Alex

Undefeated in 2015, a total sweep of the Giro, and he’s only now getting into shape. The Lion of Leroy is taking on the toughest field and the biggest Grand Tour yet.

After winning every jersey he was eligible to win and riding a perfect SOL thus far in 2015, it’s Alex Vanias’ Tour Competition to lose. This Thursday, July 2, Stage One takes off for the deepest Tour to date, with a solid field that won’t have any problem keeping Vanias a marked man.

So far, Vanias has made the Trouee de Madeleine is personal playground. As it’s been noted before, if Tom Boonen has the Tainenberg, and Phillipe Gilbert the Cauberg, Vanias has made Madeleine’s Trail his own personal property. He’s used the new addition to SOL to split the race nearly every week, a sort of opening blow before a decisive knockout later on. Only a few riders have made the move with him, and it’s a short list that must ride high for GC as a direct result.

Ryan Kennedy is one of those few, but his appearances have been few and far between. His third place finish last week was his first appearance in almost a month due to work commitments, and he’s a big question mark going forward as Einstein Racing’s team leader. Jason Lowetz will be the team’s co-leader, supported by a deep squad that includes Chris Kushman, Jason Whittaker, Cody Sovis, Luke Tjosvold and Craig Fortuna, just to name a few. The squad is also looking to keep it’s perfect record of Grand Tour Team Competition wins alive, especially after a scare from City Bike at the Giro this spring.

M-22’s Sean Kickbush has survived Madeleine’s with Vanias and will have Keegan Myers and Chad Jordan on hand in support. The trio should be a solid team and will look to take the yellow jersey on Stage One, and then use the other rider as bait to force others to work. If they can field all three riders each week, they’ll be a formidable group with which everyone will have to contend.

Hagerty Cycling field’s last week’s runner-up Craig Webb, but with Webb expected to miss the final week for a trip to the actual Tour de France, they’ll need big performances from Steve Andriese, Lars Welton and Rob Goepfrich for a shot at the Best Old Rider’s jersey, a competition they’ve taken to heart the past two years. The move of Goepfrich from Einstein to Hagerty essentially gave Hagerty the Best Old Rider’s most recent podiums all in the same kit.

Interestingly, it’s Hagerty that will have the most women and the most to fight for in the Women’s GC against the on fire Kaitlyn Patterson, although Patterson is rumored to be moving before the conclusion. They’ll have Laura Webb and the tough Susan Vigland in their line-up, supported with Heidi and Emma Schwab, as well.

City Bike Shop will likely field Beth Craven and Lauri Brockmiller for the Women’s GC, and importantly for their Team Competition, it gives them two more chances to slot times. CBS ceded a Stage One Giro lead in the team competition to failing to finish, the same fate that befell McLain’s efforts after great starts from Eric Grassa and Marc Brunette. CBS has two great options in Tom White and Josh Zelinski. Both riders are rock solid, and Zelinksi seems to have hit an entirely new level this spring, and is hoping his fitness from Lumberjack 100 kicks in at the perfect time in July.

Stage One is as pure a stage as you can ask for, with straight forward points and no time bonuses. It’ll keep the GC close but lend it some amount of shape heading into the KOM Stage a week later.