Tour de France 2017: Teams to watch

In the lead-up to the 104th edition of the Tour de France, we assess the chances that the top teams have, and how their key riders will target success in the biggest race of all.

Tour de France 2017: Teams to watch
Tour de France 2017: Which team has what it takes to win yellow? Photo: Getty/ Bryn Lennon

The Tour de France launches for the 104th time this weekend, as the riders of the 22 teams partaking grace the streets of Dusseldorf - with ambitions of claiming the prestigious yellow jersey 23 days later.

The line-up of 198 riders bares plenty of recognisable names, with last year's maillot jaune winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) hoping to retain his title and add a fourth to his name. However, as always, the race will be contested strongly, with the likes of Richie Porte - Froome's former Sky Teammate - leading for BMC, and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) - who has finished one position behind Froome in two of the three Tour de France's he has won - both looking positive in the lead-up.

However, it is not a one-man-job as we all know. Teams bring a range of riders, with domestiques, sprinters, puncheurs, climbers and time-trialists all being useful in their respective fields. With the yellow general classification jersey, the green points jersey, the polka-dot mountain jersey and the white young riders jersey all being up for grabs, the teams rely on their riders to play to each others strengths - thus concluding in lucrative finale.

​Team Sky

Riders:

1.Chris Froome (GBr)
2.Sergio Henao (Col)
3.Vasil Kiryienka (Blr)
4.Christian Knees (Ger)
5.Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol)
6.Mikel Landa (Esp)
7.Mikel Nieve (Esp)
8.Luke Rowe (GBr)
9.Geraint Thomas (GBr)

Expect to see Team Sky wearing white rather than their usual black jerseys when rolling through Paris (Photo via Getty Images/Bryn Lennon

It’s been a quiet year so far for Team Sky on the bikes, despite there being several newsworthy moments behind the scenes. Geraint Thomas, most notably, had an unfortunate series of events in the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year, and was forced to withdraw with a worsening knee injury.

This seemed to be a recurring theme for the British team, as numerous Sky riders have fallen – occasionally resulting in drop-outs, and always resulting in dampened spirit and unsatisfactory results.

However, the impressive Michal Kwiatkowski has brought some rejuvenation to Brailsford and co, winning the Polish National Time-Trial along with wins at Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche.

Whatever happens in the run-in to the Tour de France, you can never rule out Team Sky; with four Tour de France victories overall in the seven they have competed in, and all four of those coming in the last five years, Froome and his team remain the ones to beat at the start.

​Ag2r La Mondiale

Riders:

11.Romain Bardet (Fra)
12.Jan Bakelants (Bel)
13.Axel Domont (Fra)
14.Mathias Frank (Sui)
15.Ben Gastauer (Lux)
16.Cyril Gautier (Fra)
17.Pierre Latour (Fra)
18.Oliver Naesen (Bel)
19.Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra)

The national team have high hopes for the Tour de France this year, as Romain Bardet finally looks ready to challenge for the maillot jaune. The 26 year-old Frenchman finished an impressive second last year after fantastic Alpine riding, and will be raring-as-ever to entertain his abundance of home supporters by stealing the yellow off of Chris Froome.

Notable victories for the traditional French team this year include a win at the France and Belgium Time Trial Championships by Pierre Latour, and Oliver Naesen respectively, both of which will be aiming to support their leader come Saturday.

Romain Bardet reached Ag2r's second highest ever Tour de France finish last year as he finished third behind Quintana and Froome (photo vis Getty Images/Michael Steele)

Expect entertainment to accompany some fantastic riding, as it's likely that the team competing in its 21st consecutive Tour de France will be present in all classifications. Despite being rated 11th in the UCI ratings, Ag2r are certainly going to be looking to change that, as they are one of the teams to watch this year.

Movistar Team

Riders:

21.Nairo Quintana (Col)
22.Andrey Amador (Crc)
23.Daniele Bennati (Ita)
24.Carlos Betancur (Col)
25.Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp)
26.Imanol Erviti (Esp)
27.Jesús Herrada (Esp)
28.Jasha Sütterlin (Ger)
29.Alejandro Valverde (Esp)

Positioned one place above rivals Team Sky, the Spanish team look strong entering this year’s tour of France. Unsurprisingly Nairo Quintana leads the line and does so in good form; having already seen blue and yellow jerseys for winning the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana respectively, the Columbian will feel ready to challenge for the mountain stages in the next couple of weeks.

The ever-present Alejandro Valverde accompanies his teammate once again this year, and could even be in the running to become the oldest ever Tour winner at 37. The Spaniard has started the season in impeccable form, seeing him grab a total of six wins in stage and one-day races thus far. However, the veteran usually loses time on the mountain stages (which come a plenty this year), which is where Quintana will likely thrive.

With seven Tour wins and a culmination of 78 days in yellow, Eusebio Unzue’s tactical superiority may likely shine through once again.

​BMC

Riders:

41.Richie Porte (Aus)
42.Damiano Caruso (Ita)
43.Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)
44.Stefan Küng (Sui)
45.Amaël Moinard (Fra)
46.Nicholas Roche (Irl)
47.Michael Schar (Sui)
48.Greg Van Avermaet (Bel)
49.Danilo Wyss (Sui)

It has been a prolific season for the United States team so far, with the likes of Olympic gold medalist Greg Van Avermaet, Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte all showing their true potential. Van Avermaet has particularly shone, with the Belgian securing overall wins at the Tour of Luxembourg, Paris-Robaix, Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Richie Porte reaches the end of stage 12 in last year's Tour de France (photo via Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

After years of supporting and riding for others, BMC have finally allowed Richie Porte to ride as a general contender. The Australian has had a similarly impressive season, with overall wins at the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie, along with a second placed finish at the Criterium du Dauphine.

With all teammates there to try and better his best of 5th at the Tour de France, he has to utilise this and attack Team Sky and Movistar. BMC are here to win, even if it means putting other riders ahead of Porte; expect aggressive racing and a serious challenge for yellow amongst other jerseys.

​Astana Pro Team

Riders:

51.Fabio Aru (Ita)
52.Dario Cataldo (Ita)
53.Jakob Fuglsang (Den)
54.Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
55.Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz)
56.Bakhtyar Kozhatayev (Kaz)
57.Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz)
58.Michael Valgren (Den)
59.Andrey Zeits (Kaz)

Richie Porte may have a similar battle with Jakob Fuglsang as was at the Criterium du Dauphine, as it was the Dane who beat the BMC man to the top spot on the podium. The partnership with Fabio Aru could prove to be a very interesting one in terms of the race for yellow.

Although it’s Aru that is leading (according to manager Alexandr Vinokourov), both the Italian and Fuglsang could challenge the likes of Froome and Quintana as they are both adept leaders with bags of grit and determination.

An inconsistent 2016 proved troublesome for Aru, but he seems to be back on track now, with a win at the National Road Championships seemingly giving him more confidence. At only 26 years of age, Aru has plenty of fight left in him, and he hopes to show that by giving his team a fourth win at the Tour de France.


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