2015 Tour de France: Team-by-team guide
Get to know the riders and their teams ahead of the 102nd instalment of the famous race
Team Sky leader Chris Froome. Photogrpah: Reuters
Leader of Etixx-Quick Step Mark Cavendish. Photograph: Getty
Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo: Photograph: getty
Nicholas Roche will be backing up Chris Froome for Team Sky. Photograph: Getty
AG2R La Mondiale (Fr)
Once best known for the hideous brown shorts worn by their riders, the French team make headlines for their solid performances at the business end of the toughest bicycle races. They won the team classification at last year’s Tour and in Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet, had two riders placed inside the top six on General Classification. Their all-rounder Biel Kadri, who has not made this year’s team, also won a stage. With Péraud currently out of form, Bardet is likely to lead their assault on the GC this year. Unfortunately, they suffered a setback in February this year when Lloyd Mondory tested positive for EPO.
Team leader: Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fr) or Romain Bardet (Fr)
While Péraud finished second last year, Bardet was the revelation of the race, finishing sixth overall and second in the Best Young Rider classification. In a rivalry that calls to mind the Froome v Wiggins power struggle at Sky, this should be the Tour in which Bardet eclipses his compatriot, who had a woeful Critérium du Dauphiné.
Team name: An amalgamation of belt and braces: two insurance companies - Ag2R and La Mondiale.
A team regularly mired in scandal since their 2006 inception, they have had a troubled time since Vincenzo Nibali won last year’s Tour. Brothers Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy both tested positive for EPO, while three members of their Continental feeder team also fell foul of the drug testers, prompting the International Cycling Union (UCI) to recommend their World Tour licence be revoked. In April it was announced that Astana would be allowed to continue racing, as stripping them of their licence mid-season would not “respect the principle of proportionality”. Good news, then, for the team’s highly-principled manager, the unrepentant drugs cheat Alexander Vinokourov.
Team leader: Vincenzo Nibali (It)
Defending his title in the wake of a victory made easier by Nairo Quintana’s absence, the abandonment through injury of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, not to mention the constant whiff of skulduggery surrounding Astana. Lucky to be defending his title, considering the raised eyebrows that greeted the decision to let his team keep their licence.
Team name: Taken from a group of state-owned companies in Kazakhstan, where Astana is also the capital city.
BMC Racing (US)
Disparagingly referred to as Big Money Club due to the riches lavished upon them by their billionaire benefactor Andy Rihs, BMC claimed this year’s Tour Down Under and Tour of Belgium, as well as notching notable stage wins elsewhere. Team leader Tejay van Garderen is in good form and wants a podium finish, while the team boast specialists in most areas of expertise and functions superbly as a collective. They subjected rivals Sky to a beating in the team time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné in a stage very similar to its equivalent on this year’s Tour.
Team leader: Tejay van Garderen (US)
BMC’s new leader following the retirement of Cadel Evans, the American led going into the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, only to have victory snatched from his grasp by Chris Froome. Fifth last year and his chances of a podium place will hinge on his performances in the mountains.
Team name: An acronym of the snappily-titled Swiss bicycle manufacturing company Bicycle Manufacturing Company.
Bora-Argon 18 (Ger)
One of five wildcard teams, the Bavarian outfit are, like BMC, also one of five in the race to feature a bicycle manufacturer – Montreal-based Argon 18 – in their name. Having secured seventh place in last year’s Tour courtesy of Leopold Konig, who has since moved to Sky, the team will be co-led by the German all-rounder Dominik Nerz and look likely to target assorted flat stages, where the Czech time-trialist Jan Bárta will be tasked with helping to lead out Irish Tour debutant and co-leader Sam Bennett.
Team leader: Sam Bennett (Ire) and Dominik Nerz (Ger)
In Bennett and Nerz, the general manager Ralph Denk has named co-leaders, revealing his team will target flat stages, playing to the strengths of the Belgium-born Irishman. Denk described Bennett as one of the fastest sprinters around and said “he deserves to compete with the best sprinters in the biggest race in the world”.
Team name: Sponsored by German cooking surface and extractor manufacturer Bora and Canadian bike manufacturers Argon, whose Argon 18 bicycles they ride.
