There are two Belgian teams taking the start in Normandy today: Lotto-Soudal and Etixx-Quick.Step. Lotto-Soudal sent 3 Belgian riders, Etixx-Quick.Step just 2 (see list below). However, both Belgian teams will be in the spotlights more than once with their top sprinters Andre Greipel (Lotto) and Marcel Kittel (Etixx).
Greg Van Avermaet competes for the Swiss team BMC and has ambitions to take the yellow jersey tomorrow, when the second stage ends with an uphill finish. This is his cup of tea; last year he even beat a specialist like Peter Sagan in that kind of finish.
Van Avermaet, an East-Fleming, hopes to win the stage and this may well hand him the yellow, as there is no prologue time trial this year. Van Avermaet realises that this is his big chance, but knows competition will be extremely harsh. He had to give up his ambitions for "his" classics, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, after breaking a collar bone early in the Tour of Flanders.
Different roles, different ambitions: who's who?
- Jan Bakelants (30, AG2R): good climber, will have to stand by his young French team mate Romain Bardet, who starts with high ambitions after an excellent Criterium du Dauphiné. Bakelants won a stage in 2014, also taking the yellow jersey. Had an excellent Dauphiné preparation.
- Jens Debusschere (29, Lotto): good sprinter, will have to assist Greipel.
- Jürgen Roelandts (32, Lotto): veteran sprinter and former Belgian champion who is in excellent shape. Will work for Greipel.
- Thomas De Gendt (29, Lotto): a specialist of early breakaways, who will get a free role. However, he will also have to work for Greipel, mainly before the final.
- Sep Vanmarcke (28, Lotto-NL): the West-Fleming is in excellent shape and has found a new role in his Dutch team, helping to prepare the sprints for Dylan Groenewegen.
- Maarten Wynants (34, Lotto-NL): Wynants will serve as an overall 'gregario'.
- Iljo Keisse (33, Etixx): a former track rider, Ghent sprinter Keisse is taking part in his first Tour de France at the age of 33. Will help launching the final sprint for Marcel Kittel.
- Julien Vermote (26, Etixx): working for Julian Alaphilippe and Daniel Martin, two riders with ambitions in the mountains.
- Edward Theuns (25, Trek): young, ambitious rider who will taste his first Tour. Will try to take part in the bunch sprints.
- Jasper Stuyven (24, Trek) another promising youngster. Emerged in the spring classics as a top talent. Will enjoy a kind of free role, but will also have to stand by Fabian Cancellara and Bauke Mollema.
- Serge Pauwels (32, Dimension Data): the Antwerp veteran had an excellent Tour of France last year. Will enjoy a free role to a certain extent, but will also have to work for Mark Cavendish and Boasson Hagen.
- Jurgen Vandenbroeck (33, Katusha): enjoys a second youth with the Russian team. A long-time member of the Belgian Lotto team, he was Belgium's GC hope for years, taking third and fourth place in Paris. Will assist Joaquim Rodriguez, but will also be able to take his chances in the mountains.
- Oliver Naesen (25, IAM): enjoys a free role in a team that will disappear after this season, but has just struck a deal with the French team AG2R for next season. Has nothing to lose in this Tour de France.
- Greg Van Avermaet (31, BMC): see above.