Movistar heads to this year’s race with a deeply talented roster full of riders who will challenge for stage wins and one or two who might score a high overall finish in Paris.
Movistar will likely spend the first week trying to nab a stage win for Jose Joaquin Rojas while positioning the talented sprinter to challenge for the green jersey, a competition in which he finished second last year. With Mark Cavendish being very open about his disregard for the green jersey this year, Rojas has a legitimate chance to become the first Spaniard to win it since Oscar Freire in 2008. That said, it’s hard to win green if you can’t win stages and Rojas might find his team lacks the firepower to help him make the jump from finishing second to finishing first.
Next we have Portugal’s Rui Costa, a rider who has made quite a name for himself after taking a fantastic win in the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago. North American fans will remember Rui Costa as the rider who cunningly defeated Tejay Van Garderen to win Stage 8 to Super-Besse in last year’s Tour and then took his first World Tour one-day race victory with a win in Canada’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. That said, it remains to be seen if Costa is a serious grand tour contender or simply a talented one-day rider who has enough ability win a short stage race when things go his way.
And last but not least, this year’s Tour de France offers the grand tour return of Alejandro Valverde. While he was once hailed as a future Tour champion, Valverde’s best Tour finish was (only) sixth place in 2007. With a course that does not suit the Spaniard (too few summit finishes, too many time trials) don’t be surprised if Valverde focuses more on stage wins than a high overall finish. After all, this is his first 3-week race following a two-year suspension.
Man of the Hour
This year could give Rojas his best and maybe only chance to win a green jersey in an era dominated by men like Cavendish, Greipel, and Kittel.
Costa is likely hunting for more stage wins in the Tour, but on a team that lacks a serious GC contender, he could find himself riding for a high GC finish as the race progresses. At only 25 years of age, we might not have seen the best he has to offer.
On the Hot Seat
Juan José Cobo came out of nowhere to win the Vuelta last year—and has promptly returned to anonymity. He’s raced a very abbreviated schedule this season and has almost as many DNF’s as he does results. Look for him during the Tour’s third and final week once the race hits the Pyrenees—if he makes it that far.
Vasil Kiriyenka is the type of rider that should find his way onto your Velogames Fantasy roster as he has a knack for finding the perfect breakaway. With two stage wins from the Giro on his resume, Kiriyenka would love to add one from the Tour.
Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost