The ProTeam secured an automatic place in the Tour de France after topping the team ranking in 2020 and have already won 18 races. Van der Poel stands out as one of the global stars of the sport but Merlier and Philipsen have shown Alpecin-Fenix have a multitude of talents. It is the team’s first Tour de France but they are far from being innocent and inexperienced debutants.
Their biggest problem could be deciding who is the protected sprinter on each stage and then building a smooth lead-out train to help them.
Van der Poel is expected to target the uphill finishes on stage 1 to Landernau and 2 on the Mur de Bretagne finish and so the leader’s yellow jersey, as he finally makes his Tour de France debut.
He is preparing for the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics but is expected to fight for a number of stage victories after his superb 2020 season and spring campaign. His rivals for the first yellow jersey include eternal rival Wout van Aert, Peter Sagan, Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews.
Van der Poel did not finish the Dutch road race championships on Sunday after failing to get into the decisive attack on the VAM mountain course and so will ride the Tour de France in the Alpecin-Fenix blue colours rather than the red, white and blue Netherlands national champion colours he wore since taking the title in 2018 and 2020.
He did not seem concerned about a bad day just a week from the start of the Tour de France.
"I hope I will have good legs again at the start of the Tour on Saturday. If I ride a bad race, I'm usually good afterwards. Hopefully, that will be the case again this time," van der Poel told NOS television on Sunday.
Merlier is more of a pure sprinter and one of the best emerging fast finishers in the peloton. He is expected to take on Caleb Ewan, Peter Sagan, Sam Benett, Alexander Kristoff, Andre Greipel and Nacer Bouhanni in the flat sprints. Merlier won a stage of the Giro d’Italia and recently two other races in Belgium.
Jasper Philipsen is Alpecin-Fenix’s third sprint option and confirmed his talents by winning Scheldeprijs in the spring. He missed the Belgian national championships after crashing at the Baloise Belgium Tour but has recovered.
Also in the team are Petr Vakoc, Kristian Sbaragli, Xandro Meurisse, new Swiss national champion Silvan Dillier and Jonas Rickaert.
Meurisse finished 21st overall in their 2019 Tour de France when riding for Wanty-Gobert, while Vakoc and Dillier are strong enough to help with any chase work, and Sbaragli is also fast in a sprint.
Alpecin-Fenix for the Tour de France:
Mathieu van der Poel, Silvan Dillier, Tim Merlier, Xandro Meurisse, Jasper Philipsen, Jonas Rickaert, Kristian Sbaragli and Petr Vakoč.
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