The contingent from the cold northlands brings a half a dozen talented riders to this year’s Tour de France, with both diverse opportunities to bring home victories and some powerful responsibilities on their shoulders.
For starters, there’s reigning World Champion Thor Hushovd. The powerful Norwegian has indicated that he’s not entirely happy with his new team, the combo supersquad Garmin-Cervelo. Indeed, this might be wrapped up with Garmin-Cervelo’s curious Spring Classics campaign, during which they fielded a squad chock full of podium favorites, found themselves in tactically favorable situations, and then – with the very notable exception of Johan Van Summeren’s surprising victory at Paris-Roubaix – failed to deliver. This July, Hushovd plans to renegotiate his contract with Garmin-Cervelo – literally (contract negotiations are planned), and figuratively. If he’s to make a bid for a more pronounced team leadership, he’ll need a good showing at the Tour. He’s quite capable, having won the Points Competition in 2009 (despite some controversy with Mark Cavendish), but how his on-the-road relationship with Garmin-Cervelo sprinter Tyler Farrar will play out may have something to do with it. Farrar’s form is uncertain, with Farrar grieving for his close friend Wouter Weylandt. Will Hushovd be Garmin-Cervelo’s go-to sprinter, and can he top Cavendish?
Also from Norway is Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen. Boasson Hagen’s an odd duck – considered a rising talent and a source of nearly unlimited potential, able to sprint, time trial, and capably make it up medium mountains. The twenty-four-year-old talent, however, has had more than his fair share of disruptive injuries, and a recent bout of shingles puts his likelihood for a fine Tour performance into question.
Moving on, we also find a contingent of Danish Saxo-Bank riders, Nicki Sorensen, Chris Anker Sorensen, and Brian Vandborg. Chris Anker Sorensen stands out among them as a climbing specialist, and it will be his job to stick with Alberto Contador in the mountains. The job might be more difficult than in years past – Contador’s form is uncertain, and he enters this tour with little racing in his legs, plenty of distractions, and recent and surprising defeats in the Spanish National Championships. If Contador’s lost a step, or finds himself struggling throughout the Tour, he’ll need Anker Sorensen’s company through the mountains.
Speaking of mountain men, Leopard-Trek brings Jakob Fuglsang to this year’s Tour. Fuglsang’s own palmares are thin, but he impresses in July with his form and his ability to lead-out his team leader up the lower and middle slopes of mountain top finishes.
Man of the Hour: Expect Thor Hushovd to win a stage in the first week – a Tour stage win in the WC stripes is a beautiful sight to see.
On the Hot Seat: If Contador shows any weakness, Chris Anker Sorensen will need to support him well.
Young Up and Comer: Edvald Boasson Hagen has been young and up-and-coming for a while. If he stays injury-free, what can he accomplish?