Four Kiwis will be lining up as the 105th edition of the Tour de France gets underway tonight. Jack Bauer, Patrick Bevin and Dion Smith all return to the Tour after competing last year, while Tom Scully makes his debut.
Radio Sport's Brenton Vannisselroy and Lucy Thomson caught up with Bauer, Bevin and Smith ahead of the biggest cycling race of the year.
Q: You've been picked for the Tour in a support role for your team leader – how well do you think they will go?
Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott): We have a lot of horsepower to look after Adam Yates and his challenge for the overall. I'll look after him for the first half of the race and especially in the team time trial on stage three. The win would be a big shock, he's a young up-and-coming kid, but I would say a podium would be a huge achievement. He's been near the podium in the past, so that will be well within his grasp.
Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing): We go there with Richie Porte trying to win the race. This team goes in with a pretty singular focus and not too much deviates from that. You've got to back your guy and from what I've seen this season I think Richie's an athlete who can definitely win the Tour. He's come in really well this year – if there's a year it's going to happen it's going to be great to be a part of it.
Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): Later in the Tour, I'll help out our climber [Guillaume Martin] who was 23rd on general classification last year and is going a lot better this year.
Q: What are your best chances of individual success?
JB: I'd say with the squad we have here we're in with the top two or three teams expected to win the [team time trial] stage. I've had a team time trial win years ago (2012) in the Giro d'Italia, but to notch one up in the Tour de France would be something special.
PB: The individual time trial is the very last proper stage so depending on how much we've ridden and how hard it's been, maybe you have a go there with what you have left in the tank.
DS: The first nine days looks like it will suit me a little bit more before we hit the big mountain stages, so I'll look to hopefully grab a top 10 finish in one of those stages and also maybe get in a breakaway.
Q: What have you learnt from riding in the Tour last year?
JB: It's a special race, and it's one you've got to take really seriously. Everyone wants to start the Tour in theory, but in reality when it comes around you have to be in pretty good mental and physical shape to get something out of yourself and bring something to the team. It definitely gets easier as you know how to approach it and how to build for it. I'll be lining up for another month of pain.
PB: It's phenomenal how big and hard and how many moving parts there are in the Tour, so you've got to just keep plowing away and do what you can each day.
DS: It's been a big help doing it last year, I know a little bit more of what to expect. I know I can ride for the three weeks so I don't really have that worry in the back of my mind.
Q: What do you make of the Chris Froome saga?
JB: Every race that he shows up to, it doesn't bring good media attention necessarily. He's had his issues at the Tour before with people on the sidelines and people not giving him the best support – I wouldn't want to be in his shoes this time around.
PB: A resolution is good for the sport – you don't need that hanging over – the results as they are will stand and we'll have a bike race. I doubt the spectators in France will be that hospitable to him.