2013 Tour de France White Jersey Preview

The White Jersey

The White Jersey has an illustrious list of winners, with a total of 6 of its past 29 winners going onto win the ultimate prize at the Tour de France. But this jersey is not solely an indication of things to come, but rather is a much esteemed competition to win in its own right. What makes the battle for this competition so intriguing is that it is anyone’s for the taking; the young talents competing for the prize have not yet established themselves on the big stage and therefore the Tour provides them with the opportunity to demonstrate what they have to offer and to establish themselves as future household names.

Tejay Van Garderen: #bmc   
"Not too many athletes have the whole package, but he has”
Bob Stapleton.

The winner of last year’s Maillot Blanc will be back this year with aspirations on improving on his 5th place overall. He will find this year’s parcours less suited to his abilities, but if he continues on the trajectory he has been following for the past few years he will undoubtedly feature. His time trialling ability can rival and even surpass all but a select few riders in the world. He came 4th in last year’s World Championships Time Trial and he proved his prowess in Grand Tour time trials as well with a lovely ride to 4th in the Tour Time trial to Besancon, where he was only beaten by the dominating Sky duo and Fabian Cancellara. His climbing has not risen to such lofty heights just yet but it is an ever improving asset of his repertoire, asides from his exploits at the Tour last year he has also been outstanding across the Atlantic at the Tour of California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge. 

Yet Tejay has rarely outside of his comfort zone, his triumph in this years’ Tour of California was impressive but rarely did it stretch or test him, if he wants to succeed and take that next step up in this years’ Tour he will have to learn not just to ride conservatively in the mountains and gain time in the trials. Rather he will have to push on and make ground whenever he finds himself with the opportunity. Additionally last year Tejay was sheltered from intense pressure of the Tour and its camaraderie, this year he comes into the Tour with immense expectations on his shoulders. With Cadel Evans announced as leader of BMC though he will be find himself obliged to help the Australian if he struggles on the early climbs. Last year such actions cost Tejay time on La Toussuire and he only truly came into his own when he has released from the shackles his team has placed upon him. BMC have to decide whether they want to go with the 2011 Tour winner or the 2014 Tour winner, but in the meantime Tejay will assuredly be there waiting to pounce on any opportunity.

Nairo Quintana: #movistar 

“He can have a role as a team leader when I’m not there, as he showed in the Volta a Catalunya”
Alejandro Valverde

The only rider to have disrupted the Sky train in full flow, he managed to evade the clutches of Sky when he attacked in last year’s Dauphine to take the queen stage. There is no doubt he is talented; a brief look at his palmares shows a year of his disappointment as he struggled to adjust to the Pro ranks, as a winner of Tour de l’avenir it will always be tough to match expectations. But last year in his breakout year he showed what a talent he truly is. 

The defining result for me was his 6th place on Stage 16 of last year’s Vuelta. He almost escorted Valverde up most of the climb and still had enough to finish in 6th and 4th considering De Gendt and Cataldo were in the break. It not only proved his burgeoning talent but showed that he can compete with just about the very best. His Time trialling ability surprised all when he came second in the Basque country and managed to secure the overall. Considering that it won’t come as a surprise that he can handle the hilly stuff respectably and that he can also match the majority of accelerations. 

Yet what worries me is Movistar’s decision to send him to Colombia in preparation for the Tour de France. It is an unprecedented course of action which means he will be coming to the Tour without any proper, concrete racing in his legs. In theory he will have the first week of the Tour to adjust, but at the same time that first week may be the week where Valverde proves his credentials as Tour leader. And that is his other dilemma, Valverde may have come 20th in last year’s Tour, but he proved at the Vuelta that he can still compete in Grand Tours. What does that mean for Quintana? From what I can gather he will enter the Tour as co-leader alongside Valverde, but he will have to be vigilant in the opening stages, especially the hilly stages in Corsica which suit Valverde as otherwise he will fast see himself playing second fiddle. 

Andrew Talansky: #garmin

"It will be exciting since it's my first Tour, but it's the Tour so everything will be a little bit harder and a little bit bigger. But at the end of the day when you get to a final climb you still just have to do everything you can to get up that climb and when you're doing a time trial it's still just a time trial.

Talansky will enter the Tour as part of a three rider assault on the Tour by Garmin alongside Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal. Yet Garmin will not be likely to dictate the race and will most likely allow all three free reign to ride to the maximum of their abilities. This will benefit Talansky who has all the skills to be successfulT in a Grand Tour. His time trialling is very capable and his climbing ability brought him a 7th place finish in last year’s gruelling Vuelta. That race proved he has the mental fortitude to succeed as a Grand Tour contender and he will only have been heartened by his results this year which confirm the steady, upward trajectory which his career has taken. 

Nevertheless he will need to display something special if he wants to beat Van Garderen and Quintana to the White Jersey, as in both cases either their time trialling or climbing will allow them to gain vital time. He has shown nothing but heartening performances since he has turned Pro and now could be the time when he finally takes the big leap up.

Thibau Pinot: #fdej

The Tour every year concludes with one rider who has forged his name as a future winner of the race. Last year that rider was Thibau Pinot. Any true cycling fan could not help but be impressed with the determination of the young rider who pushed himself beyond reasonable limits in order to take a stage win of remarkable poise in Porrentruy. But more impressive was the way in which Pinot then doggedly refused to cede ground to the GC favourites in the mountains. Top 5 finishes on the Tour’s two primary mountains stages just served to underline his potential.

With another year of experience under his belt Pinot should certainly improve on his 10th place overall, but whether he can take it that one step further and make his mark on this Tour. Well let’s just wait and see?

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