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Tour de France

Does Israel-Premier Tech have eight stronger riders than Chris Froome for the Tour de France?

Analyzing the team's long-list for the Tour de France.

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Abandoning the Critérium du Dauphiné wasn’t supposed to be in the script ahead of the Tour de France.

The final weekend was supposed to showcase the improvements in form Chris Froome had made after a lengthy comeback and injury-hit winter. Instead we got to see the four-time Tour de France winner suffer through the opening Dauphiné stages before eventually pulling the plug in order to try and regain his health before July.

Where this leaves Froome’s chances of making Israel-Premier Tech’s eight-man lineup for the Tour de France remains unclear.

The management has talked repeatedly about the idea that no rider has a guaranteed Tour spot but the squad isn’t exactly brimming with form or winners right now. Only two riders on the current long-list have won a race this season, and both Patrick Bevin and Giacomo Nizzolo – the team’s fastest sprinters – aren’t in the mix for selection.

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Both Michael Woods and Jakob Fuglsang will head to Denmark for the start of the Tour, and it’s highly unlikely that the team can really afford to leave Froome at home if he’s healthy. A non-selection for the four-time Tour winner would raise serious questions as we take a look at the likely long-list for the team ahead of the race.

Michael Woods

Michael Woods tried to go for the KOM classification at the Tour de France after his GC hopes were dashed
(Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Age: 35
Potential role: Stage hunter, KOM target

Woods’ record in the Tour de France is surprisingly poor by his standards with two starts and little to write home about in terms of results or rewards. That said, he still remains one of the most likely riders in the Israel-Premier Tech roster to pick up a stage win, and potentially target the king of the mountains jersey.

On his day he’s one of the best climbers in the world, but a three-week GC rider he is not, and wisely the team has decided not to position the Canadian as a GC leader, as they did on the eve of last year’s race. There’s plenty of terrain for Woods to sink his teeth into during this Tour, and trying to survive cross-winds and cobbles would only sap his physical and mental strength for when he really needed it. Roll the dice, target stage wins, and reap the benefits.

Jakob Fuglsang

(Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Age: 37
Potential role: Stage hunter, KOM target

Fuglsang did finish sixth overall in the 2020 Giro d’Italia, so his GC days aren’t totally over, but the squad would surely get more out of allowing the Dane to dovetail stage hunting duties with Woods in the medium and high mountains. We’re talking about a rider who has won Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the past few years, so he can clearly still win when it matters most and at the highest level.

The former mountain biker picked up a timely win in France earlier in June and should be in the mix throughout the Tour de Suisse over the coming days. Like Woods, he’s the team’s best hope for Tour de France success at this point.

Chris Froome

VILLARS-SUR-OLLON, SWITZERLAND - MAY 01: Chris Froome of Great Britain and Team Israel - Premier Tech in action during the 75th Tour De Romandie 2022 - Stage 5 on May 1, 2022 in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. (Photo by RvS.Media/Basile Barbey/Getty Images,)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Age: 37
Potential role: Stage hunter, leader

Abandoning the Dauphiné hardly did Froome’s chances of selection any favors, especially with the team frequently taking to the media in order to emphasize that no riders had a guaranteed spot for the Tour. However, the fact remains that Israel-Premier Tech still doesn’t have eight riders better than Froome within their roster, especially with Nizzolo and Bevin not even making the long-list.

Bringing Froome to the Tour provides an element of media exposure that most other riders can’t rival, and although the comeback story wears thin these days, it’s still providing column inches and clicks. If you disagree, just ask yourself how you got to this story. The recent illness is a blow, there’s no getting away from that, but if you’re paying a former winner millions of Euros, and there’s no obvious plan B, then you have to take him to the Tour.

There was a flash of form earlier in June too, and there’s no denying that Froome looks leaner now than he has done in years. If he were to roll back the years and put in a string of competitive performances it would have to be deemed a huge success. It would be a huge surprise if Froome was left out at this point.

Simon Clarke

Simon Clarke at the Trofeo Calvia
(Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Age: 35
Potential role: Stage hunter

The Australian has been a success since picking up a last-minute deal at the end of 2021. There haven’t been any wins but the veteran has chipped in with a number of impressive placings, and a couple of podiums.

