The main Tour de France sprinters are all taking very different routes to the big race in July. Find out where they will be racing ahead of the Grand Départ on July 2
The Manxman has spent a great deal of time in the velodrome this year when he’s not been racing on the road, looking for a place in the omnium for Team GB.
Usually, before the Tour, Cavendish takes in the Tour de Suisse or the ZLM Toer, but this year he is off to sunny Slovenia for a shot at some stage wins.
On paper Cavendish should be the strongest sprinter in the race and he’s coming off a winning finish at the Tour of California three weeks ago, but the Dimension Data man will be keen not to peak too early ahead of the opening sprint stages of the Tour de France.
Cavendish has his eye on the race’s first yellow jersey so will be keen to reach his top form on July 2, but he should have enough in the bag to win at least one stage in Slovenia.
Marcel Kittel & Andre Greipel
The German powerhouses are going head-to-head for the sixth time this year at the ZLM Toer, having also battled each other in the Algarve, Paris-Nice, De Panne, Scheldeprijs and the Giro d’Italia.
Kittel won back-to-back stages at the Giro, but Greipel won three in total in the 12 stages he raced. He also recently won a day at the Tour of Luxembourg and finished second in the Rund um Koln on Sunday.
Kittel hasn’t raced since abandoning the Giro after stage eight and will be looking to take advantage of the ZLM Toer’s pan flat stages to notch up some wins.
Greipel won the overall classification in last year’s edition, thanks to two stage wins, which catapulted him into his most successful Tour de France yet – winning four stages in total.
With his digit wrapped up, the German has been steady in his 17 race days thus far, but hasn’t really challenged for a win as of yet.
Two stage races will be all that Degenkolb gets as a warm up to the Tour de France, with his best result coming on the final stage in California, where he finished fifth.
He also notched a top 10 on stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné in a race where there weren’t many opportunities for the fast men.
With his lack of racing it’ll probably be too much of an ask for Degenkolb to walk away with his first stage win at the Tour de France, but he’ll be up there on most of the flat days.
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) has stage wins in the Giro and the Vuelta, but not at the Tour de France. The Frenchman has warmed up well for the Grand Boucle this year, with a hard-fought (literally) stage win in the Dauphiné to continue an excellent season.
At Cofidis, Bouhanni enjoys a team that is completely built around delivering him to stage wins, and he’s taken eight wins already this year, including four in WorldTour races.
He’s got a bit of a reputation of bottling it at the Tour de France, abandoning last year on stage five in pretty innocuous circumstances. Indeed, in the two Tours he has started he has never reached stage seven.
Bouhanni is a great sprinting talent, though, and can beat anyone in the peloton on his day. It just depends whether his day comes in the month of July this year.
Compared to his unbelievable exploits in 2015, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is having a pretty sedate season so far. Any normal rider would call it a reasonably good year, but when you set the bar so high you’re always going to struggle.
The Norwegian came second on stage three of the Dauphiné – the stage where Fabio Aru denied the sprinters any glory – and that was about it for him.
Kristoff struggled at the Tour last year, with two third places his best results, and could find himself in a similar position again this year in a strong field.
There’s no doubt where his strengths lie, but there are faster riders in the peloton than him this year and he could walk away winless again this year.
Peter Sagan & Michael Matthews
Sagan is already enjoying himself, winning two stages in imperious fashion within the first three days, while Matthews has struggled to reach top speed.
The Australian has enjoyed a bit of a strange season, having only raced 16 days so far – less than even Degenkolb. But he’s won a fair few races, claiming two stages at Paris-Nice, winning the Vuelta a La Rioja and finished fifth at the Amstel Gold Race.
But finishing behind someone like Maximiliano Richeze (Etixx-Quick Step) in Switzerland isn’t what the doctor ordered ahead of the Tour.
Sagan, meanwhile, looks pretty unstoppable. He may not win many pure sprint stages at the Tour, but the green jersey is almost nailed on to his back for another year.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) produced some solid rides at the Dauphiné, finishing in the top 10 in all three of the stages that were designed for the sprinters.
He almost nicked a win on stage one – opening up the sprint first on the run in to Saint-Vulbas, but Bouhanni stopped headbutting Katusha riders in time to storm past him.
Bennett doesn’t really like the mountains at the Tour de France and was under the weather for a lot of his debut last year, but he will certainly have his eye on some strong performances in the first week this year.
Bryan Coquard & Arnaud Démare
Both riders are scheduled to ride the Route du Sud this week, but FDJ’s plan to support Thibaut Pinot in the Tour could see them leave Démare behind.
Direct Energie, though, don’t really have a general classification hopeful, so will once again be backing the likes of Thomas Voeckler and Coquard to deliver stage wins and a bit of entertainment.
Coquard is having a great year with 11 wins already, albeit all in quite minor French races. But he’s mixed it with the best at the Amstel Gold Race (fourth), De Brabantse Pijl (fourth) and the Tour of California (three top 10s).
Démare, meanwhile, hasn’t really displayed the kind of form that will win him a last-minute inclusion to the Tour. Yes, he won Milan-San Remo and got two second-places at the Giro, but he’s not raced since abandoning the Grand Tour on stage 14.
Maybe FDJ will save him for the Vuelta, but maybe they’ll give him a shot at the Tour as well.