Live coverage of the build-up to the 104th Tour de France, with press conferences and training rides taking place throughout the day.
Hello there, and welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre. No racing for you today, strictly speaking, but we've got the next best thing: a day of Tour de France build-up.
With the first stage of the 104th edition of cycling's biggest event just two days away, we're in Dusseldoorf, where the atmosphere is building. With many teams holding their press conferences today, we'll keep you up to date with all the latest from the big names, while most teams will be heading out onto the German roads for a final pre-race spin.
We're at BMC's press conference. The team has a bona fide favourite to win the race, in Richie Porte.
The big news at BMC is that Richie Porte has extended his contract with the team. More on that soon.
It's hardly surprising that Porte has extended his stay at the American team, after joining in 2016. He has established himself as the leader when it comes to stage races and has built a core unit around him, with results looking increasingly promising. There have been doubts about the team's future, with question marks over backer Andy Rihs' health and commitment, but Porte is the first to re-sign in a squad where almost everyone is out of contract at the end of 2017.
Team Sky held their pre-Tour press conference yesterday, and today they're out on the roads riding their bikes, and wearing their brand-new white kit. They've even got their names on the back.
The Quick-Step Floors team are currently holding their press conference, too. The Belgian team has Dan Martin for GC, Marcel Kittel for sprints, and Philippe Gilbert for stages.
@willfoth Thu, 29th Jun 2017 12:53:38
One of our biggest stories today concerns Jan Bakelants, podium hostesses, and some seriously misjudged comments. Tour de France organisers ASO demanded an apology after the interview appeared in a Belgian newspaper yesterday, and they finally got one this morning. Here's the story:
Look who's just walked in...
Sagan can wait. It's now time for the Orica-Scott press conference.
"Starting the Tour is a dream for me. Just being here is a victory in itself," says Esteban Chaves, who missed a big chunk of racing between February and June with a knee injury.
"This hasn't been a normal season for me. The Dauphiné was a real shock for me after time off but I feel good and happy. I'm ready and so is the team."
Orica-Scott are one of the teams with a two-pronged approach, and alongside Esteban Chaves will be Simon Yates, who's had a haircut.
The British rider flopped at the Dauphiné but, after finishing 6th at the Vuelta last year, will still be a strong candidate for the white jersey.
Team Sky held their pre-race press conference yesterday, and there were plenty of talking points.
Geraint Thomas spoke about the pressure on the team since the 'jiffy bag' and TUE revelations and the start of a UK Anti Doping investigation, and he suggested it would ease the pressure if Bradley Wiggins came out and clarified certain matters. Here's the story.
Porte is the main man at BMC and he has almost a whole team built around him. Almost. Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet is also present and correct, and such has been his string of results over the past couple of years - and especially this spring - he should have some freedom to chase stage wins.
"We have Richie here for yellow and I think that he has the capability to do it. He’s proved already that he’s one of the strongest guys in the peloton but it’s a three week race and we’ll take it day by day as it’s a long way to Paris but we have a big contender," said Van Avermaet in the press conference.
"For myself I hope to win a stage but we’ll see if I’m allowed from the team and if I’m feeling good. Hopefully I can take another stage in. Taking yellow will be almost impossible to take. A stage win is my goal."
Cofidis are out on the roads as we speak. Thanks to Nicolas Edet (a late addition to the French team's line-up) for this photo.
More from the BMC presser, where Richie Porte, as well as talking about his new contract, spoke about his chances over the next three weeks.
"Of course the season has gone well so far but this is the biggest race and this is the biggest goal," he said.
"I’ve got eight incredibly talented teammates supporting me. It’s a fantastic team and we’ll do our best. The podium in Paris is the goal and we’ve got the right team."
Just up on our site is Barry Ryan's piece from the FDJ press conference. Thibaut Pinot hit the podium in 2014 but has hit a wall since and, after riding the Giro in May, he goes into this Tour with a 'new approach', where the pressure of chasing GC in front of an impatient home nation will be swapped for the freedom of chasing stages at will. Here are his thoughts.
