The Giro Rosa is underway and the Tour de France starts tonight! What to expect from our five Kiwis tackling the two biggest races in the world for men and women? We have a think and make our predictions.
Starting tonight the two biggest stage races in cycling will get underway, with the Giro Rosa for the women and Tour de France for the men providing plenty of sleep-deprived days ahead. Kiwis Patrick Bevin, Tom Scully, George Bennett, Mikayla Harvey and Deborah Paine will be taking on the two races between them. Here’s what we expect as they get ready for racing which starts tonight with the Giro Rosa and tomorrow evening with the Tour de France.
George Bennett – super domestique
The first of the Kiwis to be confirmed as racing the Tour de France, George has long made it known that this would be a goal for the season; but not from a leadership perspective. George is here as lieutenant and super-domestique to Jumbo-Visma teammate Steven Kruijswijk. It is a thrilling prospect seeing the duo working together on a GC campaign, but if all goes well for the team with Kruijswijk don’t be surprised to see Bennett’s name not at the top of the results sheet in the mountains.
Bennett’s priority for leadership is the Vuelta a Espana later this year, and for that reason he is likely to play a more sacrificial role in the mountains and likely spend his matches earlier in the climbs so that Kruijswijk can keep his powder dry for when it matters most. However, the Tour de France virtually guarantees bad days for every contender; it’s just a matter of how bad those bad days are and when they happen.
For Bennett to enjoy freedom to chase a result for himself I expect Kruijswijk’s GC campaign will need to falter; something that no one wants to see. While from a Kiwi fan perspective that could be making the best of a bad situation and the silver lining to a cloud; Bennett’s priority #1 is to work for his teammate.
Mikayla Harvey – youthful unpredictability
At just 20 years of age and getting her first taste of cycling’s biggest race, Mikayla Harvey of Bigla Pro Cycling has had a thrilling 2019 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. The Kiwi took her first pro win earlier this year, but at the Giro Rosa it will again be domestique duties for her; in the service of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. The pair have collaborated on a number of great campaigns in one-day and stage race events; looking like a great duo on the road and a natural fit. She’s gotten her campaign off to a brilliant start, finishing second in the Giro Rosa’s opening team time trial and sitting at the top of the standings in the young rider classification.
Patrick Bevin – diverse opportunity
He’s vocally targeting the time trial in stage 13 as his big goal, but of all the Kiwis lining up for the Tour de France we think it’s Patrick Bevin who has the most freedom . . . that’s gotten us excited. The national TT champion has shown he can perform against the clock, in a sprint and on a climb from a breakaway and that puts him in possibly the best form he’s ever been in to finally take a first individual NZ stage win. The great thing is that he’s genuinely excited about racing this year. In a team that has no GC challenger they will be targeting any and every opportunity they can take; making them a real danger in stage finishes.
Deborah Paine – first taste of Europe
It’s an interesting statistic that in the 20 race days that Deborah Paine has enjoyed in 2019 so far not one of them has been on the European circuit. What a way to start your European campaign with the biggest race on the calendar! It’s an interesting opportunity that Paine and Cogeas-Mettler have. I don’t expect them to be able to match the likes of CCC-Liv, Mitchelton-SCOTT and Boels-Dolmans in the high mountain stages, but their unknown-ness compared to some of the sport’s giants could make them a threat similar to Patrick Bevin and CCC. Look out for them to be infiltrating breakaways, with much time to make up after day 1’s team time trial.
Tom Scully – driving the train
Of the five Kiwis racing the Tour de France and Giro Rosa, expect few to have such a big impact but to go so relatively unnoticed in the results as Tom Scully. He’s an absolute diesel of a rider, and you often see him pop up when the peloton is in full flight at 60kph in the final 20km or so, but never for himself. He is to EF Education First what Sam Bewley is to Mitchelton-SCOTT. He will do the dirty work for his GC men; of which the team have at least three candidates. It will be interesting to see who the team – and therefore Tom – will end up supporting as the race develops. Expect stage 6 to be quite decisive in that regard.