Friday Group Ride #124

I have been too hard on Andy Schleck. And though I’m sure he’s not losing much sleep over it, I’d like to take this opportunity to give him his due, because as many have pointed out to me, he IS a supremely talented rider.

He took the Young Rider classification at the 2007 Giro, and the same honor at the 2008 and 2009 Tours, before (on paper anyway) winning the 2010 Grand Boucle and finishing second last year. Between the ages of 22 and 25 he established himself as the best young GC rider in the world, without question. Turning those white jerseys yellow has been a bigger challenge, but that shouldn’t diminish what he achieved in the first phase of his career.

Looking ahead to the 2012 Tour, which rolls out of Liege tomorrow with a 6.4km prologue, it will be interesting to see who will pull on the white jersey and become the next Andy Schleck.

To me, the most intriguing possibility is Peter Sagan. The Slovakian sensation is having an incredible season, winning at will in week-long stage races like the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse. He can win in a traditional sprint. He can win in an uphill sprint. His main goal will be the green points jersey, but, because he can time trial and doesn’t slide backwards on the climbs quite like the rest of the sprinting cohort, there is the very real possibility that he can challenge for both jerseys. The odds are long, but thrilling to consider.

More traditionally, the white jersey goes to an accomplished climber though, so riders like Rein Taaramäe, Tejay van Garderen and Pierre Rolland must be favorites.

Taaramäe rides for Cofidis, a team with no realistic GC pretensions, so the young Estonian will be hunting steep stage wins. He has a string of good results behind him, and like Sagan his time-trialing is superior to most of the other white jersey hopefuls.

Van Garderen is another adept climber with good GC results. His challenge will be the weight of duty to returning champion Cadel Evans. In some cases, being first lieutenant in the mountains serves a young rider well. In others, it can completely derail a challenge.

A perfect example of a successful climbing domestique is Pierre Rolland who rode with Thomas Voekler during his fairytale stretch in the yellow jersey last year. Rolland rode away with the white jersey as a reward for his loyalty.

There are other possibilities, such as Vacansoleil-DCM’s Wout Poels or Rabobank’s Steven Kruijswijk. This week’s Group Ride, as if it wasn’t entirely obvious already, wonders: Who’s next? What are Sagan’s possibilities? Of the rest, who is most likely, and how will team chemistry and duty, play out against the back drop of the white jersey.


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Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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  1. dstan58

    I think Sagan will be too much in the hunt for top stage finishes to chase/earn the white jersey. Your analysis of TvG’s chances is spot-on. In Cadel’s service, he should garner enough high finishes to earn the white. Rein’s chances are also strong, but I doubt he will be given much leash by the peloton. Ditto for Rolland, who is already well-respected. Sagan? Top five, maybe even three, for the green. Between TGV, Rein and Rolland? It’s a crapshoot.

  2. Doug Page

    Seeing Peter clip out, come around, and win the sprint was for me the best moment so far this year. I hope Robert Gesink shows us what he can do as well. It should be an exciting TDF this year for the overall. I for one am glad the Indurain/Lance parades are over, and that we can guess, but not really know, who might wear the yellow on the Champs’.

  3. Nick

    I think you meant to say that on hilly stages Sagan doesn’t go out the back like Andy Schleck in a time trial. Ooooooh, sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  4. Wsquared

    I picked Rolland over Taaramae for my TDF fantasy team.

    Anybody have an eleventh hour opinion on Tony Martin vs Cancellara? Seems like Martin is a little off form this season, but could improve. Spartacus might be really hungry coming off his injury, but isn’t 100% yet.

    Thoughts? TIA.

  5. Champs

    Sagan can’t rate in this Tour and still be human. Down the line, he’ll have more rainbow jerseys than Bettini and Freire put together, though.

    Billions and billions of wins for that lad.

  6. Sophrosune

    If you have been hard on Andy Schleck, Robot, then I have been mercilessly brutal. But now I too have a begrudging respect for him. Two weeks ago I was hit by a car that didn’t think it necessary to stop at an intersection or keep his eyes on the road. I got off pretty luckily with a fracture sacrum, which I understand Schleck suffered. He carried on racing for two days after that injury and I can tell you that is just incredible. I could barely get off of the hospital bed after my injury and two weeks later I can hardly imagine getting on my bike. I’ve got to give the man his due. You have to be one pretty tough hombre to continue racing in this condition.

    1. Padraig

      Sophrosune: Thanks for the mortal’s perspective on a sacrum injury. I suspect there are a great many injuries the pros ride through that would leave me confined to a bed praying for a morphine drip. We wish you a speedy recovery.

  7. Paul I.

    No love here for Jérôme Coppel? I would expect to see him competing hard with Pierre Rolland, Wout Poels and Rein Taaramäe. Not sure about Tejay — he certainly has the capability to do well, but he is going to be totally dedicated to supporting Evans. However, he is better at the ITT than some of the other young climbers.

  8. MCH

    Why would anyone want to be the next Andy Schleck?!? A superbly talented rider who’ll likely be remembered as an also ran who never realized his potential. I wish much more for this year’s white jersey.

  9. Mr Bad Example

    @MCH – well, to be fair, Schleck is still only 27 so it isn’t as if he is on the downside of his career yet; one might argue that he’s on the cusp of his prime.

    As far as white jersey candidates, I really liked Rolland as a dark horse for the yellow, but it appears he is AWFUL at the TT (if today’s stage was an accurate indication) and I don’t know that after last season he’ll get much rope if he attacks.

  10. Author

    Who saw Sagan win today? In front of Cancellara. After powering up that steep climb in the lead group. Massively impressive. His first Tour stage. His first Tour win.

  11. rashadabd

    I agree with most of what has been said. That being the case, Cav reminded him and Greipel that he is still the fastest man on a bike in a bunch sprint today though. My vote is for Van Garderen. He has that rare TT and GC combination of abilities (like Wiggins and Cadel). I really think his has as bright a future as Sagan.

  12. Evan

    the odds are not long, they are zilch that sagan will take white. He’ll lose 20 minutes per stage in the high mountains.

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