Like Woods and Fuglsang, the 35-year-old has the potential to target stage wins throughout the Tour de France, while he also has experience as a road captain from his Slipstream and Nexthash days. His best days might be behind him but Clarke still packs a decent punch, and what’s more, he’s incredibly consistent. He’s also on a one-year deal, so he’ll also want to impress in order to avoid another scramble for a contract.

Guillaume Boivin

(Photo: Jorge Luis Alvarez Pupo/Getty Images)

Age: 33
Potential role: Stage hunter

Boivin is quick, but not top-level quick, so he’ll struggle to be competitive at the Tour France unless he filters into a break and then survives until the finish. The Canadian national road champion raced the Tour last year but didn’t come away with any meaningful results, and it’s hard to see that picture changing if he’s selected this time around. He’s failed to finish his last two stage races, too, and isn’t racing the Dauphine or Suisse.

Alessandro De Marchi

(Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Age: 36
Potential role: Stage hunter

With three Vuelta stage wins and a spell in the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia, the Italian is one of the most decorated riders on the team. Health issues held him back in the spring and he certainly wasn’t at his best at the Giro in May but he’s currently down to race the Baloise Belgium Tour later this month.

If he has a strong showing there then the management might decide on bringing De Marchi to back-to-back grand tours for the first time in his career since 2017. A ride at the Vuelta, however, seems more plausible at this point.

Omer Goldstein

(: ISN/Sjors Beukeboom)

Age: 25
Potential role: Stage hunter, domestique

Stage hunter applies in a very loose term here. Goldstein’s highest placing in the Tour last year was 62nd and that was the final time trial. He might be a solid domestique but that’s the limit of his powers when it comes to racing at the absolute pinnacle of the sport.

Carl Fredrik Hagen

(Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Age: 30
Potential role: Domestique
Hagen broke onto the scene in 2019 with a fine eighth place overall at the Vuelta but since then the Norwegian has struggled for both form and results.

He’s not raced a grand tour since 2020 and has only raced one WorldTour stage race in 2022, which is telling. It doesn’t look good for a new contract either, let alone a spot at the Tour de France. He only raced 17 days last year, so throwing him into the Tour de France feels like the wrong call.

Hugo Houle

(Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Age: 31
Potential role: Domestique

The Canadian raced the Tour de France for the last three seasons in a row and is a handy domestique to have around, especially in the opening week of the race. He’s solid and dependable, and can cover a lot of the work that isn’t captured on television. Should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Daryl Impey

CALELLA, SPAIN - MARCH 22: Daryl Impey of South Africa and Team Israel Start-Up Nation during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021, Stage 1 a 178,4km stage from Calella to Calella / #VoltaCatalunya100 / on March 22, 2021 in Calella, Spain. (Photo by )
(: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Age: 37
Potential role: Domestique

This is probably Impey’s last season in the pro ranks and it’s sensible to presume that the former yellow jersey will want to bow out with a final crack at the Tour de France, even if his powers as a WorldTour rider have diminished through age and injury.

He missed almost all of the second half of 2021 but has come back this year with a number of solid rides. Expectancy should be quite low if he is selected for the Tour but that might suit him perfectly when it comes to slipping into a break or two.

Krists Neilands

(Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Age: 27
Potential role: Stage hunter

Only the second rider on the list under 30, Neilands appears to be perennially stuck in the category of a rider on the cusp of a major breakthrough. He can climb, pick the right break every now and then, and snaffle up the odd result in GC. He doesn’t have a fast finish but he looks ideally suited to the medium mountain / transition stages that litter the Tour de France each year.

He’s another rider on the list who can potentially target stage wins, and his form in the Tour de Suisse will be worth watching over the coming weeks.

Mads Würtz Schmidt

(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Age: 27
Potential role: Stage hunter

One of the few riders on the team to have survived from the old Katusha days, Schmidt hasn’t had a great season to date with a string of DNFs throughout the spring and few results to speak of. Given that every other rider on the list will be targeting stages it’s hard to see the Dane making the team, even if sentimentality over the Grand Départ kicks in.

He has the Belgium Tour coming up this week so in order to really be in the conversation for a starting place he probably needs to get the attention of his team bosses. Only two of the riders on this list have actually won a race this season, so the Dane can’t be entirely ruled out just yet.