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Riders and directors predict wide-open battle for Tour de France overall

Riders and directors believe the Tour de France's GC battle will be more wide-open due to the absence of Chris Froome

BRUSSELS (VN) — Riders and team directors agree: The 2019 Tour de France looks to be a more wide-open race, due to the absence of four-time winner Chris Froome.

Froome crashed while training for the Critérium du Dauphiné time trial and sustained a broken femur, ribs and elbow. The four-time winner will be unable to start the 2019 Tour when it begins Saturday in Brussels.

“It will be an open race, but we know that Ineos has in its court to always compete and control the race,” Trek-Segafredo boss Luca Guercilena told VeloNews.

“So if it’s for Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas or Egan Bernal, that’s probably the way they race. But it’s true we will have more riders able to attack because they will have more confidence without him in the race. So for sure, we can have many options and an open race that is normally more attractive.”

Froome crashed on June 12. It is uncertain when he could return to racing. Over the last years, Team Sky controlled the race for Bradley Wiggins and then for Froome. Froome won in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Last year, he placed third and teammate Geraint Thomas won.

Cyclists like Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) or Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) could never unlock the code to break team Sky, now racing as Ineos.

“I think that in the past it happened that facing Sky was pretty complicated and created difficultly for the riders to attack,” added Guercilena.

“Whereas right now, there is probably the feeling that there are more options because Froome was obviously a huge athlete who not often gave the feeling to the others that he could be beaten.

“Now it looks like there are more possibilities. So I think the competitors will be willing to make attacks.”

The Trek-Segafredo team will race for Richie Porte, who finished fifth in 2016. Guercilena also expects teams like Bahrain-Merida with Vincenzo Nibali to attack, and Jumbo-Visma with Steven Kruijswijk and Movistar with Nairo Quintana. Quintana, winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, placed twice second overall behind Froome.

“We will try to take advantage of the form and the experience of Nairo and Mikel Landa,” said Movistar team boss Eusebio Unzué at a press conference.

“We are ambitious in a difficult Tour, like everyone else, and a Tour that is more open for Froome’s absence.”

Besides the Froome “fear” factor, Richie Porte also noted that the race lacks Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). The Dutchman still suffers from a crash in the 2019 Giro and could not attend. He won the 2017 Giro and placed second in both the 2018 Giro and 2018 Tour.

“Maybe people have a fear of Froome,” Porte said. “Last year they didn’t attack that much, it definitely changes it a lot. To have those two guys out, second and third in the Tour last year, it’s a totally different ballgame.”