As the confirmed squads for the 2012 Tour de France are gradually being announced, Blazin' Saddles thought it would be fun to look at the team selections through the medium of movies...
BMC and Team Sky: Inside Man
The bank robbery caper starred Clive Owen as an inside man holed up inside a secret room in a bank while the dust settled on a multi-million dollar heist. Well, he may not be a familiar name for many cycling fans, but 31-year-old Briton Steve Cummings takes the lead role in this cycling equivalent involving the teams of GC favourites Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans.
Evans is joined by five BMC riders who helped him take the yellow jersey last year, plus fallen giant Philippe Gilbert, young American all-rounder Tejay van Garderen and that man Cummings. Back in 2004, Cummings won an Olympic track pursuit silver medal at Athens with his great friend Wiggo, who he rode alongside for two years at Team Sky before joining BMC.
BMC may well have high hopes that workhorse Cummins will have some vital inside knowledge on both Wiggins and his seemingly formidable Team Sky outfit, who, conversely, may themselves feel that the veteran rouleur is their own mole behind enemy lines. Supporting Wiggins are a quintet of riders who helped him so bullishly to a second successive Dauphine title a fortnight ago, as well as world champion Mark Cavendish, his lead-out man Bernie Eisel and joker of the pack Eddy Boasson Hagen, who could well have a free role not dissimilar to that of Gilbert.
It's going to be a fascinating duel. Sky look stronger and more dynamic — but fighting on two fronts, they may lack the cohesion of BMC, who are living by the old motto "been there, done that".
Jonathan Vaughters has gone for a squad of old, tried-and-tested heads with an average age of 32. Not a single rider will be able to contend the white jersey competition while only one, Ireland's Dan Martin, is making his Tour debut.
It brings to mind the classic 80s film Cocoon, in which a group of elderly pensioners are rejuvenated by aliens. In this cycling version of the movie, Martin will naturally take on the role played by the sprightly Steve Guttenberg.
The team includes three riders from the highly successful Giro d'Italia, including pink jersey Ryder Hesjedal and his trusty lieutenant Christian Vandevelde. Seeing how hard they worked in Italy, it may well take some alien powers to revive their flagging energy levels (not that Garmin condone that sort of thing).
Given 'The Dude' Hesjedal's lackadaisical attitude to everything (most notably post-race press interviews) and the zen yet oddball presence of Dave Zabriske, Saddles could well have also opted for films such as The Big Lebowski or Easy Rider. Or any film starring an actor billed as "the next big thing" despite that same actor having already wracked up countless forgettable performances (Tom Danielson springs to mind).
Alternatively, any film starring Shia LaBoeuf — who Saddles is sure Tyler Farrar would agree is a very overrated actor.
RadioShack: The Expendables
The Sylvester Stallone-directed film is about a group of ageing elite mercenaries whose mission it is to overthrow a corrupt dictator — much like the real life scenario at RSNT then.
Forget the Johan Bruyneel sideshow, the Schleck imbroglios and the constant power struggles within this quite frankly shambolic excuse for a ProTour team... That has been talked about ad nauseum.
Let's look at the facts: this is a very old team. In fact, it's so old it even out-Cocoons Garmin. With Chris Horner and Jens Voigt both 40, and the likes of Andreas Kloden, Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia in their mid-30s, this is a 'Back to the Future' team with an average age of above 33 — making it officially the oldest Tour de France outfit since 1969.
The Expendables pays homage to the blockbuster action films of the 80s and early 90s — just like RadioShack seem to be donning their cap to riders who probably made their breakthroughs in those very same decades. Jeez, 24-year-old Tony Gallopin must feel like the work experience kid who only got the job because of a well-placed godfather — oh, hang on.
Of course, RadioShack have so many absent riders this summer, they could well have made another film called The Departed. Runner-up last year, injured Andy Schleck will be left at home to watch Gone With The Wind.
Meanwhile, our friend Johan will no doubt be relegated to DS duties in Poland while watching pirated copies of I Know What You Did Last Summer (And The Summer Before, And The Summer Before That Too).
Vacansoleil-DCM: Young Guns
While both Garmin and RadioShack have put their faith in old boys, the Dutch team has gone for an attacking line up of riders who are all in their 20s — with the exception of Sweden's Gustav Larsson. Starring Johnny Hoogerland in the Emilio Estevez role, this Vacansoleil team is full of Young Guns who will hope to prove that France is No Country For Old Men.
With Hoogerland around, Saddles was tempted to go for There Will Be Blood — or perhaps a sequel to the Pamela Anderson classic, Barb Wire.
Katusha: Back in the USSR
Roman Polanski's 90s thriller is an apt choice for the Russian team, who welcome back Denis Menchov to this sober union of Russian riders after years of peddling his craft on foreign soil.
It's great to see that Katusha have learnt from their From Russia With Love experiment of last year: instead of fielding a team entirely made up of Russians, they have drafted in a couple of Spaniards (including Oscar Freire) and Belarusian Aliaksandr Kuschynski, who will be Silent Assassin Menchov's voice-piece in the mountains.
Another film option here could well be The Passion of Joan Horrach — although a little too niche for many people's liking.
Astana: Bloodbrothers II — The Return
With Andrey Kashechkin and Alexandre Vinokourov lining up alongside each other in a Tour de France for the first time since their double disqualification in 2007 for homologous blood transfusions, there's no other option here.
Europcar: The Usual Suspects
There's no surprises in Jean-Rene Bernaudeau's nine-man squad who will hope Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland will be able to emulate their success of last year. But with Voeckler only half fit, perhaps a better film comparison would be Federico Fellini's classic 8½. Should Tommy V struggle, then French hopes will be on Rolland, The Graduate.
Lotto Belisol: Runaway Train
The triumphant lead-out train from the Tour Down Under will be reformed as the likes of Hansen, Henderson, Roelandts and Sieberg rally around Andre Greipel in a bid to derail Cavendish's pursuit of stage wins and the green jersey. They will be hoping that Jurgen van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert don't alter the signals and try to force the locomotive to join the yellow brick road.
A Clockwork Orange would have been too easy, so instead Saddles went for a 50s comedy starring Jack Lemon that rather aptly has no vowels in its title.
Ag2r-La Mondiale: Nosferatu
This depends on John Gadret's participation.
Although Jean Reno (Vincenzo Nibali) takes the lead role, we all know that the stand-out performer is Gary Oldman (Peter Sagan).
Can you think of any films that best describe the squads chosen by the teams participating in the 2012 Tour de France? Share your thoughts below — and be sure to return next week when Saddles brings you his four jersey guides ahead of the biggest bike race on the planet.
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