The 2020 Tour de France promises to be unlike any other in its long history. After a delayed start to the UCI WorldTour season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 107th edition of the Grand Boucle begins this Saturday in the coastal town of Nice and is scheduled to finish September 20 in Paris. With such a short lead-up to the Tour following the WorldTour season restart on August 1, many expect the year's first grand tour to be a wide-open affair.
The route for the 2020 Tour is unconventional compared to recent years, lacking many of the iconic climbs like L’Alpe d’Huez and Mount Ventoux. But at the same time this year’s Tour is one of the most mountainous routes ever, traveling through the Alps, Massif Central, Pyrenees, Jura and Vosges ranges. It includes 29 categorized climbs and five summit finishes. There is no team time trial this year and just one 36km individual time trial on Stage 20, the penultimate day of racing, which could prove pivotal to general classification riders.
CCC Team president Jim Ochowicz said chasing stage wins will be the primary goal. “It is a great feeling to be heading to the Tour de France again in a year where we didn’t know if it would be possible,” Ochowicz said. “Tour de France stage wins are not easy to come by but we have selected our strongest eight riders to line up in Nice, half of whom are past stage winners—which gives us a lot of confidence ahead of the race.”
Van Avermaet, who has scored a number of top finishes in recent weeks including top-10s at Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche and second overall at the Tour de Wallonie, said he is happy with his form heading into the race.
“I think every day will be even more of a fight than ever, for both the stage wins and general classification,” said the Belgian star who is racing his seventh Tour de France. “So we’re in for a tough race. But that suits me and I think there are a few stages that are good for me. We have a strong team with a lot of experience and I think we can work well together to achieve the team’s goals.”
Beyond stage wins, CCC Team will also look for opportunities in the mountain stages and general classification. Zakarin, Simon Geschke, Jan Hirt and Alessandro de Marchi will be the key men for the climbs, said Steve Bauer, the team’s head sports director.
“We know that this is a demanding edition of the Tour de France so it was important to choose riders who can be up there and race aggressively on the hilly stages,” Bauer said. “There will of course be some stages that are a pure general classification battle and are very controlled but we always see a few of those key breakaway stages and it will be important for our riders to be there when it matters and our strength will prevail.”
Zakarin will likely be the team’s top threat in the GC. The 30-year-old Russian has finished top-five overall at the Giro d’Italia and has stage wins at both the Giro (2019) and the Tour de France (2016).
“My legs are good and I am looking forward to racing,” Zakarin said. “The plan is just to dive into the race and keep going day by day, and I think many decisions and goals will form within the first week.”
Team riders will race primarily on the new TCR Advanced SL Disc bike with CADEX WheelSystems and saddles. They also have the Propel Advanced SL Disc aero road bike for flatter stages, along with the Trinity Advanced Pro TT bike and CADEX Aero WheelSystems for the Stage 20 time trial.
CCC Team 2020 Tour de France roster
Alessandero De Marchi (ITA) - 4 participations
Simon Geschke (GER) - 7 participations
Jan Hirt (CZE) - 1st Tour de France
Jonas Koch (GER) - 1st Tour de France
Michael Schär (SUI) - 9 participations
Matteo Trentin (ITA) - 5 participations
Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) - 7 participations
Ilnur Zakarin (RUS) - 3 participations