The Cannondale-Drapac Tour de France Nine

    Alberto Bettiol. Paddy Bevin. Nate Brown. Simon Clarke. Andrew Talansky. Taylor Phinney. Pierre Rolland. Rigoberto Uran. Dylan Van Baarle. Those nine got the call-up for the Cannondale-Drapac squad 2017 Tour de France squad. Four debutantes will certainly add to the team’s attacking, excited spirit and Tour veterans will balance the team.

    The team heads into La Grande Boucle with multiple objectives: on one hand, the team will attack and search for chances on every inch of road during the sport’s biggest race, and on the other hand the team will balance dual general classification hopes with Uran and Talansky.

    Talansky has finished 10th and 11th at the Tour de France in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Uran has ridden the Tour three times, and finished second on two occasions at the Giro d’Italia. The team also goes in with two-time stage winner Pierre Rolland, fresh off a victory at the season’s opening grand tour.

    “We’re going in with two GC leaders. Andrew and Rigo. But neither of those GC projects will hinder us from going after stage wins,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “When I look at this team, I see enthusiasm. I see potential. I see real, quality engines there. And I see a group of people who are really prepared to support one another. I see energy. It’s all the things we say we are.

    “We want people with the enthusiasm to take every single chance that comes, even if they’re small ones. We want riders fighting for stages they have a smaller chance of winning as if they were stages they had a high probability of winning. We’ve got to go after everything with the same kind of hunger the group at the Giro showed. Because they exploited everything.”

    “Charly did a great job selecting a dynamic group of riders for this Tour,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I have confidence in the riders, but I also have confidence in the entire staff representing us in France, from the soigneurs to the directors and mechanics. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

    Below, we offer up thoughts from our Tour riders and insights from Wegelius.

    Alberto Bettiol (Tour Debut)

    Wegelius: In Alberto’s case specifically, it’s an atypical tour. We don’t have 11 days of wall-to-wall sprint finishes. There’s an awful lot of mixed stages that could end in breaks or smaller sprints. Riders like Alberto, Dylan there’s a lot of things they can do.

    Alberto knows how to race a bike, he knows how to position himself. We saw that in the classics. This year, but also in his career, the Tour is going to be a race that suits him.

    Bettiol: This year, up to now, I have done more races than last year and bigger ones, too. I went pretty well in the cobbled classics, but I’m not satisfied. I expected more of myself, and I’m working hard to set that right in the second part of the season. I’d like to play my cards in a sprint with a reduced bunch.

    Starting in the Tour de France feels like I’m truly becoming a pro cyclist. If you haven’t done the Tour, you’re not a real pro. I get goosebumps thinking about it. My goal is to win a stage — dreaming doesn’t cost anything, so let’s dream.

    Paddy Bevin (Tour Debut)

    Wegelius: Paddy had a rough spring with some disappointments for him. That came on the back of a winter in which he worked really hard. But I think he took on the lessons. He regrouped, he trained. He came out meaning business after Norway and did a great Tour de Suisse in which he gained a bit of confidence after strong sprints. He’s going to be an asset for the same reasons as Alberto.

    Bevin: I want to leave a mark on the Tour. The team is very keen to animate the race, and I can’t wait to be part of that. At the end of three weeks I want some performances to be proud of, not just three weeks of holding on for dear life. I am genuinely excited about being part of the Tour. I was one of those kids up at 3 am in New Zealand watching the Tour every July, completely captivated by it. You can’t shake those feelings and to cross that threshold and be on the other side is a privilege not many get to experience.

    Nate Brown (Tour Debut)

    Wegelius: Nate has been on form and on message all season. He’s turned up to work in good shape, and his performances have incrementally grown the whole season. He did well in the spring; he did really well in California, really well in the Dauphiné. He’s got the enthusiasm to go after things. He’s a very, very loyal teammate and I think he’ll be a great help.

    Brown: I can’t explain the feelings when I found out about the selection. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to one day race in the Tour de France, and now that dream is coming true. I am excited anytime I get the call to do a grand tour, but this is the call I have been waiting for my whole life.

    I can’t thank the team enough for giving me this opportunity. Helping the team out to my best ability, and getting some good team results would be a success. I am excited to be doing my first Tour de France, and I hope on a personal level that I can get into a few breaks and fly the Cannondale-Drapac colors.

