With the first week already out of the way, the Tour de France turns its focus to the mountain stages of this year’s race. BIKEmagic takes a look at some of the lesser-known riders who could make an impact in the next few days.
This time last year Santiago Botero (Kelme) was lying well down on the overall classification and had to rely on suicide breaks to propel himself up the general classification. This year he’s already sniffing at Armstrong and Ullrich’s back wheel, thanks to a crash free first week and a dream TTT for his Kelme team. The Columbian looks to be coming into form at the right time and could pull off another stage win and retain his King of the Mountains jersey.
After losing more than 24 minutes in the first week, American Jonathan Vaughters (Credit Agricole) will be looking for revenge. He’s never had a serious crack at the mountains in the Tour, but he can ride with the best of them on his day. The former teammate of Lance Armstrong could post a possible threat to the Texan.
Less than three minutes back on the likes of Ullrich and Armstrong, Stefano Garzelli of Mapei is another rider hoping for better luck at the Tour. Last year’s Tour of Italy winner pulled out of this year’s edition without making any significant impact. However a stage win at last month’s Tour of Switzerland shows that he’s coming into form. He’s not podium material but like many others he could come off with a stage win.
Last July Francisco Mancebo (ibanesto.com) came home with the white jersey, for the best placed young rider overall. The 25-year-old rider finished ninth last year, and will be looking to repeat his performance. He has already lost four minutes to the favourites, but this time last year he was much further down on the overall.
Although well out of the fight for the overall classification and without the climbing powers of Pantani, Leonardo Piepoli has suddenly become one of iBanesto’s best bets for a stage win. The Italian climber has never won a stage of the Tour, however Botero and Javier Otxoa sprung from nowhere and won stages last year, so perhaps it’ the Italian’s turn.
After a disastrous first stage, where his teammates left him behind after a painful crash, Daniele Nardello lies well down on Armstrong in the overall. The Italian has finished in the top ten of the Tour for the last three years and although a repeat of that is almost certainly out of the question, there is no reason why he can’t bounce back with a great ride in the Alps and Pyrenees. Although known as a follower, rather than a leader, Nardello has a powerful style and should take inspiration from the Italian National jersey he now wears.
Almost nothing has gone right for Frenchman Laurent Roux since winning the Tour l’Avenir in 1997. The climber was banned for a positive drug test the following year and little was heard of him thereafter. However the Jean Delatour rider now has a chance to get back into the hearts of the French fans. He came third on Bastille Day and looks to be getting back to his best, although its unlikely that he could make a serious challenge. He may play a supporting role when the road begins to go upwards.
With Francisco Casagrande out of the Tour, his faithful lieutenant Wladimir Belli could step into the limelight. Belli seems to have been around for ages, but has never proved himself in the Tour. He’s done a few good rides in the Tour of Italy, but now he’s got a free role and could cause a few upsets.