The squad was rocked by a bout of COVID-19 at the Tour de Suisse earlier this month with the team reduced to just two riders. Several of the team members who tested positive – but were asymptomatic – are still expected to make the Tour de France team but the squad has been carefully planning for several situations and last-minute changes.
What’s more, the team is looking forward to the start of the race with cross-winds, hectic finales, crashes, echelons, and time splits all expected within the first week.
It’s possible that Esteban Chaves, who was originally scheduled for the Vuelta a España, but who impressed at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, could make the Tour de France team, especially after Michael Valgren was ruled out after fracturing his pelvis at the La Route d’Occitanie-La Dépêche du Midi.
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“With the Tour, and the first six days, you just need to see how those first days pan out. It’s going to be a bit of a lottery; the Danish stages, the wind, that bridge and even the cross-wind day in Calais. There are 150,000 scenarios that can happen in the first week,” team sports director Tom Southam told VeloNews.
Powless heads to the Tour de France with his form and morale high after an impressive fourth place on GC at the Tour de Suisse.
The American came close to winning a stage but narrowly missed out to Aleksandr Vlasov. Still just 25, this will be his third Tour de France, and while he has the makings of a potential Tour de France GC rider, his team is under no pressure to fast-track his development.
Even if Urán has a question mark over his condition at this point, it’s likely that Powless will target stage wins, even if the team look to keep him out of trouble during the first week.
“I’ll be interested to see what Neilson’s capacities are in the future as a three-week rider. If he keeps learning, and races in that sort of way… He’s a calm guy, like Rigoberto Urán,” Southam said. “If you get stressed by every little thing that wears down on you over three weeks, so mentally Neilson has the right mindset. Physically he has bags of talent so it will be interesting to see how he develops.”
COVID-19 hangs over the Tour de France, especially with cases on the rise and after what happened at the Tour de Suisse, with several teams pulling out altogether.
Luckily the symptoms are mild but riders will need to pass all-important PCR tests in the coming days before they can legitimately call themselves Tour de France starters.
For EF-Education EasyPost, it’s a case of thorough planning, and a pinch of hope and good fortune.
“It’s super mild, especially for our guys. None of them were in bed for two weeks. They were basically asymptomatic. How long does it stay around? We plan for both the best and worst-case scenario and we have a solid plan for the worst-case scenario. It might work out just in time for us,” Southam said.
As for Chaves, his seventh overall at the Dauphiné and second at Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge means he’s definitely in the conversation for a Tour spot. He could be the team’s dark horse when it comes to the GC.
“Esteban is in great shape,” said Southam.
“He proved that at the Dauphiné. He’s in consideration. Like I said you need to cover all the scenarios, so that could be three guys out, and then that changes things. Losing Valgren was a big blow.”