Sprinters forced into somewhat different preparation due to challenging start Tour de France

Last week saw a new edition of the Tour de Suisse in the Alps, attracting many climbers due to the numerous elevation gains that were on the menu almost every day. However, a closer look at the participants list also revealed several sprinters. Why?

Bryan Coquard, representing Cofidis, won the first stage, beating Michael Matthews of Jayco AlUla. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) was also in contention that day, though a chain issue hindered his chances for victory. Yet, none of them can be truly defined as pure sprinters.

We also noted the presence of Pascal Ackermann and his lead-out Michael Schwarzmann for Israel-Premier Tech, Arkéa - B&B Hotels’ hopeful Arnaud Démare, BORA-hansgrohe’s Jordi Meeus, and the full sprint train of Astana Qazaqstan Team for Mark Cavendish, including Michael Morkov and Cees Bol. And let's not forget Marijn van den Berg (EF) and Axel Laurance ( Alpecin-Deceuninck), both capable climbers who might ride the Tour.

We asked Bol about their participation. "Training is why we are here. It’s not difficult. It’s nice to race in the final, but that’s not possible for us here. The first day there was a chance, but it didn’t work out. Overall, we know why we are here," said the Dutchman.

Continue reading below the photo.

sprinters forced into somewhat different preparation due to challenging start tour de france

Cavendish is aiming for his 35th stage win in July, but the days when there were four sprint opportunities in the first week are over. "The Tour starts off very tough again, so it’s just good to start with strong climbing legs. We need to be ready, and it’s looking good so far," Bol explained, noting that his sprinter Cavendish handled the mountains well.

"We got through it relatively well," Cavendish himself said. "Of course, it was never going to be a race full of stage wins for me and my sprint group, but I’m pleased with how we and the sprinter’s group performed. We did well on a tough course, and it’s good preparation for the Tour de France. I’m very happy with it."

Good climbing and race rhythm are crucial for sprinters heading into the Tour

Bol also managed to climb well, as he explained. "The form is there. We had a good altitude camp. It’s hard to really measure form in Switzerland, but I feel good. We still have some days — and the Dutch National Championships — to do some specific work. I have ambitions for the Nationals, but it’s always a tough race. There are a few big teams at the start, so the responsibility will lie with them. Then comes the Tour, with me, Mark and Michael as a clear group. Is there extra pressure? The Tour is always exciting," Bol said confidently.

Van den Berg also rode the Swiss race mainly to fine-tune for the Tour. "I’m closing the Tour de Suisse on a positive note. It was about working on my form. I had some bad luck on the first day, which was unfortunate. After that, I turned it into a good training session, so that’s great."

Some other sprinters chose different paths: Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Fabio Jakobsen (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) competed in the Baloise Belgium Tour, while Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Sam Bennett (Decathlon AG2R) chose the Critérium du Dauphiné. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) opted for the Tour of Slovenia. Essentially, no sprinters are heading to France unprepared, unless we count Wout van Aert in that category.

Continue reading below the photo.

sprinters forced into somewhat different preparation due to challenging start tour de france

Jakobsen trained in Spain, Philipsen in Tenerife and La Plagne

Like Cavendish, Jakobsen focused on endurance leading up to the Tour. "Literally more cycling and more focus on going from A to B, so I have more left in the final kilometers," he described his training in Spain. "We shouldn’t just focus on those last ten, fifteen or thirty seconds because a race is ultimately four or five hours plus a sprint. It’s a matter of fine-tuning. You don’t suddenly go from two to six hours. It’s in the details."

At Alpecin-Deceuninck (Philipsen), they chose the same path as for the successful 2023 season. "We basically followed the same approach as last year," said the Belgian. "I first trained in Tenerife, where I completed the necessary altitude meters, and then we went to La Plagne for an altitude camp with the team."

"From there, we actually went straight to the Baloise Belgium Tour, so we haven't been idle. I always need that race rhythm. It's good to race for five days now to aim for victory and to automate certain things. Heading towards the Tour, we have worked on peak form," said the defending champion, who, just like last year in Bilbao, will now spend the first few days in Florence getting into the rhythm.

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