Tyler Farrar is heading back to the Tour de France as teams begin to confirm their lineups just two weeks from the July 4 start of the season’s most important stage race.
The veteran American sprinter, who won a stage in the 2011 Tour, is an integral part of MTN-Qhubeka’s nine-man squad that will be the first African-registered team to race in the Tour’s history.
Team management lived up to its promises to bring African riders, with five of the team’s nine starters hailing from what many call cycling’s final frontier.
Topping that list are Merhawi Kudus and Daniel Teklehaimanot, the first two starters from Eritrea in Tour history. Louis Meintjes, the promising climbing talent, and South African champion Jacques Janse van Rensburg, and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, all from South Africa, round out the African contingent.
Also joining Farrar will be Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings, and Serge Pauwels. All are experienced veterans with strong Tour credentials, including Boasson Hagen, a former Tour stage winner as well.
In its first Tour, the team won’t be obsessing about the overall classification, but they would take it if they could push Cummings or Meintjes into the top 20.
The squad’s focus will be on trying to win a stage. For the sprints, they will have Farrar, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, and Boasson Hagen mixing it up, especially in the challenging first week that will better suit their classics-style of racing.
Breakaways will also be a big focus for the team, and sport directors will be pressing their riders to get their collective noses to the wind.
LottoNL-Jumbo hoping to turn things around
In another team confirmation, LottoNL-Jumbo is hoping to get things rolling after only winning two races all season long.
The Dutch squad brings a mix of stage hunters and GC men, with Robert Gesink and Wilco Kelderman. Steven Kruijswijk, who rode valiantly through the Giro d’Italia, and eternal fighter Laurens ten Dam give the Dutch team a strong presence in the mountains.
At 24, the promising Kelderman makes his Tour debut. After a seventh-place finish in the 2014 Giro, the team is hoping its young rider can punch into the top 10. Gesink, 29, is hoping to regain his top form after a few years of struggling with injuries and personal issues, and will be aiming to equal his career-best of fifth in 2010.
Rounding out the squad are Sep Vanmarcke, who will be aiming to win the stage across the cobblestones, and Germany’s Paul Martens, along with Tom Leezer, Jos van Emden, and Bram Tankink.
Bora back with mix of youth, experience
German squad Bora-Argon 18 is back for its second Tour, bringing a mix of youth and experience.
Czech rider Jan Barta and Polish rider Bartosz Huzarski will be back from the team’s first Tour, under the NetApp-Endura banner, to give the team its best hope for stage wins out of breakaways.
Irish sprinter Sam Bennett, 24, will try his luck in the mass gallops in his grand tour debut, while the even younger Emanuel Buchmann, a neo-pro at 22, will also start.
Rounding out the squad are Germans Paul Voss, Dominik Nerz, and Andreas Schillinger, Jose Mendes, (Portugal), and Zakkari Dempster (Australia).