With the official 2012 Tour de France route unveiled on Tuesday, managers representing the sport’s biggest three teams—Saxo Bank, BMC, and RadioShack–Trek—shared their reactions with Bicycling.
[Stages of the the 2012 Tour de France]
Bjarne Riis, manager of Alberto Contador’s Saxo Bank team
Bicycling: What are your first reactions to the 2012 Tour de France?
Riis: I like it. It’s different but that’s good.
Bicycling: Is it good for Alberto Contador?
Riis: I think so. It’s a good course for him and Cadel Evans. The biggest reason is that there is a lot of time trialing. The climbing stages are short, but that isn’t a problem. You don’t need long, long stages. Sometimes that’s OK, but not always. Shorter stages can be very exciting too.
Bicycling: There are a lot of new mountains, shorter but sometimes very steep.
Riis: Yeah, I like that. There are plenty of opportunities for the climbers to make their mark. And don’t forget—there are still some long climbs.
Bicycling: There have been some big changes in team transfers this year, especially with the merger of RadioShack and Leopard. How is Saxo Bank going to be able to combat such powerhouses?
Riis: It’s fine to have a team with a lot of depth, but in the end they can ride for only one guy. It’s easy to say that you’re going to play the cards, but you have only one card. That’s what you need to win. I think we have that player with Alberto.
John Lelangue, general manager of BMC, team of 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans
Bicycling: What are your reactions to the Tour route unveiled today?
John Lelangue: A nice Tour! A good one. It’s a well-balanced Tour with a good first week, mixing up sprinter stages and more tricky stages. That’s good for us. Plus, there are nice time trials, and of course we like those because we have Cadel Evans. And there are some good mountains. OK, there are only two mountain-top finishes, but there’s a lot of good climbing. We’ll have three nice weeks of racing.
Bicycling: Are there any stages that you think could be a real surprise?
Lelangue: Every stage can be a surprise in the Tour. That’s what makes it interesting. It is just day by day. First, we need to go visit some of the stages, but there is definitely the opportunity for some real surprises, like the Col du Grand Colombier on Stage 10. That’s a very hard climb.
Bicycling: Looking at the 2012 Tour route, who do you think is the most dangerous rider for Cadel this year?
Lelangue: There are always a lot of guys. There are the Schleck brothers of course. Even though there is 100 kilometers of time trialing, they have two cards to play. There’s Contador, but don’t overlook a rider, a good time trailer, like Bradley Wiggins.
Bicycling: You’ve built one of the real super teams in the sport. Not only do you have defending Tour champ Cadel Evans but you also have Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd. But some say that with so many champions Cadel might not get the support he needs in the Tour.
Lelangue: There’s been doubt in our ability to build a Tour de France team over the last couple of years, but I think we showed last year that we know how to build a team for Cadel and around Cadel. I’m not afraid. I know what I’m doing with my recruiting, and I’m sure Cadel will have the best team around him to defend the title. We showed last year that we have a team that can protect a leader from day one all the way to the end of the Tour, and I think we’ll have even a better team this year.
Johan Bruyneel, manager of team RadioShack-Trek
Bicycling: What’s your first reaction to the 2012 Tour de France route?
Johan Bruyneel: After seeing it in detail it’s different from what we saw a week ago. Last week we got the big lines but today we filled in the blanks. What’s clear is that there’s almost 100 kilometers of time trialing. For us that is not the best scenario. Plus, there’s the obvious absence of up-hill mountain finishes on big climbs. There’s no Alpe d’Huez, no Ventoux. There’s no finish on the Galibier or Tourmalet. On the other hand, after seeing all the details, there are a lot of mountains.
Bicycling: The fact that there are fewer big uphill finishes could pose a problem for your new recruits, the Schleck brothers.
Johan Bruyneel: Yes and no. If Contador is good, then you just can’t beat him on an uphill finish. If he’s really good, it would be difficult. But here there a lot of good opportunities to attack, and it’s important to have a strong team where you can build a real tactical plan.
Bicycling: Who does this Tour favor?
Bruyneel: It’s definitely a good Tour for Contador and Evans. But it could also be a good Tour for Bradley Wiggins or Tony Martin. It all depends how they get through the mountains. Then again, it will be very difficult for a rider who’s only good at one thing to win this Tour. A pure climber who’s terrible in time trialing cannot win this. And a pure time-trailer who’s terrible in the mountains cannot either. Personally, I think that if Cadel is there the entire three weeks like he was this year, it will be very difficult to beat him.
Bicycling: So you think there are still opportunities for the Schleck brothers to win the 2012 Tour de France?
Bruyneel: After seeing the course I’m not going to say I like it a lot. But I’m not going to leave this room thinking that it’s impossible for us. It’s always the riders who make the race. When it comes to the Tour, you have to be there every single day. Last year we saw that with a guy like Cadel Evans. He was second on Stage 1 and he was the most regular rider throughout. He was not necessarily the best on any given day, but he was always there. That’s the key. The course is one thing; how the riders race is another.
Bicycling: You’ll be working next year with the Schlecks who are poor time-trialers. Do you think they can really improve much?
Bruyneel: They can improve a lot. They’ll never be specialists, but they can definitely improve, make a lot of progress to limit their losses. But again, this year there’s a lot of time trialing. It’s going to be a challenge.