More Americans than last year will race in the 2018 Tour de France. Of course, only three competed in 2017, and only five will take the starting line in Noirmoutier on Saturday. That said, while the US still seems to be stuck in a Tour-participation dry spell, we do have two debutants this year—and all five American riders are under 30. Here’s a look at who they are and how they might fare:
IAN BOSWELL (27, KATUSHA-ALPECIN)
Boswell spent five seasons with Team Sky after joining the World Tour, patiently waiting for his chance to ride in France. Despite doing his best—including extended time training with Chris Froome—to earn a spot on the super team’s Tour roster, the opportunity just never came. So Boswell transferred to Katusha-Alpecin this past offseason, looking for a new start. It paid off: Boswell will come to the race as a key support rider for Ilnur Zakarin, the team’s General Classification hopeful. But he’ll certainly have a chance to ride for himself when the moment is right.
Best-Case Scenario: With Zakarin’s top-five GC placing all but assured, Boswell goes on the attack in the third week, taking Katusha’s first Tour stage victory since 2014.
LAWSON CRADDOCK (26, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE)
Craddock is back two years after starting (and finishing) the Tour de France for the first time. Since this is only his fourth Grand Tour, it may be unfair to expect more from him than supporting team leader Rigoberto Uran throughout the race (and especially in the mountains). Should plans change, though, he’s a perfect stage hunter via a long breakaway—perhaps in the third week, once the General Classification has been sorted and riders start to race more defensively.
Best-Case Scenario: Craddock goes on the attack in the Pyrenees during the third week to support Uran later on, but stays away to ride for a top-three stage finish.
CHAD HAGA (29, TEAM SUNWEB)
Haga is making his Tour debut after steadily working his way up the ladder at Team Sunweb. His selection is quite an honor, as Sunweb aims to win this year with Tom Dumoulin. Haga is a great choice for the team, as he’ll provide firepower in the Stage 3 team time trial (he finished seventh in the Giro’s long time trial in May) and once the race hits the mountains in weeks two and three. He’s also a great rider to follow on Twitter, where his insights and sense of humor are among the best in the pro peloton.
Best-Case Scenario: After nearly three weeks of riding for Dumoulin, Haga rides for himself in the individual time trial and earns his first top-three stage finish at a Grand Tour.
TAYLOR PHINNEY (28, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE)
Phinney raced his first Tour de France last year and almost immediately made his mark by spending Stage 2 in a breakaway and earning the event’s first polka dot jersey. It seemed to rejuvenate his career, which almost ended after he struggled to come back from a serious crash in 2014. But Phinney clearly benefited from his Tour debut, as evidenced by his eighth-place finish in April’s Paris-Roubaix, one of the hardest one-day races on the calendar. He’s fresh, healthy, and ready to make more waves.
Best-Case Scenario: Phinney makes the leading group on the cobbles of Stage 9 and escapes to win the stage.
TEJAY VAN GARDEREN (29, TEAM BMC)
After finishing fifth in the 2012 and 2014 Tours, van Garderen looked liked the next great American contender. But due to sickness, bad luck, and just plain bad legs, his yellow jersey never materialized. He skipped last year’s Tour, opting to ride the Giro d’Italia instead. Once his GC chances there faded, he went searching for stage wins and was rewarded when he took Stage 18 for the biggest victory of his career so far. He’s riding the Tour this year in support of Richie Porte, where he’ll be valuable in both the team time trial and in the mountains. With BMC rumored to be folding at the end of the season, he’s riding for his next contract as well.
Best-Case Scenario: Given a slightly longer leash during the third week, van Garderen goes on the attack in the Pyrenees to score the first Tour stage win of his career.
Article Source: Bicycling