Bretagne-Séché Environment (Fr)
Another of the second tier wildcards, Bretagne-Séché participated in their first Tour de France last summer. Dan McLay, a 23-year-old from Leicester, turned pro with them this season after four years as an amateur in Belgium and has been touted as a potential Classics star of the future but just missed out on their roster for the Tour. While extremely unlikely to trouble the top 10 in General or Team Classification, expect this team to throw the kitchen sink and various other household items at Stage 8, which begins departs from Rennes, home of their HQ, and finishes in Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Team leader: Brice Feillu (Fr)
Not to be confused with Romain, his older brother, who also rides for Bretagne-Séché Environnement. Feillu the younger was triumphant in the mountain stage at Andorra Arcalis on the 2009 Tour and hasn’t won a race of any kind since. Needs a good performance to build on his early promise.
Team name: The hail from Brittany and are sponsored by Séché Environnement, a French waste treatment company.
Cofidis Solutions (Fr)
Reliant on wildcard entries since losing their ProTour licence in 2009 and without a stage win since the year before that, it’s difficult to know what function they serve in the peloton in recent years beyond making up the numbers and sending scarlet-clad riders off in breakaways that invariably get reeled in by the peloton. While Spanish rider Daniel Navarro is their best hope of making an impact on the General Classification, Cofidis appear to have placed all their eggs in a Nacer Bouhanni-shaped basket this season and the in-form 24-year-old sprinter could very well find himself being handed a bouquet and trophy at the conclusion of at least one stage.
Team leader: Nacer Bouhanni (Fr)
A winner of two stages and the green points jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné, the French sprinter crashed at the French national road championships last weekend putting his participation in some doubt. Celebrates his birthday on the Tour, but is unlikely to mark the occasion with a stage win as the riders will be tackling Alpe d’Huez on the day in question.
Team name: Their sponsor is a French company offering credit ‘solutions’ and - according to Wikipedia - specialises in the consumer credit business of the 3 Suisses Group. Rock and roll.
Etixx-Quick Step (Bel)
With Bradley Wiggins having bowed out of proceedings to focus on the track, Tony Martin will expect to finish the opening day’s “race of truth” in Utrecht being zipped into the race leader’s yellow jersey, which he could keep for quite some time. Beyond that, the team will slave in the service of Manx missile Mark Cavendish, relentlessly stoking the furnace of the train from which he’ll launch himself at the end of each flat stage in the hope of adding to his 25 stage victories.
Team leader: Mark Cavendish (United Kingdom)
Came a cropper in the first stage last year and had to withdraw, rounding off a fairly miserable season by his own very high standards. Cavendish has been in spectacular form this season and, in the absence of his nemesis Marcel Kittel, looks nailed on to add to his quarter-century of Tour de France stage wins.
Team name: Premium sports nutrition brand meets laminate flooring manufacturer and the rest is history. Who says romance is dead?
Having appalled the cycling world with the fashion faux pas of including white shorts in their team ensemble, it is not just in the field of ill-advised leg-wear that FDJ will be competing fiercely with their compatriots at AG2R La Mondiale. Both teams will fancy their chances of producing the Tour’s highest-placed Frenchman, with Thibaut Pinot having finished third overall last season just behind his compatriot at AG2R, Jean-Christophe Péraud. Having lost their sprinter Nacer Bouhanni to Cofidis Solutions, FDJ’s chances of success in the flat stages have been compromised and the burden of responsibility for taking on the fast men now rests on 23-year-old Arnaud Démare.
Team leader: Thibaut Pinot (Fr)
Third on General Classification last year and winner of the best young rider classification ahead of Romain Bardet. Chose the Tour of Switzerland over the Critérium du Dauphiné for his preparations, having won a stage and finished fourth overall in the Tour de Romandie. A burgeoning talent who should go well again.
Team name: Francais des Jeux is the company behind France’s national lottery, making them one of three national lottery companies to sponsor a team in this race.
IAM Cycling (Swi)
Riding their first full season with the big boys, IAM Cycling unveiled 10 new signings ahead of this year’s road season, including French rouleur Jerome Coppel and Dutch time trial specialist Stef Clement, who joined Sylvain Chavanel and former hour record holder Matthias Brandle in the Swiss team’s ranks. Highlights this season? Heinrich Haussler – who has not made the Tour roster – won the Australian Road Race Championships, stage wins in the Tour of Oman and Tour of Belgium, Clement turning up late for a doping control at the Giro because of crowd congestion and some amusing YouTube footage of Chavanel struggling to remove a rain jacket.
