Tour de France 2012 Team Preview: Vacansoleil-DCM

Photo copyright Vacansoleil-DCM/Cor Vos

I wonder how badly Vacansoleil regrets Thomas DeGendt’s decision to schedule his wedding during this year’s Tour de France after his incredible stage victory and third-place finish in the Giro d’Italia. But life must go on and Vacansoliel has a Tour de France to complete—with or without the team’s exciting Belgian star.

Like several teams in this year’s race without a true GC candidate or field sprinter, Vacansoleil has simply picked the nine best riders available at this point in the season.

Johnny Hoogerland is the team’s spiritual leader. An aggressive, but somewhat foolhardy rider, the Ductchman might benefit from learning to choose his battles a bit more wisely. An early candidate to take the polka dot jersey as King of the Mountains, Hoogerland’s an ideal candidate for a day-long breakaway during Stage 8, a stage with seven categorized climbs with enough KOM points on offer to give someone a hefty lead before the race hits the Alps.

On flatter days, Vacansoleil will leave the sprinting up to Kenny Van Hummel and Kris Boeckmans. Van Hummel has raced the Tour before—unfortunately, he left his biggest mark while “contending” for the Lanterne Rouge in 2009 (at least before abandoning during Stage 17).

Lieuwe Westra won a stage and finished second overall to Bradley Wiggins at Paris-Nice earlier this year. While Rob Ruijgh returns to the Tour de France hoping to improve upon his 20th-place finish last year.

By the time it’s all said and done, the success of Vacansoleil’s Tour will hinge upon the team’s ability to cover breakways and hopefully win a stage or two. And if they can’t DeGendt will certainly be back next year.

Man of the Hour

All of them. On a team with no clear captain, each rider will get his chance to be the Man of the Hour for Vacansoleil, while a stage win would make him the “Man of the Race”.

Up-and-Comer

Wout Poels finished 17th in last year’s Tour of Spain including three top-5 results on summit finishes. Let’s see if he can duplicate that success at the Tour.

On the Hot Seat

Even though he failed to make Vacansoliel’s Tour roster, is it unfair of me mention Stijn Devolder?

Unsung Hero

Gustav Erik Larsson is a time trial specialist and bears mentioning in a Tour de France with three of them. Larsson won the Prologue at Paris-Nice earlier this season and is a dark horse candidate to take the first yellow jersey of the race this Saturday in Liege.

Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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