@quickstepteam Thu, 29th Jun 2017 14:17:11
News from the Astana camp is that Dario Cataldo has extended his contract at Astana for another two years, having joined from Sky in 2015. He's making his Tour de France debut on Saturday at the age of 32.
No pressure for this man. Tony Martin is riding on home German soil and, with the Tour opening with a stage against the clock, the world time trial champion has a huge chance to pull on the maillot jaune in front of his home fans. Here he is putting in the hard yards today.
A reminder that the official Tour de France teams presentation is coming up later this evening. We'll have all the best photos, with large crowds expected in Dusseldorf.
@LeTour Thu, 29th Jun 2017 14:52:18
A reminder that we've been counting down to the Tour for over a week now, with a special run of features. Here are some of them, to plug those final pre-Tour hours.
Everyone has Peter Sagan down as a shoo-in for the green jersey, though he reminded the press it wasn't a done deal.
"It's difficult to capture the green jersey. You have to fight from the first day to the last day, and never switch off," he said.
"A lot can go wrong. I might crash or get injured. Only after the first week will we know who's in the running for green."
Here are the AG2R riders ahead of their training ride earlier today.
More stories from Team Sky's presser:
ASO have seemingly got many more of these banterous placards up their sleeves for the teams presentation. Bit ambitious, this.
@LeTour Thu, 29th Jun 2017 15:36:12
@OricaScott Thu, 29th Jun 2017 15:55:42
Less than half an hour to wait until the teams presentation in Dusseldorf.
Daniel Benson has just filed this story from the BMC press conference. Richie Porte named Chris Froome as the favourite but argued his Sky team isn't the strongest it's been.
@TeamDiData Thu, 29th Jun 2017 16:19:12
There are 16 German riders on the start list for this year's Tour de France, and the Grand Depart on their home soil. They've come a long way since the dark days of Jan Ullrich and the T-Mobile/Telekom doping days.
Few fans might remember that it was American Bob Stapleton who helped to turn that team around, and formed the HTC-Highroad squad that helped to turn German cycling around.
Four of the Germans in this year's Tour are graduates of that team, including John Degenkolb, Marcus Burghardt, Marcel Sieberg and Tony Martin. You can find more about the team and its rise and fall in this week's InCycle video.
Team Sky's Christian Knees is a survivor from German cycling's dark days, having been part of the Milram team before its demise.
He is thrilled to start the Tour de France on his home soil.
"Just to get into the Tour de France team, even if the start wasn’t in Germany, would represent a great year for me. But with the Grand Depart in Germany, very close to my hometown – just 80 kilometres away – makes it very special. Dusseldorf is also the town where my wife used to live. I know it well so that makes it doubly special for me. I’m very proud to be there on the start line," Knees said.
Knees has not raced in the Tour de France since he helped Bradley Wiggins to victory in 2012.
"I have plenty of fond memories of riding the Tour. To be selected for the squad, and having the defending champion in your team, and a pre-race favourite – that makes it really special and motivates me even more to give my best and arrive in the best possible shape for the race. To start the Tour with Froomey will be a special moment," he said.
"I will bring all my experience into the team and try to help the younger guys wherever I can. I hope I can be a big help across the three weeks."
The team presentation is underway, with LottoNl-Jumbo on stage. The team has a dark horse contender in Primoz Roglic.
Next up is Direct Energie, where Thomas Voeckler leads the team onto the stage.
Of course, retired racer Jens Voigt is one of the emcees for the presentation, which is currently in German and French.
Direct Energie is without sprinter Bryan Coquard for the Tour. He was angry to have been left off the team, you can read about it here.
And now it's time for a musical interlude with actual tap dancers.
Jens Voigt still looks fit enough to start the Tour de France, three years into his retirement.
Now it's time for Bora-Hansgrohe, led on stage by world champion Peter Sagan.
"We're very happy to be here," Sagan said. "We will try to do our best to take some victories, maybe the green jersey, and for sure Rafal Majka for the GC. The Tour is very long and hard, we have to be focused every day. We are a very good group here and there is a good atmosphere in the team."
Of course, Marcus Burghardt, the new German champion, is a very popular member of the Bora-Hansgrohe team in Düsseldorf.
