Cofidis created a bit of a stir Monday when it was announced that team manager Eric Boyer had been fired after months of rumors. (Why they waited until the week before the Tour is anyoneâ€™s guess.) Fair or not, the decision to fire Boyer sends a powerful message to the nine riders chosen to represent Cofidis at the Tour de France: Get resultsâ€”or else.
But like many of the French teams in this yearâ€™s race, Cofidis heads to the Tour with a ragtag group of escape artists and fringe top-10 GC-contenders. Of them, Samuel Dumoulin, David Moncoutie, and RÃ©my Di Gregorio are the teamâ€™s best chances for stage success. Moncoutie has skipped the Tour in past years to focus on the Vuelta, but management changed his mind last year in an effort to get the teamâ€™s best stage winner in a situation to grab headlines in the race that matters most.
As far as the GC is concerned, Rein Taaramae will once again be given a chance to prove that heâ€™s a stage race contender. (After several yearâ€™s spent on many punditsâ€™ â€œRider to Watchâ€ lists, itâ€™s hard to believe that Taaramae is still only 25.) An above-average time trialist, Taaramae could thrive in a Tour that goes easy on the mountains and heavy on the clock. Taaramae missed last yearâ€™s white jersey by 46 secondsâ€”he should challenge for this yearâ€™s title.
Man of the Hour
David Moncoutie is one of the most successful opportunists in the sport. With two stage wins in the Tour de France and stage wins in each of the last four Tours of Spain (incredible for a non-sprinter), the 37-year-old clearly knows how to find the â€œrightâ€ breakaway. Moncoutie could also ride himself into the polka dot jersey early in the race, thus granting his beleaguered team a few days in the spotlight.
Jan Ghyselinck was once one of the most successful U23 riders in the sport, hence his first professional contract with HTC-HighRoad. Despite still being winless as a pro, the Belgian rides his first Tour de France this year and could certainly turn things around with a fine performance.
On the Hot Seat
Considering the precedent set by Boyerâ€™s firing, just about everyone.
Believe it or not, Cofidis (the French credit company) is one of the longest-running title sponsors in the sport right now. (Heck, this is the team that signed Lance Armstrong before he had cancer.) In a day and age when title sponsors come and go from one to season to next, itâ€™s nice to see some companies sticking with their squads through thick and thin.
Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost