Four Australians have been named in Team DSM-Firmenich’s selection for the 110th Tour de France. The quest is for stage wins and to support Romain Bardet’s bid for another good GC result…
TDF team selection summary, by Rob Arnold
Of the eight riders who made the cut for Team DSM-Firmenich’s Tour de France line-up four are Australian. Matt Dinham, Alex Edmondson and Sam Welsford will make their TDF debut, while Chris Hamilton returns as a key support rider for Romain Bardet.
The eight-man selection for the race that begins on 1 July is:
- Romain Bardet (FRA)
- John Degenkolb (GER)
- Matt Dinham (AUS)
- Alex Edmondson (AUS)
- Nils Eekhoff (NED)
- Chris Hamilton (AUS)
- Kevin Vermaerke (USA)
- Sam Welsford (AUS)
“We head to the race with the goal of going for the GC and stage results as a team,” says coach Matt Winston about the objectives for the race next month.
“We’ve got a good strong core GC group that have been working well together over the past few months with Chris, Kevin and Matt, who can support our GC finisher Romain over the mountainous terrain; and they showed in Tour de Suisse that they are in good shape.”
From a roster of 30 riders, Team DSM-Firmenich had to whittle down the list to just eight men. The final selection (which, of course, may change in the coming days should there be any casualties in the lead-up to #TDF2023) is a versatile group with a mix of youth and experience.
Two-time TDF podium finisher Bardet was fifth on GC in the Tour de Suisse (2:41 behind Danish winner Mattias Skjelmose of Trek-Segafredo). At 32 the King of the Mountains from the Tour de France in 2019 will line up for his 10th start.
Bardet was sixth in last year’s race and he’s twice finished on the final podium (while racing with AG2R), second in 2016 and third in 2017.
This year the Dutch-registered team is looking to shake things up on all terrain, with Dinham and Hamilton there to assist Bardet in the mountain stages and another group looking for results in sprints.
Former stage winner, 34-year-old John Degenkolb will be contesting his ninth TDF and while there are no cobblestone stages on this year’s itinerary, the German has proven to be a reliable force in sprints and tough hilly courses. The Paris-Roubaix champion from 2015 will form part of the sprint group which will be looking to set Welsford up for a solid showing in the flat stages.
“We also have a core sprint group with Alex, John and Nils, with Sam as our sprint finisher for those fast finales,” confirms Winston in the team’s selection announcement.
“We will work together as one team like always though, with our climbing group supporting the sprint group on those flatter days and vice-versa with the sprint group doing early work in the mountains.”
Alex Edmondson has had 35 race days so far in 2023. The former Australian champion skipped the nationals and TDU earlier this year and he’s had a steady build-up to what will be his first TDF appearance.
Reunited with one of his former team pursuit cohort, Welsford, the 29-year-old from Adelaide is expected to play an important role in the lead-out for the 27-year-old West Australian who has won three races so far in 2023.
Matt Dinham will make his Grand Tour debut as a support rider for Bardet. The 23-year-old followed a similar route to the WorldTour as Hamilton did a few years earlier; after three years as part of Team Bridgelane the 23-year-old joined Team DSM-Firmenich this season.
The runner-up in the under-23 TT and road race at the nationals last year is part of the younger crew in the eight-man selection but we can expect to see him feature on the hilly stages early in the Tour de France.
“We expect there to be fireworks already in the Basque Country with some difficult opening stages,” says Winston of a TDF route that is likely to favour the climbing specialists. “The route then returns to France and through Romain’s home region, which will of course be special for him, followed by a variety of terrain where we can make our mark as a team throughout the three weeks before the big traditional finish in Paris.”
There has often been a strong Australian accent in this team which will be rebranded from DSM to DSM-Firmenich as of July 2023. In 2017, with Michael Matthews (now with Jayco-AlUla) in the line-up of what had been Team Sunweb, the squad won both the green jersey and polka-dot jersey (with Warren Barguil, now at Arkea-Samsic).
Another Aussie who is part of the team, Luke Roberts, was one of the directeurs sportif – or, as this team likes to call them, ‘coaches’ – during the successful Giro d’Italia campaign in 2017 when Tom Dumoulin won the maglia rosa.
This is a team that doesn’t always follow the obvious route. In 2020, when there were five Australians on the roster – including Matthews and Jai Hindley (who would finish second on GC in the Giro while still under the Sunweb banner when the Italian race was held in October) – the quest was stage wins.
There didn’t seem to be an obvious leader in the TDF selection but that was the break-out season for Marc Hirschi (now with UAE Team Emirates) as well as Søren Kragh Andersen (now with Alpecin-Deceuninck). The Swiss rider was second in stage two and he continued his attacking antics all the way to Paris, eventually winning in Sarran (stage 12) before claiming the most votes in the ‘Prix de la Combativité’. And the Dane also delivered on his team’s quest, winning stages 14 and 19 from breakaways.
With this team we’ve come to expect the unexpected. The selection for 2023 may be a bit of a surprise for some, but it’s already a good beginning for Australian fans who will be watching with interest to see what the versatile Aussie quartet can achieve this July.
– By Rob Arnold