Matt White believes this year's Tour de France route is effectively two different bike races in one, thanks to the inclusion of the stage three team time trial and stage nine run in to Roubaix over the iconic pavé.
The Michelton-Scott director predicts that these two stages could end some general classification contenders assault on the yellow jersey before the race reaches the Alps.
"The first nine days is really damage control for most people, when we get to the Alps we will already have an idea of the lay of the land already which is quite strange," White said.
"I’m predicting that some GC teams will lose between two and three minutes in that team time trial.
The inclusion of the team time trial for the first time since 2016 has influenced White and the team's decision to commit 100 per cent to Adam Yates GC challenge at the expense of young sprinter Caleb Ewan.
"If there was no team time trial that certainly would have an effect on our team on who would have made it or not for a couple of spots because it is actually one of our fortes," White added.
It’s a 33 kilometre route, so it’s a serious distance and its certainly going to impact the race, if you lose two minutes at the Tour de France it is a lot harder to peg back than at the Giro d'Italia for example."
The second hurdle the peloton must face in the first week is the 21.3 kilometres of cobbles on stage nine, which the Australian outfit have adapted their line up specifically for with the inclusion of 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Matthew Hayman.
"With the pavé, bad luck is bad luck, but if you’ve got a team around you then you lessen your chances of being caught in those situations. A team like Movistar for example probably have the same roster, as it is not like they’ve got an abundance of guys who excel on the pavé.
"Whereas a team like ourselves have got guys who have real specialists on the pavé and that’s going to be advantageous to Adam’s chances on that day. I really do think that half of the GC contenders will be considerably down on time before a climb has even started."
Despite the stacked field lining up in Vendée, White is confident that Yates can emulate and succeed his twin brother's efforts at the Giro d'Italia to take his place on the podium; even if Team Sky are still the team to beat.
"We are definitely aiming for the podium, but I’d still say Froome is favourite, because they have the strongest team on the start line and they have a guy who they know can finish it off," White said.
"And I expect similar tactics from Sky to take the yellow jersey from stage three in the team time trial."
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Paul Knott is a fitness and features writer, who has also presented Cycling Weekly videos as well as contributing to the print magazine as well as online articles. In 2020 he published his first book, The Official Tour de France Road Cycling Training Guide (Welbeck), a guide designed to help readers improve their cycling performance via cherrypicking from the strategies adopted by the pros.
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