Tour de France

Punchers to come out in force at Tour

2016-07-03 12:52
Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data website)

Saint-Lo - After sprint king Mark Cavendish triumphed in Saturday's opening stage at the Tour de France, it will be the turn of the punchers to climb into contention for a stage win on Sunday.

However, it will also be a chance for overall challengers to perhaps gain a few seconds on each other due to the short uphill finish on the 183km stage from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.

For certain teams it means split loyalties, such as Team Giant for whom Frenchman Warren Barguil is the team leader but the likes of John Degenkolb and Tom Dumoulin could compete for the stage.

Degenkolb, back racing six months after a frightening head-on collision with a car while training in the Spanish mountains, will perhaps have to sacrifice his chances to keep Barguil up with the leaders.

"For tomorrow (Sunday) we will focus on Warren and place him in a good position. With Tom and John, we will see on the day what is possible," said Giant coach Marc Reef.

Etixx-Quick Step won't have the same problems as their only aim at this Tour is stage wins.

After Marcel Kittel came second to Cavendish, they have a two-pronged attack on stage two in the form of Ireland's Dan Martin and France's Julien Alaphilippe.

Sunday's finish will suit Ardennes Classics riders such as Martin, the 2013 Liege-Basrtogne-Liege winner, and Alaphilippe, runner-up at the Fleche-Wallonne race two years in a row.

But for multiple Ardennes Classics winner Alejandro Valverde, there will be split loyalties.

His primary role is to keep team leader and overall contender Nairo Quintana out of trouble and, if possible, help the Colombian gain time on his rivals such as reigning champion Chris Froome.

But otherwise, Valverde would be amongst the favourites for a stage win.

Two-time former Tour winner Alberto Contador may have to go on the defensive on Sunday and try to avoid losing time following his crash on the first stage.

He injured his entire right side, in particular his shoulder.

"Fortunately nothing is broken and I'll try to pass the next few days the best I can to recover before the mountains," he said.

Other riders likely to challenge are Cavendish's Dimension Data team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway.

However, Boasson Hagen was another to come a cropper on Saturday, crashing in the finale.

His chances will depend on how quickly he recovers from his injuries, although his African team were sharing positive vibes.

"EBH is okay & celebrating with us!" said Team Dimension Data on Twitter, referring to the Cavendish's victory.

The other main issue will see a battle for the king of the mountains jersey in the day's breakaway with five points available over four categorised climbs.

German Paul Voss will wear the polkadot mountains classification jersey after taking both climbing points on offer on Saturday.

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