Team leader: Sylvain Chavanel (France)
Criticised in his younger days by one mentor for his “gratuitous long-range sorties and suicide attacks”, Chavanel is approaching the end of a fine career. Renowned for his combativity, he has previously worn the maillot jaune and won three Tour de France stages. Would be an extremely popular winner of a fourth.
Team name: A Swiss finance company, IAM Investment Funds provide an institutional investment style servicing private investors. “We favour slow but solid growth,” they say.
Easily identifiable by their arresting fluorescent pink crash helmets and the matching shoulder panels on their jerseys, this Italian team has had a good year by their own fairly mediocre standards, with four stage wins (by three different riders) in the Giro and overall victory in the Tour of Oman already in the bag. Portuguese leader Rui Costa will be relying on the support of his team-mates to get him as high up the General Classification as possible, while under-achieving Italian classics rider Filippo Pozzato is riding for a new contract after two unsuccessful years, during which his manager Brent Copeland labeled him a “prima donna”. Ouch.
Team leader: Rui Costa (Portugal)
A former world champion and the winner of three Tour de France stages in the past, most recently in the mountains in 2013. After winning the Tour de Suisse three times in a row, he chose not to defend his title this year, instead opting for the Critérium du Dauphiné, where finished third and won stage six.
Team name: Lampre manufacture prefinished steel sheet materials in Italy, while Meridia make bicycles in Taiwan.
Lotto NL-Jumbo (Neth)
One of two teams with the word ‘Lotto’ in their title, expect this Dutch outfit and their Belgian counterparts Lotto-Soudal to cause no end of confusion for race commentators in the event of riders from both forming their own breakaway. The Dutch team formerly known as Belkin will be relying on Wilco Kelderman and Laurens ten Dam to keep their excitable roadside support enthused during the early stages in the Low Countries, where they’ll be riding in a change strip because their usual kit is considered too “yellow” for a race in which that particular colour is reserved exclusively for the race leader.
Team leader: Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) and Robert Gesink (Netherlands)
Kelderman competes in his maiden Tour de France after two previous and highly commendable cracks at the Giro (17th and 7th) and one at the Vuelta (14th). His compatriot Robert Gesink finished fifth in the 2010 Tour de France and has overcome a heart condition to take his place in the line-up after missing most of last season.
Team name: The artists formerly known as Rabobank and Belkin, among other names, are sponsored by the Dutch National Lottery and a supermarket chain. Included the ‘NL’ in their name to avoid confusion with ...
Lotto Soudal (Bel)
Another lot of Lotto riders, this team is co-sponsored by Belgium’s national lottery and what appears to be a foam and glue factory. Ageing German sprinter André Greipel has six stage wins to his name (13 altogether in Grand Tours) and is invariably there or thereabouts in bunch finishes, while French rider Tony Gallopin took almost eight minutes out of eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali on Stage 9 of last year’s Tour in a breakaway that earned him a day in yellow that he followed up with a courageous win on Stage 11.
Team leader: André Greipel (Ger)
The German sprinter won stage six at the Giro before withdrawing ahead of a time trial and the subsequent mountain stages. Likely to call the shots in the Tour’s opening flat stages, one or two of which he has every chance of nicking, before handing the loudhailer to Gallopin as the race goes uphill.
Team name: As mentioned previously, this team is backed by the Belgian National Lottery and a major European provider of silicone and caulks, Polyurethane-Foams and adhesives. Gripping stuff.
Solid time trialists and apparently tireless climbers, Spain’s lower-rent version of Sky will be eyeing the main prize with a view to securing victory for Nairo Quintana, who finished second behind Chris Froome in 2013 before choosing and winning last year’s Giro upon deciding its mountainous route was more suited to a man of his talents than the French equivalent. The Colombian climber heads a talented squad of riders that still includes deposed former team leader Alejandro Valverde, who finished fourth last season after being welcomed back to the team in the wake of two-year suspension incurred for his part in the Operation Puerto doping affair.
Team leader: Nairo Quintana (Col)
Along with Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador, this young Colombian mountain goat is one of four riders hotly tipped to triumph, following his stunning debut in 2013. Sat out last year’s Tour after winning the Giro and could conceivably struggle on the cobbles on stage four of this year’s race.
