Deep down Matt White will already have a hunch as to which of his young GC riders - Esteban Chaves, Adam Yates or Simon Yates - will be unleashed at the 2017 Tour de France, but at the route unveiling in Paris the Orica-BikeExchange director erred on the side of caution, choosing to see the full deck of Grand Tour routes before deciding the team's next move.
"We want to see the Giro [d'Italia] route. We have some ideas for next year but we definitely want to take someone to the Tour de France to challenge for the podium. Who that will be, we will find out in the next couple of weeks. We'll see the Giro route, sit down with our guys and then come up with a big picture plan," he told Cyclingnews after taking in Christian Prudhomme's balanced 2017 race route.
This year Orica enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in Grand Tours. Chaves finished second in the Giro d'Italia and third in the Vuelta a España, while Adam Yates claimed fourth and the white jersey in the Tour de France. Simon Yates missed out on the Tour de France due to suspension but remains part of the GC brigade after taking sixth in the Vuelta.
All three riders have similar traits. They are all 26 or under; can climb exceptionally, have almost unrivalled stamina, while time trialing is an Achilles heel for all three. It means that White has a problem - albeit a very nice one - when it comes to positioning his troops for the 2017 campaign.
"This year we targeted all three Grand Tours, and of the top of my head that will be the plan once again and with realistic chances of podiums," he said, reinforcing that the expectations were high.
The 2017 Giro d'Italia route will be presented next week in Milan. Details are thin on the ground but the race, now in its centenary, is expected to be held entirely on Italian soil and with a number of iconic climbs included.
A typical route, with plenty of mountain stages and limited or rolling time trial kilometres would be a welcome proposition for White and his team, although he added that a Giro-Tour combination in which one of his riders rode as support in Italy before targeting yellow in France was unlikely.
"The problem with doing the Giro and backing up for the Tour is that in you're in the hands of the gods with the weather. The Giro is hard physically with longer and steeper climbs. We've seen this year that the Giro-Vuelta and Tour-Vuelta is viable but the Giro-Tour double isn't a good idea for anyone."
Although the 2017 Tour de France holds a number of potential sprint stages – nine at a rough count – White ruled out bringing a pure sprinter to the race, instead choosing to focus on GC.
"A pure sprinter, no. When you look at the route and the guys we have for GC, that has to be our priority for 2017."
"It's an interesting route. There's around 36 kilometres of individual time trialing, so no complaints there. A team time trial would have been nice but there's not that much in Pyrenees, although we do pass up into altitude of around 2,000 meters. Of course the stage on the Col d'Izoard is a big one. It's a tough Tour."
"There's a lot of sprint stages. I think that there's nine in total and avoiding the north west of France means we miss some wind. The first week of the Tour won't be as dramatic as normal, which I have no complaints with either. There's also that one stage in the middle of 100 kilometres, which should be really exciting. It's a tail-end heavy Tour. There's something for everyone."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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