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There was a time when the Tour de France’s announcement of wild-card teams was met with much wringing of hands by some teams and jubilation by others. But now—after the many negotiations between Tour owner Amaury Sport Organisation and the Union Cycliste Internationale—the 18 UCI WorldTour teams are currently given automatic inclusion in the world’s biggest bike race. And with just four slots left for the second-tier Pro Continental squads the race directors nearly always favor their own. So, it came as no surprise Thursday when ASO announced the four 2017 Tour de France Wildcard teams: the French-based Cofidis, Direct Énergie and Fortuneo-Vital Concept squads, along with the Belgian-based Wanty-Groupe Gobert—which is headed by two key French riders: the up-and-coming climber Guillaume Martin and classics specialist Yoann Offredo.
John Wilcockson/ Image: Yuzuru Sunada
As for the other three wild-card teams, Cofidis is selected for the 21st consecutive year and has high hopes for stage wins with its super-sprinter Nacer Bouhanni and new Belgian acquisition Jonas Van Genechten; Direct Énergie also is looking for stage wins from its still-improving sprinter Bryan Coquard and veteran Thomas Voeckler (who is retiring at the end of the Tour on July 23); and Fortuneo-Vital Concept, whose British sprinter Dan McLay celebrated the team’s Tour selection by taking a podium spot Thursday in Mallorca’s Spanish season opener (which was won by Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel from Cofidis’ Van Genechten).
In a Tour that starts in Düsseldorf, Germany on July 1 and heads through Belgium and Luxembourg before reaching France, the sprinters should have a greater chance of stage wins this year. The organizers have listed nine stages as flat, five as hilly and five with mountaintop finishes. Time trialists have a chance of glory on stage 1 (a 13-kilometer TT in Düsseldorf) and stage 20 (a 23-kilometer TT in Marseille) and might see close battles between Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and possible Tour debutant Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac). As for the yellow jersey, the main challengers to defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) should be AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, BMC Racing’s Richie Porte, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Orica-Scott’s Adam Yates.
AG2R La Mondiale (F): Romain Bardet (FRA)
Astana (Kaz): Miguel Angel Lopez (Col)
Bahrain-Merida (Bah): Vicenzo Nibali (I)
BMC Racing (USA): Richie Porte (Aus), Greg Van Avermaet (B)
Bora-Hansgrohe (G): Peter Sagan (Svk), Rafal Majka (Pl)
Cannondale-Drapac (USA): Pierre Rolland (F)
Dimension Data (RSA): Mark Cavendish (GB)
FDJ (FRA): Thibaut Pinot (F)
Katusha-Alpecin (Swi): Alexander Kristoff (N), Tony Martin (G)
Lotto-Soudal (B): Andre Greipel (G)
LottoNL-Jumbo (Nl): Dylan Groenewegen (Nl)
Movistar (Sp): Nairo Quintana (Col), Alejandro Valverde (Sp)
Orica-Scott (Aus): Adam Yates (GB)
Quick Step Floors (B): Marcel Kittel (G)
Team Sky (GB): Chris Froome (GB)
Team Sunweb (G): Michael Matthews (Aus)
Trek-Segafredo (USA): Alberto Contador (Sp), John Degenkolb (G)
UAE Abu Dhabi: Rui Costa (P)
Pro Continental Teams
Cofidis (F): Nacer Bouhanni (F)
Direct Énergie: Bryan Coquard (F), Thomas Voeckler (F)
Fortuneo-Vital Concept (F): Daniel McLay (GB)
Wanty-Groupe Gobert (B): Guillaume Martin (F)