Team name: Nothing to do with Hollywood: Movistar is a Spanish mobile phone operator owned by Telefónica.
Another wildcard entry, for the first African team to compete in the Grand Boucle. Eritrea’s Daniel Teklehaimanot secured their first ever WorldTour classification win by taking the King of the Mountains jersey at the Dauphiné, while British cyclist Steve Cummings also looks nailed on to start his first Tour de France since 2012. Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar are the big names in a team facing a challenge their principal Doug Ryder has described as “the realisation of the dream of taking an African registered team to the ultimate annual cycling event, Le Tour de France”.
Team leader: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
Having joined his new paymasters after five years as a Sky workhorse, the Norwegian suffered a broken collarbone in March, but picked up his first win in two years during his comeback ride at the Tour des Fjords. This will be his fifth Tour de France and he has two stage wins, though both were back in 2011.
Team name: MTN are a South African mobile phone company, while Qhubeka (an Nguni word that means “to carry on”) is a charity aiming to put 5,000 underprivileged African kids on bicycles.
Orica Greenedge (Aus)
Blessed with one of the best lead-out trains in the business, but with no sprinter of note to capitalise on the hard yards they put in, this Australian team beat their rivals in the team time trial at the Giro and will be hoping to do the same on stage nine of this year’s Tour from Vannes to Plumelec. With Simon Gerrans having struggled to stay fit through a series of injuries, Michael Matthews will ride as team leader, while Gerrans and British twins Adam and Simon Yates will be hopeful of picking up other stage wins.
Team leader: Michael Matthews
A former under-23 world road race champion, this Australian is a proven Grand Tour stage winner, and not just with his teammates in time trials. Tackling his first Tour de France, Matthews is expected to leave an impressive mark but remains an outsider in the race for the green jersey.
Team name: Expect no shortage of fireworks from this outfit - GreenEdge cycling are sponsored by Orica, an Australian explosives manufacturer.
Formed after the merger of Cannondale and Garmin-Sharp, team leader Andrew Talansky is hitting form at the right time, having won the American time trial championship in May. In Classics specialist Dan Martin and former Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal, he has a pair of lieutenants who are more than capable of picking up stage wins. The youngest team of riders on the Tour, Cannondale-Garmin will compete with a lot of public goodwill following the outpouring of sympathy that greeted the injured Talansky’s heroic and ultimately successful attempt to finish stage 11 of last year’s Tour just ahead of the broom wagon.
Team leader: Andrew Talansky (US)
The New Yorker has had a decent year, winning the American national time trial championship and finishing in the top 10 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, which he won in 2014. Talansky provided one of the enduring images of last year’s Tour, cycling 90 kilometres injured and alone to finish stage 11, before withdrawing from the race a hero.
Team name: The partnership of a bike manufacturer and a SatNav company means the Cannondale-Garmin riders may not necessarily get there first, but they will get there.
Having lost their ProTour licence for this season for unspecified concerns about them fulfilling the necessary “financial criteria”, Europcar had to rely on a wildcard to compete in this year’s Tour. And with the rental car company with whom they share their name to end their sponsorship this seasons, these are trying times for Jean-René Bernaudeau’s men in green. Never one to shirk in the face of adversity, expect to see Thomas Voeckler putting the hurt on himself and others as, tongue lolling its inimitable trademark way, he instigates or chases down breakaways in the hope of securing airtime and, with it, potential new sponsors.
Team leader: Thomas Voeckler (Fr)
With his comical riding style, Voeckler can at times look like a spectator who’s sneaked into the peloton for a giggle, only to sprint clear of the field on one of his occasionally successful breakaways. Simultaneously painful and a real pleasure to watch, expect him to provide no end of entertainment in the mountains.
Team name: The hire car company is soon to end their sponsorship of this team, who may find themselves going cap-in-hand to Hertz instead.
Giant Alpecin (Ger)
The German-based outfit have made the difficult decision to go without their giant speed merchant Marcel Kittel, who had an extremely disrupted build-up to the Tour. Having had his season ruined by a virus he picked up while competing in the Tour Down Under, the thunder-thighed super-sprinter was finally showing signs of returning to race fitness, but has now been sidelined for this year’s Tour, with his participation being too much of a gamble. In his absence, Giant Alpecin will expect big things from the German John Degenkolb, a winner of two classics, Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, already this year.
