Bora-Hansgrohe will be eyeing both a green and yellow jersey at the Tour de France this summer, with Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan looking to add to his record-breaking collection of wins in the points classification, and home-grown hero Emanuel Buchmann battling in the GC.
Sagan’s ambitions of taking an eighth green jersey will be no walk in the park in this year’s Tour, with the likes of Wout van Aert, Matteo Trentin, Sam Bennett, and Sonny Colbrelli all boasting the brawn and brains required to put up a strong challenge.
In the mountains, 27-year-old German Buchmann will be looking to better his fourth-place overall of 2019. However, having crashed at the Critérium du Dauphiné and been hit with a late battle to recover from his injuries, the team’s classification leader has had a less-than-perfect pre-Tour de France preparation.
In a further late dent to the team, rising talent and German national champion Max Schachmann collided with a rogue car on the course at Il Lombardia earlier this month, fracturing his collarbone in the process. While Schachmann was able to recover sufficiently to make the team’s selection, will he be at his best?
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Emanuel Buchmann, Peter Sagan, Daniel Oss, Lennard Kämna, Felix Großschartner, Lukas Pöstlberger, Gregor Mühlberger Max Schachmann
The team is yet to confirm its full lineup after Schachmann’s injury and withdrawal, but the core is there, with Sagan, Buchmann, road captain Oss, and key climbing helpers Kämna and Großschartner.
Despite Sagan typically picking up green jersey through solo exploits and freelance finishing, his team is bringing a strong crew of rouleurs to support him in grippy transitional stages or sprints, with long-time teammate Oss and Pöstlberger able to finish at the pointy end of tough transitional races.
Under ideal conditions, Schachmann would have added a valuable third focus and strong wingman for Sagan. However, having been battling to recover from his Lombardia crash, he may not be at his attacking best.
“Max’s preparations were undoubtedly interrupted by this injury,” warned team doctor Jan-Niklas Droste. “Cycling is not only about having the legs – the rest of the body must also be in good shape.”
Buchmann will be supported in his GC bid by youthful talents. While none of them boast the pedigree of the powerhouse domestiques of Team Ineos or Jumbo-Visma, they’re on-form and packing potential.
Kämna, just 23-years-old, will have the wind at his sails having stolen a stage win at this month’s Critérium du Dauphiné, while 26-year-old duo Großschartner and Mühlberger have both also tasted success since the return to racing, with a Burgos stage win and Sibiu Tour GC victories respectively.
Oss and Pöstlberger will also be valuable in the engine room shepherding Buchmann through the flatlands.
Sagan’s chances of continuing his seeming unreleasable grip on the green jersey were done a favor by the ripping up and redesigning of the 2020 race schedule due to coronavirus.
The 30-year-old has pledged to make his Giro d’Italia debut this year, and had the season proceeded as per the plan, Sagan would have gone into the Tour with the weight of racing the Giro in his legs. However, now that the Tour comes first, the Slovakian goes into his green jersey defense on legs that are fresh – if somewhat untested.
While the triple world champion registered two fourth places in the three major Italian classics this August, Sagan’s only other race days since the COVID stop have been some leg-toughening, “character-building” slogs through the mountains of the Dauphiné.
Sagan’s green jersey defense won’t be straightforward.
Wout van Aert is the new man to beat across all and every terrain this summer, and though the Belgian is at the Tour de France mainly to act as a support rider for Jumbo-Visma, he’s also made clear he’s going to take any stage opportunities presented to him. Alongside Van Aert, Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s fastman Bennett could cause complications. The Irishman has repeatedly shown the ability to punch over short climbs and win from all manner of situations beyond the bunch kick.
In the GC, Buchmann should find himself on anyone’s list of top-1o Tour contenders, and is more than capable of finishing somewhere in the top five in Paris.
However, there’s a sense that he will always be left fighting for the scraps behind the likes of Roglič, Bernal, and Pogačar.
The 27-year-old’s breakout performance in 2019 came off the back of a string of consistent if under-the-radar performances through the second and third weeks that stealthily moved him from 12th overall up to fourth. He never made it onto a stage-winner’s podium, instead always lurking in the shadows, with two fourth-places in the Pyrénées his best results.
Buchmann repeated that trend at this year’s Dauphiné, finding himself in third overall before abandoning due to his crash, having netted a fourth and third-place stage finish along the way. The German’s heavy fall that week not only set back his training, but his confidence.
“This entire incident has really set me back,” Buchmann said the Monday before the Tour. “To suffer a fall like that was such a shame because I was in really good shape. At the Dauphiné, I was the strongest on the mountain behind Roglič, together with Pinot. Now there are a few question marks hanging over my head.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how far I can make it up there. I can only tackle the Tour from day to day now.”
Is Buchmann destined to always play bridesmaid and never be the bride? And how much has he suffered from his injury?
A top-five finish come September 20 would be no surprise, but the podium? It’s a stretch of the imagination.