Which Stars Were Left off the Tour de France Start List?

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The Tour de France isn’t just the biggest race of the year for cycling fans. For pro riders, making the team is a sign you’re among the elite of the sport’s elite. So roster competition is intense. Each team gets only eight starters (reduced a few years ago from nine, to make room for a 22nd team). That inevitably means quality riders get left on the outside.

Here’s our unscientific, completely debatable list of the biggest snubs, the strangest inclusions, and the riders we’ll miss who aren’t at the start because of injury or other issues.

Biggest Roster Snubs

Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl)

This marks the first time since 1987 (!!) that the Tour’s reigning green jersey winner won’t defend his title. Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere has been adamant since February that he’d only take one sprinter to the Tour. And that makes sense: there are precious few real sprint opportunities on this year’s route. So we’re not advocating he should bring Cavendish along with Fabio Jakobsen, the team’s pick. We’re saying Lefevere should’ve picked Cav instead. It’s simple: Cavendish is one win shy of the outright record for most Tour stage victories in a career. His current form suggests he’d be a good bet to get one. And, win or lose, the media exposure around that quest would more than make his start worthwhile for a team that seems to be perennially on the hunt for new sponsors. Contrast that to Jakobsen, whose value rises or falls directly on whether he gets a stage win; a string of third places isn’t the result anyone’s looking for. He very well might get a victory, but the Tour is another level of intensity and one he’s never faced.

Transfer Casualties: Soren Kragh Anderson (DSM), Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck)

Every year, riders are left off Tour rosters because they’re reportedly switching teams next year. This is childish, self-destructive decision-making by team managers. It doesn’t help teams on the relegation bubble (points scored don’t follow a rider to a new team); it doesn’t save money (teams pay a rider’s salary whether he races or not); and it certainly doesn’t help a team’s competitiveness at the Tour. Merlier has fresh legs, great form, and a track record of success in the Tour, which Alpecin’s Jasper Philipsen doesn’t (yet). Hermans would provide much-needed depth to Intermarché, which is thin at the Tour because they sent some of their best riders to the Giro in May. And Kragh Anderson, a two-time Tour stage winner, would be DSM’s best rider not named Romain Bardet. Instead, they’ll all be home the first weekend in July.

Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma)

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Dennis came down with COVID at the Tour de Suisse, but it didn’t seem to slow him down much. So he should’ve been an easy pick for Jumbo due to his many talents. In stages with crosswind threats, his superlative time-trial abilities would be perfect insurance against team leaders Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard getting caught on the wrong side of a split. He can help with leadouts for Wout van Aert in sprints. And he’s capable of ripping the pack apart on climbs with pacemaking. Dennis has a rep as a problem child. He’s bailed on several teams due to philosophical differences with management over issues as specific as the fit on a time trial bike. So maybe it’s a team chemistry thing. That’s about the only justification that makes sense for leaving a rider of his talent off the team.

Greg van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citröen)

At 37, van Avermaet’s best days are clearly behind him (although there were some very good days in there). And his form right now doesn’t suggest he’d add to his two Tour stage wins. But it’s still a big mistake to leave him off the roster, for one reason only: Stage 5. That’s the feared “Roubaix” stage, with 11 cobbled sectors. Van Avermaet’s value to the team there would be as a nearly incomparable pilot for team leader Ben O’Connor. O’Connor is mostly a climber, and has almost zero experience with cobbles of any kind—his last race on them was an Under-23 Tour of Flanders, six years ago. Ag2r has other competent Classics riders on its roster, like Oliver Naesen. But none has van Avermaet’s track record of five top-five Paris-Roubaix finishes, including his 2017 win. On a Roubaix-style stage, you need numbers around your leader to deal with the inevitable bad luck. Van Avermaet’s experience here is simply irreplaceable, and Ag2r and O’Connor may learn that the hard way.

Riders We’d Love To See But Sadly Won’t

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty)

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Girmay is simply one of the best stories of the 2022 season, starting with his breakout win at Gent-Wevelgem and continuing to his Stage 10 win in the Giro d’Italia. As one of the only Black riders in the WorldTour, Girmay is a standard bearer not only in his native Eritrea, but for diversifying the peloton in general. He’s a superstar in the making: just 22, supremely talented, and impossible to pigeonhole. Sprints, cobbles, lumpy stages, uphill finishes: he can do it all. Girmay raced the Giro, and the Tour was never in his season plan, but we look forward to seeing him in future editions.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step)

One rider who almost certainly would have gotten a roster spot had he been healthy is current World Champion Alaphilippe. He’s one of the sport’s most magnetic stars and for good reason: he’s won at least one stage in each of his last four Tours, and in 2019 held the yellow jersey for an incredible two straight weeks. Alas, “Alapanache” is still recovering from a horrific high-speed crash in late April’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, when a big fall in the pack forced him off the road and into a tree, which put him in the hospital with injuries including a collapsed lung. He only just did his first race back and clearly needs more time to return to his characteristic form.

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

OK, we’ll be honest: Lopez would be interesting mostly for the drama. Who could forget last year’s Vuelta Espana, where he was third overall and won one of the hardest stages in the race, and then inexplicably dropped out two days later amid a massive rift with his then-team, Movistar? Lopez is twice a podium finisher at Grand Tours but hasn’t finished one, period, since the 2020 Tour de France. The move back to his former team, Astana, probably doesn’t help the drama at all as Astana is one of the most dysfunctional outfits in the sport. Hopefully Lopez will figure out whatever has been bothering him and return to form. But in the meantime it would make for entertaining viewing.

Late Scratches (COVID or injury)

After COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the Tour de Suisse it seemed likely that the Tour might follow suit. So far it’s been pretty quiet, with Quick-Step’s Tim DeClerq the only late roster swap due to a positive. And new, relaxed UCI rules on whether riders who are positive must leave the race make it less likely that we’ll see mass DNFs like in Switzerland. But it still could happen before the start. Another issue is injury. Here, our eyes are all on Jumbo’s Wout van Aert, who didn’t race the Belgian National Championships as originally planned after banging his knee during a training camp. Will he start? Almost certainly. Unless he doesn’t.

Most Puzzling Inclusions

Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech)

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Is it weird to list a four-time Tour winner as unworthy of a roster spot? Yeah. But Chris Froome’s career since his horrific 2019 crash while warming up for a time trial at the Criterium du Dauphiné has been plenty weird. It’s amazing that Froome was able to recover from injuries like a complex open femur fracture to simply race as a pro again. But since his recovery, he’s clearly not the Froome of 2011-2018. He’s been largely anonymous, sometimes struggling to even finish races. A glimpse of hope at late May’s Classic Alpes-Maritimes (11th place, by far his best race finish post-crash) was followed by another slump and DNF at the Dauphiné. Froome is here because he’s a “name” and will attract some media. But in terms of his role in the race, it’s hard to argue for him over Patrick Bevin or Giacomo Nizzolo, two riders left off the roster.

Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma)

On the flip side of the Rohan Dennis-snub coin, van Hooydonck is clearly the odd man out on Jumbo’s roster of hitters. It’s not that van Hooydonck is a bad rider (you don’t become a WorldTour rider by sucking). It’s that it’s not all that clear what he adds that Dennis, or Mike Teunnisen, or Timo Roosen, wouldn’t do as well or better. As a Classics rider, van Hooydonck’s likeliest role is to help keep team leaders Roglič and Vingegaard safe in the first week’s crosswinds and cobbles. And he’s capable of the job. But if one or the other of the team’s top guys is on the wrong side of a split, here’s betting that Jumbo will wish it had Dennis’s or Teunissen’s horsepower to haul it back.

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