RODEZ, France (VN) — Winning a stage in the Tour de France “is everything,” but only nine teams of the 22 have yet to do so, and time is slipping away.
With one week remaining in this year’s Tour, Quick-Step Floors counts five stage victories, thanks to Marcel Kittel’s lighting kick. On Saturday, Team Sunweb took its second win in as many days.
There are other high-profile teams that have been shut out. BMC Racing, the team of Richie Porte and Greg Van Avermaet, counts zero thus far.
“It’s really important,” Olympic champion Van Avermaet said of winning a stage. “We lost Richie Porte earlier and our big goal was a podium finish in Paris. Now, without the team leader, only a stage win can bring a little bit of shine to our Tour de France.”
Van Avermaet, winner two years ago in Rodez, was hoping for a repeat win when the race returned today for stage 14. Australian Michael Matthews, however, gave Sunweb its second victory.
“Yesterday was a big relief when Warren [Barguil] won and made today that much easier,” Sunweb rider Simon Geschke explained.
“It’s everything [for a team to win a stage]. In a grand tour, you always have pressure to win stages. It’s what all the teams want, it’s the big goal.”
The organizer ASO pays €11,000 for a stage win. A win brings much more in publicity and sponsorship for teams, however.
“It’s not about the money for a stage win. It’s more about the success and being a team that won a stage in the Tour de France,” said Lotto-Soudal sport director Frederik Willems.
André Greipel has brought home several for the team in years past. In 2015 alone, he won four. This year, he is struggling against faster men like Kittel.
“It’s really important to get the win. We had luck in the last years, but last year we had to wait until day 12 on Mont Ventoux, and it finally came. Now the pressure is coming on.”
Quick-Step won so many, one-third of the stages now, its sport director Brian Holm feels some pity for his peers.
“Oh my dear, it’s everything to win a stage in the Tour,” Holm said. “It just means so much to win one stage because it is so difficult.
“I will truly feel happy for one of the guys if they haven’t already won a stage. We had a few times when we had to wait a couple of weeks for the first one, and that’s not funny.”
Besides BMC Racing, teams Katusha, Lotto-Soudal, Cofidis, LottoNL-Jumbo, Bahrain-Merida, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Fortuneo-Oscaro, Movistar, Trek-Segafredo, UAE Team Emirates, Orica-Scott, and Dimension Data have yet to win a stage.
Former Tour winner Stephen Roche said the next week will be “very important” for those teams and the sponsors that pay the staff’s wages.
“There is only one Tour every year and a lot of teams haven’t won anything,” Roche said. “The cake is not being evenly distributed. Some people are eating the same cake every day.
“Sponsors want a bit of visibility, and they don’t just want it on television with riders being caught before the finish. They want results. So it’s very important, the next days.”