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Tour de France build-up 2019: 2 days to go


Good morning, and welcome to the Tour de France.

Among the early starters today are AG2R La Mondiale, the French team led by Romain Bardet. A podium finisher in 2016 and 2017, Bardet announced himself as the next great French hope, but after last year's subdued performance - and the fact he has still never won a stage race - people seem to be re-evaluating the ceiling of his potential. 

Breaking: Mark Renshaw will retire at the end of the season

With two days to go until the Grand Départ, it's time for the latest in our 'countdown' series of Tour de France features. Today, Philippa York takes a look at Nairo Quintana, who shone in his early seasons but has seemingly stalled in the last couple of years. 

Brecht Decaluwé, our very own Belgian who's acting as our road captain for this Brussels Grand Départ, was at AG2R's press conference, and he reports that Bardet "didn't sound upbeat". 

And here is Bardet, speaking to radio broadcasters after the conclusion of the session for the written press. 

Movistar are in the building, with their three leaders. It's all smiles, for now...

Cofidis held their press conference early doors this morning. Did you know, they've not won a Tour de France stage since 2008. They're regulars on ASO's invite list but must be feeling the pressure now. 

Confirmation from Daniel that he was indeed present in Montluçon when Sylvain Chavanel bagged Cofidis' last Tour win. Here's the finish line shot, which puts into perspective how long ago it was. Bonus points if you can identify the FDJ rider. 

Movistar's press conference has finished and their riders have just set out for some team time trial training on the lanes outside Brussels, using local lad Jurgen Roelandts as their guide. 

Some observations from Stephen Farrand, who was at the Movistar press conference for us. 

There they are, flanked by the team's long-standing manager, Eusebio Unzué. 

"I know it’s the right time to step away from racing, my body and mind won’t allow me to perform and compete to the level that’s required for a race like the Tour de France."

"Even though a few of the favourites are ruled out of the race, there’s still a dozen of riders who can win the Tour de France," says Bardet.

Breaking: Bora-Hansgrohe have just revealed their special-edition white kit for the Tour de France

Here's that full Cofidis piece from Daniel. 

Here's the story on the Bora kit. Plenty of photos in there. 

More special gear being revealed, with Arc de Triomphe kicks for Michael Matthews

Lotto Soudal's press conference is underway and the news there is that the Belgian team's two primary sponsors have extended until the end of 2022. 

Soudal, who make adhesives and that sort of thing, are stepping up and becoming equal partners with the Belgian state lottery company. And as such, we have another new jersey. Not much of a change, but the eagle-eyed will notice that the Soudal logo as moved above the Lotto. 

Trek-Segafreo have brought Richie Porte, Jasper Stuyven and Bauke Mollema to their press conference.

And we can hear from Porte now

More from Porte on his season so far, and how it could be a blessing in disguise. 

Porte names Thomas as 'clear favourite'

Here's Brecht's full story on Bardet.

Oh dear, more kit news and UAE are wearing white shorts...

Cavendish controversy, Pinot, Woods and Sunweb’s Dumoulin dilemma...

Speaking of podcasts, it would be rude not to mention a special edition we had yesterday. Daniel Benson went to Girona last week to join EF Education First on a training camp that was essentially the final selection process for their Tour team. There are interviews with Urán, Woods, and Van Garderen and it's a great insight into a team's Tour preparation. 

Here is Stephen Farrand's story from the Movistar press conference, in which he writes that Quintana and Landa were playing a 'game of diplomacy'. 

Deceuninck-QuickStep's presser has kicked off. As we've come to expect, it's in a Lidl, meaning baffled shoppers looking on as they try to grab their milk. Josh Evans informs us that Julian Alaphilippe and Elia Viviani were squeezing oranges to show off Lidl's new juicer. 

In the last couple of years the QuickStep pre-Tour presser has basically become a glorified opportunity to do the shop for the Cyclingnews Grand Départ Airbnb. Come for Lefevere's band of stage hunters, stay for the fresh produce at competitive prices. 

Back to cycling matters, and Bauke Mollema has a new paint-job on his Trek Emonda. 

Richie Porte from the Trek-Segafredo squad has tipped defending champion Geraint Thomas as the main favourite for this year's Tour de France.

The Tour de France stage 2 team time trial course in Brussels isn't open for pre-riding yet, so teams ventured to the auto circuit in Zolder yesterday for a chance to hone their skills in the group race against the clock.

Cracking weather for the 2019 Grand Départ. The teams presentation is coming up at 5.30pm local time, so in around 45 minutes. 

Here's Jakob Fuglsang a little earlier. Many feel he's the favourite for this Tour. He doesn't have much pedigree over three weeks - his best is 7th - but he is unarguably the form rider of the overall contenders. He has won Ruta del Sol, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Critérium du Dauphiné and a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico, along with podiums at Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold, and La Flèche Wallonne. 

Here we go then. Almost time for the teams presentation

"If I can take yellow in the first week that would be great"

Spot the leader. Here are Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas during Team Ineos' training ride a little earlier. 

The teams presentation is in full swing. Wanty-Gobert were the first team called up onto the stage. They're a Pro Conti team from here in Belgium and you can bet your house on them being in the break tomorrow, and on pretty much every stage to be honest. They're not mere breakaway merchants, however; in Guillaume Martin they have a big French talent, who finished 21st and 23rd in the last two seasons. Now 26, many expect him to take a step forward, and he looks in decent form after an eye-catching display at French nationals at the weekend. 

Here's Dan Martin, top 10 in the past three Tours, and here's what he has to say. 

Here's Daniel Benson speaking to Steve Cummings. The Dimension Data rider was quoted as saying he was surprised to be selected for the Tour, and it's fair to say it came as a surprise to see that quote put out by the team themselves. He's had a poor season, a poor couple of seasons really, but has two breakaway wins to his name at the Tour from 2015 and 2016. 

Nice of Greg Van Avermaet to stop by. The Belgian is understandably excited to be racing on home soil. 

Warren Barguil rocking his new French champion's jersey. Very smart. Very smart indeed. 

Here's Stephen Farrand's story from the Deceuninck-QuickStep press conference. Alaphilippe, Viviani, Mas... lots of angles to cover. 

Huge cheers for Peter Sagan, who's wearing the new white Bora jersey.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) speaks with the press ahead of the team presentation at the Tour de France.

Team Ineos will have co-leaders for this Tour de France: defending champion Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. Here's Bernal speaking with the press at the team presentation.

Movistar's Nairo Quintana speaks with the press at the team presentation.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was on hand for comments at the team presentation at the Tour de France.

If you missed the team presentation for the Tour de France, you can click through the gallery below to catch a glimpse of the favourites on stage in Brussels.

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