Twenty-two teams and 198 riders were presented at the 2015 Tour de France in the start city of Utrecht in the Netherlands on Thursday in summery weather, which pleased the Spaniards but wilted the cool-weather fans. The unusually warm weather will heat up even more for the opening stage on Saturday, where temperatures will be near record-highs, topping out at 95F/35C.
The team presentation was a part of an outdoor festival where fans of the sport flocked to see their favourite riders and teams, along with live bands playing at the Lepelenburg Park.
Teams prepared for the presentation earlier in the afternoon at the Railway Museum before embarking on individual team boat rides along the Oudegracht canal through the centre of Utrecht, which took them to the park where they were presented to the public.
Each team arrived one boat at a time and the riders were handed their bikes to ride through the crowd toward the staging area.
“I am here and I will try,” Contador said about his chances of winning both Grand Tours in one year. “I know that it is very difficult and I have worked very, very hard in the last six months.”
Team Sky’s Chris Froome spoke about his ambitions for this year’s Tour and his hopes of winning a second overall title. He won the yellow jersey in 2013 but he was forced to pull out of last year's race during stage 5 after crashing multiple times in the first week.
“Especially given how it went last year, and the disappointment from last year, I think it has given us a lot of added motivation for this year’s Tour de France," Froome said. "I am surrounded by the strongest team in the race - I can say that with confidence. Every one of these guys has worked extremely hard to be here today. We are looking forward to riding in front of the amazing crowds in Utrecht.”
With the Grand Départ held in the Netherlands, it's not surprising that there are 20 Dutch riders participating at the Tour de France this year. Fans at the team presentation were pleased to hear Trek Factory Racing’s GC rider Bauke Mollema say a few words on stage.
“This is really special,” Mollema said. “The Tour is the biggest event in cycling and to start in your own country is very special.”
Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans, who wore the early leader’s jersey in 2013, said it will be hard to replicate that performance this time around. “I think the yellow jersey will be very difficult this year but I think with the line-up of guys that we have here, a stage win is very possible.”
IAM Cycing’s Mathias Frank noted that the first nine stages would be the most difficult, “there are some tricky stages and I should get some good support, and when we get to the mountains, you just need to have the legs.”
The Tour de France will start on Saturday with a 13.8km time trial through Utrecht. Cannondale-Garmin’s US time trial champion Andrew Talansky told the crowds that he is looking forward to wearing his new stars-and-stripes jersey in the opener.
“I think it is going to be a great start,” Talansky said. “It's always special to start the Tour with a time trial and being the US national champion, starting with the stars-and-stripes jersey on the fourth of July will be a great experience.”