Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Charly Wegelius expects a tough and nervous opening week to next year’s Tour de France and believes that David Millar’s decision to announce now that he will retire at the end of the 2014 season may set the Scottish rider up for a spectacular final year in the peloton.
Speaking to road.cc in Paris yesterday after the route presentation Wegelius, who rode the race three times and in 2007 was the highest placed British rider at 45th overall, said: “The three standout things about it are the Vosges mountains, which makes it a race with three mountain ranges, which isn’t to be underestimated.
“I think the first five days are going to be extremely challenging, because the first two stages in England are very, very tough and then you have the cobbled sections on Stage 5.
“Then there’s the fact that there’s only one time trial.
“Those are the three standout things, but I think the Pyrenees are going to be much more crucial than last year.”
Stage 5 sees the return of pavé to the Tour de France, the stage finishing at Arenberg Porte de Hainaut, just as it did in 2010.
That day put paid to Fränk Schleck’s Tour as he crashed out with a broken collarbone and Wegelius expects it to be a nervous day for many.
“I think that the stress is going to be very, very high, because there’s potentially some riders in there who’ve never ridden on cobbles,” he reflected.
“I don’t know if Quintana’s ridden on cobbles, for example.
“And as usual, if you go into those sections on a one-day race, in a Classic, the people who are there have been chosen for that job, they’ve trained for it.
“But I think often that can mean that accidents apart, it can cancel out the significance of the event.
“We’ve seen the Giro d’Italia start in Holland and in Denmark with potentially very high crosswinds, but the composition of the group with many more climbers and non-specialists makes it something of a non-event.
“Hopefully there won’t be enough crashes that it will affect the event in a permanent way but I think it’s going to be extremely stressful for a lot of non-specialists.”
One man who proved he could cope with the cobbles in that 2010 stage was Garmin-Sharp’s own Ryder Hesjedal, who got in the early break then went on a solo attack and finished in the front group of six, with Thor Hushovd taking the victory.
Wegelius says the toughness of that opening week – the Yorkshire Grand Depart is officially described as the hardest start to the race in more than 30 years – doesn’t impact team selection, however.
“I don’t think you would go so far as to leave at home a good GC rider on the basis of one day on the cobbles, you just have to plan around that and face up to it, but I think the absence of another time trial could impact some people’s distribution of resources,” he explained.
Last week, David Millar, who joined Slipstream-Chipotle, as Garmin Sharp then was, in 2007 and became part owner of its management company the following year, said that he will retire at the end of the season.
Wegelius believes that announcing the decision now can be a platform for Millar to end his career on a high note.
“I think next year for David, he’s done a very good thing in that he’s made the decision now and he’s got the whole winter to be at peace with that,” he said.
“I think that we could see some really good results from him because he’s got the joy of doing things for the last time.
“He’s had time to get his head around that and I think you could see him being very, very productive.
“Some things you don’t like doing, you can do with a light heart because you know it’s the last time, and he’s not going to let chances go by him.”
On Millar’s influence on the team, he said: “He’s really been a guiding light for the whole team on a sports level and also on a little bit of a spiritual level too.
“He’s really made a massive impact on the team and I think everybody can stand back and admire him.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.