    Simon Clarke

    Wegelius: He’s an asset at any race we go to because of his leadership on the road and the vision he has at the races. But we don’t want him to stop being a bike racer in his own right. We saw a glimpse of that in the Dauphiné — that he can do really well himself, and he doesn’t always have to be looking after the others. He’s a high-quality rider. Hopefully we can give him some chances, too.

    Clarke: My top three Tour de France memories are: winning the team time trial in 2013, having the yellow jersey in the team for four days that same year. The following year, on stage 13 in 2014, it was my birthday, and I had been in the breakaway all day the day before. I had a really bad day. It was probably one of the hardest days I have ever had on the bike. This year? A successful Tour from a personal perspective would be winning a stage.

    Taylor Phinney (Tour Debut)

    Wegelius: Taylor has been improving since the classics. He had a lot of setbacks this year, no doubting that. Which has been rough for him, because he worked hard to get his body firing, and just when he was on the cusp of being able to cash in on that, some hiccup happened. But he never lost his focus.

    He’s really someone who has got the ability to rise to a big occasion without letting the occasion get the better of him. He’s someone who can read how big the Tour is and get the best of himself because of that.

    Phinney: Making the Tour de France team is a dream come true. This is my seventh year professional. I’ve never raced the Tour de France. The main reason I got into the sport of cycling is because I went to go watch the Tour de France when I was 14. And 15. I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ It’s taken me a long time to get to this point of saying I’m about to line up for the Tour. It feels right. It feels natural. I’ve been fighting back all season from various things just to make to this point. I’m really thankful to the team for supporting me in this endeavor. Supporting me this whole year.”

    Pierre Rolland

    Wegelius: Pierre’s in a good place. The win in the Giro was really good for him. Because it kind of put to rest some of the disappointment he was dragging with him from last season. I saw in La Route du Sud that having that win in the bag gave him the peace of mind to race even better, to race with a cold head. He manages himself very well between the races. He’s scrupulous with the training. And he’s got such a big engine. He’s a real bike racer.

    Rolland: This will be my ninth consecutive Tour de France … already! It’s always exciting just to be at the start of the Tour. A good Tour is when you arrive in Paris and you just tell yourself that you gave the best of yourself without regret. A great Tour is synonymous with a stage victory, but the main thing for me is always to give my maximum…the victory is often due to a race circumstance.

    Our Tour team is composed of very solid riders, experienced climbers and exemplary teammates. I hope we will have victories and a rider placed in the top of the overall standings.

    Andrew Talansky

    Wegelius: Andrew had a quiet first part of the season. He’s been in a long build since the beginning of May. And his win in California was a good step on the road to now. I think the route of the race suits him and gives a lot of chances to show his best.

    The Tour is the Tour. It’s a double-edged sword and you never know what challenges or triumphs it is going to bring. A successful Tour has a lot of components. I would love to win a stage. I have never won a stage of a grand tour; I’ve actually been the closest in the Tour de France in 2015, when I finished second in stage 17. But nothing in the world of bike racing compares to the pure joy of crossing the line first. The general classification will unfold as it does, but I think this Tour route lends itself towards aggressive racing and I certainly won’t let the opportunity to win something pass by.

    Rigoberto Uran

    Wegelius: Rigo. It’s time he went back to the Tour. He’s focused on the Giro for many years. Of all the Tours I’ve seen in the last three years, this is one that suits him pretty nicely I’d say. He’s got the experience, he’s got the leadership, he’s got the head to deal with a three-week race. I think he can do some nice things in July, I really do.

    Uran: It’s always nice to be in the Tour de France group because the race is one of the most important in the world, and this is demonstrated by the level we see every year with the best riders on the best teams who fight for everything. This year is extra special for me because I have the opportunity to focus well on the Tour.

    Dylan van Baarle

    Wegelius: Dylan has got, as everyone knows, a really big engine. I think there’s quite a few stages in this race where he can use that big engine for long-range attacks. Some stages are going to be really rough to control. So I see big chances for him. He’s really growing into a well-respected and strong rider.

    Van Baarle:
    The Tour is the biggest race for a cyclist. Everybody in the world knows this race. It’s again an honor to be part of the team. The factor that everybody knows the race makes it the hardest; there is a lot of stress, a lot more media. But the last two years were fun. I aim for a stage win. And so I hope the team will win a stage/a good GC. Last year we had some bad luck. So hopefully the luck is this year at our side.