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Pierre Rolland spearheads Cannondale - Drapac for the upcoming Tour de France, and team boss Jonathan Vaughters is betting that his new captain will deliver in terms of results. Twice in the top-10, Rolland could be this year’s Tour r...

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01.07.2016 @ 13:26 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

“We have to play a bit of ‘Moneyball’ here, when your budget is one-third of the top teams,” Vaughters told Velonews, referring to the baseball bestseller. “I had to look at statistics, to look for that diamond-in-the-rough. I think we’ve found that with Pierre.”

 

Vaughters realizes that matching the salaries offered by powerhouses such as Team Sky, which reportedly operates on an annual budget of $30 million, is beyond his reach so he went on the prowl to locate some hidden gemstones in the peloton. One of his top 2016 signings for a new-look Cannondale team was French climber Rolland.

In 2011, Rolland won the best young rider’s jersey, and in 2013, he held the mountain’s jersey until the penultimate stage, losing it to Nairo

 

Quintana due to the new rule of having double points on mountaintop finishes. However, Rolland has had a bad habit of conceding time on the flat stages. Vaughters’s intuition is that if Rolland’s time losses prior to the mountain stages can be reduced or eliminated, who knows how far he might go.

 

“This Tour de France is like an 18-round fight, with no knock-outs,” Vaughters said. “With this parcours, it’s hard and it’s back-loaded with a brutal final week, and we have a guy who is capable of surviving a slow and nasty slugfest. Pierre is perfectly suited for that.”

 

Gut feelings alone do not cut it, though, and Vaughters has brought several classics-style riders to safeguard Rolland through the opening week of what has been labelled the hardest Tour route in decades.

 

“We’ve brought a lot of big, mean Dutch guys to keep him safe, and put him on par with the others for the mountains. Then it’s up to him to be with the strongest,” Vaughters said. “If we can prevent him from losing time on the flat stages, he won’t be 10 or 12 minutes behind when he hits the mountains.”

 

On the flat stages, experienced riders such as Matti Breschel, Kristijan Koren, Sebastian Langeveld, Ramunas Navardauskas, and Dylan Van Baarle will provide the service for Rolland, while those duties will be handed over to Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, and Tom-Jelte Slagter once the road begins to rise.

 

Rolland is confident he can spring a surprise or two on the favourites, and perhaps ride into the top-five if things go well. After attending altitude camps this season - for the first time in his career - Rolland is ready to make sure that Vaughters will not lose his bet.

 

“I have a great team for the crosswinds,” Rolland said. “I am looking for the GC in this Tour, and maybe a stage win, too. I hope to get past the flat stages and go well in the mountains.”

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