Liquigas dominated the Grand Tours in 2010 by winning the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, but the Tour de France seemed to evade them. It is not clear if they are going to focus on the biggest of them all this year. With the likes of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali they could prove to be a strong challenge for Andy Schleck.
The Spanish team are the newly named version of Caisse d’Epargne, who pulled their sponsorship at the end of last year. Movistar have had a better start to the season than in the past few years with a victory in the Tour Down Under. David Arroyo and Xavier Tondo will be their best bets for GC success, but their best option will be to go for stage victories.
Losing Tom Boonen to injury last year was a big hit and the team will be hoping the Belgian can ride this time around. Despite the loss of the big Belgian they fared well after Sylvain Chavanel took two stage victories and wore the yellow jersey twice. Jerome Pineau also put up a good challenge in a not particularly well contested King of the Mountains competition.
Rabobank Cycling Team
The American team made their debut in 2010 with seven-time former winner Lance Armstrong as their leader. RadioShack only claimed one victory last year when Sergio Paulinho edged it on the line on Stage 10. They will be without Armstrong this time around as the Texan has completed his last international race at the Tour Down Under. With Levi Leipheimer’s age against him at 37 it is unclear who will take the team leader role.
Saur - Sojasun
Andy Schleck nearly gave the team the perfect leaving present in 2010, but his time-trialling skills let him down and gave Alberto Contador the final victory. Bjarne Riis’ team looked to be on the brink after a mass exodus of riders at the end of the season, but the signing of Contador seemed to revitalise them along with SunGard. The Spaniard’s participation is now doubtful and they don’t have the riders to compensate; without Contador they will just be looking for some stage victories.
Another debut team to the Tour de France Vacansoleil put in some good performances last year earning it ProTour status. The Dutch team won two stages in the Tour of Britain with Wout Poels and Borut Bozic. They won’t make much of an impact on the GC, but they could certainly cause some trouble with a breakaway.
One of the big surprises in the team announcement with the omission of Geox-TM after missing out on a ProTour licence and failing to get a wildcard entry. This means that 2010 third placeman Denis Menchov will have to refocus his season and former winner Carlos Sastre will also be let out. The 2011 tour starts July 2nd and roles in to Paris on the 24th.