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Tour de France

Tour de France: López, Valverde, Mas headline Movistar eight, Mathieu van der Poel and Tim Merlier lead Alpecin-Fenix

Miguel Ángel López and Enric Mas will lead the Spanish squad, while Alpecin-Fenix will hunt stages with Mathieu van der Poel and Tim Merlier.

Team Movistar is rolling out all its artillery for the 2021 Tour de France.

The Spanish squad will pack a heavyweight GC presence at this year’s Tour, led by new recruit Miguel Ángel López and Enric Mas, both top-10 finishers at the 2020 race.

Alejandro Valverde and Marc Soler will sit half a wheel behind the lead pair and ensure that team Movistar is never left short of options – or out of the race for the “best team” classification.

Imanol Erviti, Iván García Cortina, Jorge Arcas and Carlos Verona fill out the Movistar eight for the Tour, starting Saturday.

López is perhaps one of the riders best-placed to challenge the Slovenia-Ineos Grenadiers lockdown at this year’s Tour.

The Colombian placed sixth when riding with Astana-Premier Tech at last year’s race and has built momentum through the season so far, winning a stage and the GC at the Vuelta a Andalucia and taking victory at the Mont Ventoux Dénivele Challenge earlier this month.

How Movistar’s new Colombian captain dovetails with its home hope Mas could provide a storyline to savor at this year’s Tour.

Mas, 26, finished one step higher than López at last year’s Tour but lacks the experience of his Colombian teammate, who has hit third at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

Soler will provide solid support in the mountains in what will be his fourth Tour start, just two months after crashing out of the Giro. García Cortina will be an option for the race’s hilly transitional stages after showing promise with an attacking ride at the Tour de Suisse.

Valverde will make his 13th Tour start this year as he shows no sign of slowing down in his 41st year. His experienced head will be required to control the team’s ambitious young talent.

Team Movistar may not win the Tour de France, but it looks set to make its presence felt.

Mathieu Van der Poel and Tim Merlier lead Alpecin-Fenix ambitions

Mathieu van der Poel will lead Alpecin-Fenix into its first Tour de France this summer as part of a team geared towards stage hunting.

Van der Poel is making his highly-anticipated Tour debut and is one of the hot favorites for victory in the opening tranche of stages through Brittany and an early stint in the fabled yellow jersey. It’s unlikely that he will go all the way to Paris, but there will be plenty of eyes and expectations on him for as long as he’s in the race.

Also read: Mathieu van der Poel: A yellow and green jersey contender at the Tour de France?

The pressure is not all on van der Poel in France and the team has selected Tim Merlier for his second grand tour of the year. The former Belgian champion has been one of the most consistent sprinters in 2021 and won a stage of the Giro d’Italia in May before abandoning it on the first rest day.

Merlier missed the mark at the recent Baloise Belgium Tour but he’s still one of the major contenders for the plentiful sprint opportunities to come at the Tour de France. Lining up in support of him are Kristian Sbaragli, Jonas Rickaert, and Jasper Philipsen, who is another potential sprint contender.

Silvan Dillier, Petr Vakoč, and Xandro Meurisse complete the line-up and give the team more options in the breakaways and horsepower in the engine room on the flatter days.

After scoring their first grand tour stage with Merlier at the Giro d’Italia, the team will be keen to build on that and get even more out of the Tour de France.