see that he didn't win the German Nationals because I would have put him down as the favourite there."
With Philippe Gilbert primed to be the star of Omega Pharma-Lotto's opening week, Greipel will not have to carry the burden of leadership, and Renshaw believes that this might suit the German.
"He's probably had a good build-up and he's also maybe a little bit overshadowed with Philippe Gilbert on the team, which may be good," Renshaw said. "It might take a little bit of pressure away from him.
"I don't think he has the same lead-out as he had on this team, but he'll be hungry for success and I wouldn't rule him out of being a possibility to well in the green jersey and the sprint stages."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.