I must admit the Tour de France has me particularly keen this year. On paper it's the next Team Sky's Tour: the British squad is really strong, stronger than ever and as always very focused on just one - yellow - goal. Things are changing though: Chris Froome is the leader again, Geraint Thomas had a rough Tour de Suisse and dismissed any personal ambitions. However I think this is the last Tour of G as an apprentice so I'm watching him close.
It took me a while to get used to a Tour de France without Andy Schleck and honestly I didn't find a real substitute yet, I mean a rider to cheer for who really stands a chance to win it. Don't get me wrong: I like Chris Froome and guys like Contador, Quintana or Porte are real contenders... but I'm not that fond of them. Not that I don't 'like' them, I can go as far as recognising they are very strong riders, but I don't feel involved. By the other side the riders I'm fond of can't really stand a chance: Bauke Mollema, Alexis Vuillermoz, Sep Vanmarcke and Wilco Kekderman, Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiryenka, Maciej Bodnar... they are not here to win the Tour. Mollema and Kelderman are aiming for the GC but a top 5 would be already a great results. Vuillermoz isn't in his best shape and anyway the team leader is Romain Bardet, who's very much in the role. Do I like Bardet? as a rider yes. Does he stand a chance? I don't think so but he - like Pinot - has got to the podium once and he can do it again, however this year it'll be hard. Nieve is here to work for Froome and I doubt he'll have a day off to go winning a stage. That's a pity but that's how Team Sky works. Vanmarcke is here to lead out the young talented Dylan Groenewegen and there is no pavé around, not even a little bit. As far as Kirienka and Bodnar we're going to see them against the clock but moreover pulling the peloton and making it all cry. Glorious!
The big story is far from my heart but I'm very interested in the underplots: the fight for the White jersey is going to be totally great because Quintana, Kelderman and Aru are out of the game. In the sprinters field the battle is also open: Bouhanni couldn't start but the rest is here. I'm specially curious to see how the youths - for ex. Jasper Stuyven - perform against the big ones. The Polka Dot jersey is a different story because probably a GC contender will win it in the end. Others could wear it though, it depends on the way the mountain stages will be raced: just one race - then all points go to the GC riders - or two races at once - points available for a stage winner not so high in the GC. Obviously the last option is the best one for the show, and also for the small teams.
Finally I moved to country home. It isn't that hot in Florence and I have been busy so we came here later than last year. My paradise is intact, as beautiful and quiet as ever. I love this place. Bring on the Tour, I'm ready!