With the Tour de France just a couple of weeks away invited teams are starting to announce their rosters. Of course the big names have all made their intentions known for either contesting the overall or battling it out for stage wins.
The just concluded Tour de Suisse gave a glimpse to who is on form. Obviously with his amazing performance in the time trial and taking the win, Levi Leipheimer is now a favorite for a top placing at the Tour. But what about the other Americans?
At this moment not every team has announced their squads, so I’m making an educated guess on which Americans are going to France in July.
For RadioShack Leipheimer and Horner are locks for the squad. While reigning US road champion Matt Busche who showed how strong he is in the Amgen Tour of California is in their ranks, I don’t think he’ll get the call up this year. An outside chance of selection is Jason McCartney. He completed the Critérium du Dauphiné and is a capable domestique – a squad needs guys like this.
Just as I finished writing this piece RadioShack director Bruyneel posted on the team’s Facebook page four of the possible nine riders for the Tour squad. The selected four are no surprises: Andreas Kloden, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and Janez Brajkovic. On the bubble is McCartney. At the time of this writing Yaroslav Popovych holds the lead in the fan polling.
I’m not sure how seriously Bruyneel is taking this Facebook fan poll. It might just be a cute marketing idea to encourage fan interaction (Lord knows Bruyneel never encouraged media interaction)or maybe he knows the Shack can’t win this year and is saying, “Screw it! This might all crumble by the end of the year and I don’t care! Just try and extradite me from Spain!” Either way I can’t think of a director conducting a survey for team selection.
BMC released their Tour de France roster and no surprise, George Hincapie is on the list, returning for his record tying 16th start. The other American making the cut is Brent Bookwalter who also raced in the Giro d’ Italia. They are all focused on Australian Cadel Evans as he makes one more try for the yellow jersey.
HTC-Highroad has two Americans who could get the call up for the Tour: Tejay Van Garderen and Danny Pate. Van Garderen is the diamond in the rough for team owner Bob Stapleton. Van Garderen’s final classification at the Tour de Suisse doesn’t show his true capabilities. During the time trial on the final stage Van Garderen’s TT bike suffered a mechanical and he was forced to switch to a standard road bike (I hope it was at least a Venge), which dropped him out of the top 10. He hasn’t raced the Giro, so I’m guessing the team held him back for a reason and it’s for July.
Pate is more of a long shot, but again, he’s shown his strength and is a strong domestique. I’m hoping he gets the opportunity.
Liquigas-Cannondale has two Americans in their ranks but Ted King is nursing a broken collarbone and Tim Duggan doesn’t have the experience. Maybe next year for these two.
Team owner/manager Johnathan Vaughters of Garmin-Cervelo posted on Twitter that he was having a hard time choosing the Tour squad. “One thing to remember: its not the best 9 individual riders on paper that make up the best team of 9 riders.” Very true.
While the squad has several Americans the obvious picks are Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and Tyler Farrar. However, one rider who has never been called up to a Tour de France squad, but truly deserves it this year is Tom Danielson. At the Tour de Suisse Danielson finished in 9th place overall and showed his ability to climb in the mountains. On the final day’s race against the clock he finished fifth. If there was ever a time Danielson deserves “the call” it’s this year.
So there you go – possibly 11 Americans lining up in western France for the start of the 2011 Tour de France. Look for Leipheimer, Horner and Vande Velde to crack the top 10 in GC, and Farrar to bring home the stage wins.
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