Orica-Scott are next to roll onto the stage, with Esteban Chaves leading the way.
UAE Team Emirates are next to be presented, with Louis Meintjes as their GC leader.
Meintjes says his goal is "to finish better" - "Just to come here and give it my best shot and take the best result I can home."
Fabio Aru leads the Astana team on stage, resplendent in his Italian champion's jersey.
It's now time for the Cannondale-Drapac team, the team with all three of the Americans racing the Tour: Taylor Phinney, Andrew Talansky and Nate Brown. The focus of course is first on Pierre Rolland, the winner of a Giro stage.
The Fortuneo Vital Concept team is at the Tour de France with British rider Dan McLay, racing the Tour for the second time in his career.
Lotto Soudal are up on stage, with Andre Greipel an popular rider with the German crowd.
Then, Adam Hansen is introduced for his 18th straight Grand Tour. He hasn't dropped out of a Grand Tour since the 2010 Tour de France!
The presentation pauses for a BMX trick rider, who has some moves that might even make Peter Sagan jealous.
Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) back stage.
Trek-Segafredo roll onstage with a new kit. It seems that more than one team with red jerseys decided to swap for white. Their jerseys are almost completely white with red arm bands.
John Degenkolb is the German crowd's man on the Trek-Segafredo team. The team come into the Tour de France with the shadow of Andre Cardoso's EPO positive over them.
Dimension Data take to the stage, with Mark Cavendish pointing to Steve Cummings as the most possible stage winner.
Cavendish has played down his chances to break the Merckx stage win record, since he's recovering from mononucleosis.
(via Bauke Mollema, Twitter)
Richie Porte is next on stage with his BMC team, and he's also re-signed with his team for an unspecified period beyond this year.
You can read more about his Tour chances here.
BMC have also brought the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet to the Tour. He is hoping to help deliver Porte to win the Tour.
The Quick-Step Floors team hits the stage with Marcel Kittel at the helm and his hair looks fabulous.
Next up, Katusha-Alpecin in their similarly new, whiter kits. Tony Martin looks pretty chuffed to be on stage in front of the German crowds.
Like Martin, Marcel Kittel is proud to start the Tour de France in his home country."I am very happy and proud to be in Germany and experience a Tour de France start in my home country. Cycling is popular here, I could see that again this morning, when I was on the bike and saw only happy faces. A lot of people are looking forward to have the Tour de France back in Germany, and we want to give fans reasons to be proud of us. Having the Grand Depart here is an important step for the German community and I hope everybody will have a great time," Kittel said.
FDJ, another team with mostly white jerseys, take to the stage with French champion Arnaud Demare distinctive in the tricolor top, and Ignatas Konovalovas in the Lithuanian jersey.
Davide Cimolai, one of the few riders who speaks English on FDJ's Tour team, says his job is to help Arnaud Demare in the sprints.
Team Movistar are the next squad to roll up onto the stage with Nairo Quintana looking happy and fresh for his second Grand Tour attempt of the season.
Movistar brings one of 16 German riders to the Tour de France, Jasha Sütterlin.
The co-host of the presentation with Jens Voigt is Marcel Wüst.
Wüst was forced to retire from the sport back in 2000 after losing vision in his right eye in a crash.
AG2R La Mondiale comes onto the stage next. Romain Bardet is their GC man. Belgian champion Oliver Naesen stands out in his new jersey.
Naesen says, "I think I'm in shape at the right time for the Tour de France, so bring it on!"
Jens Voigt says he was roommates with Bakelants when the Belgian took the yellow jersey back in 2013. Bakelants says he has "good memories" of his time in the room with Voigt.
And, finally, we have the Team Sky squad of defending champion Chris Froome.
Sky line up in their new white kit, with the crowd (not booing - Froooooming) sending up a big cheer.
He says he's "looking forward to getting into it" after a long time of training for this year's Tour.
@TeamSky Thu, 29th Jun 2017 17:58:36
Alexander Kristoff stops to chat in the mixed zone.
That completes the Tour de France team presentations and Cyclingnews' live coverage of today's countdown to the Tour. Tune back in tomorrow for Tour de France eve and all the interviews and press conferences.
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