Team leader: John Degenkolb (Ger)
With Marcel Kittel being rested as he continues to recuperate from illness, John Degenkolb has been appointed team leader. “John Degenkolb is not a replacement for Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb is another rider with other qualities,” says Giant-Alpecin boss Iwan Spekenbrink, who is hopeful his team can win at least one stage.
Team name: Sponsored by Giant bicycles and a German shampoo manufacturer, their riders will be tested each day for dry scalp and dandruff, as well as illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
With Norwegian sprinter and classics specialist Alexander Kristoff in scorching form, a team previously renowned for its ragbag collection of Russian has-beens and journeymen go into this year’s with high hopes of removing the green jersey for best of all-rounder from the shoulders of Peter Sagan for the first time in four years. Serial nearly man Joaquim Rodríguez has targeted this year’s Tour and Giro in his latest attempts to add a Grand Tour win to his palmares, but remains an outside bet to finish on the podium. Surprisingly, Katusha have named just one Russian in their line-up.
Team leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Sp)
An excellent climber who is invariably let down by his abysmal time-trialling, the clock is running down on the career of this ageing Spaniard, who looks increasingly unlikely to retire with a Grand Tour victory to his CV. He does have one Tour de France stage win to his name and could conceivably add another one.
Team name: Backed by the Russian Global Cycling Project foundation, which is funded by a variety of Russian businesses, including Gazprom.
With their big black team bus and obsession with “marginal gains”, the arrival of Team Sky to the professional peloton prompted much tittering. Two Tour de France wins later, the laughter has stopped and their methods have now been adapted by those rivals who previously found them so amusing. David Brailsford will be quietly confident of masterminding a third Tour victory for his team, with Richie Porte, Ian Stannard, Wout Poels, Leopold König and Peter Kennaugh all looking in good shape to provide strong support for Chris Froome. A significant defeat in the Critérium du Dauphiné team time trial would appear to be their one major concern.
Team leader: Chris Froome (UK)
After a good start to the season, back-to-back stage wins powered Froome to victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné but the 2013 Tour de France winner said he still had work to do to be at his best for this year’s race. With Sky looking strong, he could win his second Tour.
Team name: One of the peloton’s richer teams, sponsored by BSkyB, who wished to get involved in a sport in which they could have a positive impact. So far, so good, although they’re not too popular with some continental cycling fans.
The team of Alberto Contador, who won this year’s Giro with an injured collarbone, Tinkoff Saxo underwent significant personnel changes on and off the bike this season, announcing the signing of Podium girl botherer Peter Sagan before parting company with manager Bjarne Riis on the back of an acrimonious feud with team sponsor Oleg Tinkov. Sagan will be targeting his fourth consecutive green jersey title this year, but may find his chances of doing so harmed by having to play second fiddle to Contador after a long stretch as top dog at Cannondale.
Team leader: Alberto Contador (Sp)
The Spaniard overcame injury to pull off the first half of what he hopes will be a rare Giro-Tour double, but only time will tell how much his surprisingly gruelling Italian triumph will have taken out of a 32-year-old who has spent recent weeks in Livigno for altitude training.
Team name: Sponsored by a partnership of the Russian Tinkoff Bank and Danish investment outfit Saxo Bank.
Trek Factory (US)
Having added distinctive white sleeves and chest panels to their otherwise pinstriped duds and rolled out eye-catching “viper red” bicycles, Trek’s image isn’t the only thing to have undergone an overhaul. The cycling team formerly known as Radioshack have signed a new General Classification contender in Dutch rider Bauke Mollema, but endured a miserable Critérium du Dauphiné, where they won just €300 in prize money. Frank Schleck has been ruled out with a knee injury, while time trialist Fabian Cancellara has struggled with a bad back, but will hope to finish the opening time trial in yellow.
Team leader: Bauke Mollema (Neth)
The lanky Dutchman finished 10th last year, but may struggle to match his performance after pulling out of the Critérium du Dauphiné due to a recurring back injury. Mollema insists that a few sessions with the osteopath should ensure he has no concerns ahead of the Tour, but only time will tell.
Team name: Trek Bicycle Corporation is a major bicycle and cycling product manufacturer, based in Wisconsin.