I gave a Brito-centric guide to blind-eyed patriotism for the Giro d’Italia, but will spread my net a little wider for the Tour de France. Here’s who to back from all the interloping English-speaking nations. First up …
You don’t often get to pity Americans. But after the epic Oprah-deploying conclusion to the Lance Armstrong saga, it must be difficult for US cycling fans to really get behind the sport, and I can’t help but pull a handkerchief from my waistcoat pocket and dab at their little eyes. Poor devils. No one does patriotism like Americans, oh-say-can-you-seeing at the bling-spangled roaming of buffalos and all that. I for one would hate to see such things doused by Lance and his beady-eyed self-serving. So puff out your chests, USA-ers, and slap a hand on that heart. Here’s who you can legitimately get excited about at this year’s Tour. They represent only three pro teams, the first two of which being true apple-pie-twirlin’ US teams:
from BMC Racing Team (the manufacturer is Swiss, ignore that)
Tejay van Garderen (aged 24) is the BIG American hope. He is second only to Cadel Evans in BMC, but if he starts faring better than Evans he could easily be moved to the number one slot. Van Garderen won the young rider (white) jersey at last year’s Tour and placed fifth in the general classification. He hasn’t started brilliantly, but then who has? Like the rest of the top 93 he is only 1 second off the yellow jersey, so everything will change quickly. He’s also up for the white jersey again this year, and probably not a bad bet. Young in the Tour is anyone under 26. This year Tejay has been in the front pack for everything he’s entered: first in the Tour of California, third in the Criterium, fourth in Paris–Nice. This is your man.
Brent Bookwalter (aged 29) is not just at BMC because of his Dickensian-sounding name. (I call him Bent Brookwater, and chortle.) Bookwalter has had a good year, with a string of second placings: in both the US road race and time trial championships, and in the Tour of Qatar. His time-trialling skills will be key in Stage 4 for the team time trial if Evans and van Garderen want to stay high up the grid. He’s a domestique, but a top one, in a team of powerful domesticity, if that’s the word, and it isn’t.
from Garmin-Sharp, in order of importance
Andrew Talansky (aged 24) is a major figure for Garmin among some highfalutin names (Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar, Daniel Martin and Giro-surprise-star Ramunas Navardauskas) and in the one-second-behind group after the first two stages. Not faring as well as his top team-mates thus far, he is still a definite name-in-the-hat for the young rider cardigan, and is likely to rise. He placed second overall in the 2013 Paris–Nice with victory in the semi-mountainous Stage 3 with a sprint finish, third place in Stage 5 with a summit finish and second place in the individual time trial of Stage 7, showing real GC versatility.
Christian Vandevelde (aged 37) is an older gentleman these days, but still sitting second of the Garmin riders (in 36th) behind 35-year-old David Millar (currently third overall). He is considered the man responsible for dragging Ryder Hesjedal into the winning pink jersey of the 2012 Giro d’Italia. Coming back from a broken foot earlier in the year, he’s looking good. And I didn’t even mention the doping ban.
Thomas Danielson (aged 34) is the mountains man of the team and is still with the peloton, 1 second off the yellow jersey (but in 84th). He too is just off a doping ban, but it can’t have helped being labelled ‘the next Lance Armstrong’. It’s a while since he won a race but Danielson is a steady competitor in many of the minor races, and was part of Garmin’s team-time-trial-winning team of 2011 Tour. What do I know? He might just win the whole shebang and make us all look stupid.
from Cannondale (and though an Italian team, the sponsor is US bike manufacturer Cannondale)
Ted King (aged 30, which in bike-years is the prime.) He’s a domestique for Cannondale bigshot Peter Sagan, and is sitting almost last in the GC after Stage 2, suggesting either he’s doing his job well of working the legs to make it easy for Sagan early on then dropping back, or he was in the big crash at the end of Stage 1 (though he wasn’t named in this). Come on Teddy Longlegs! … No?