Tour de France 2013: The Brits hoping to conquer cycling’s greatest race

Five riders, all of whom finished, seven stage wins, a peak TV audience of nearly four million, Bradley Wiggins in the yellow jersey and Chris Froome alongside him on the podium.

Last year’s Tour de France set the tone for a spectacular summer of sporting success in Britain and with six Brits due on the start line when cycling’s greatest race rolls out in Corsica on Saturday June 29 for its 100th edition, this year could follow a similar pattern.

Bradley Wiggins hold the Union Jack aloft at the Giro d’Italia team presentation, but who will be flying the flag for Britain at the 100th edition of the Tour de France?

While Sir Bradley will not be riding due to injury, Froome starts as bookies’ favourite for the yellow jersey and is joined by three British Olympians – Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas – as they look to deliver the British Team Sky to the Paris podium again.

Manx missile Mark Cavendish could also wear the yellow jersey if he is successful in the sprinter-friendly opening stage in Corsica, and is among the contenders to regain the green jersey he won in 2011.

Finally David Millar, a stage winner last time out and captain of Britain’s Olympic road racing team, will ride his 12th Tour having been included in Garmin-Sharp’s squad.

Here, we profile the riders set to fly the flag for Britain at this year’s Tour.

Chris Froome is bidding to go one better than his second-place finish behind Bradley Wiggins at last year’s Tour

Name: Chris Froome
Age: 28
Team: Sky
Previous tour participations: 2008 (84th), 2012 (2nd)
Key results in 2013: Overall winner – Tour of Oman, Criterium International, Tour de Romandie, Criterium du Dauphine; Points classification winner – Tour of Oman; Second – Tirreno-Adriatico; Stage winner – Tour of Oman (stage 5), Criterium International (stage 3), Tour de Romandie (prologue), Criterium du Dauphine (stage 5), Tirreno-Adriatico (stage 4)

Kenyan-born Froome put personal ambition aside to help Bradley Wiggins become Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner last year.

However after finishing second – just as he did at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana – and also wearing the polka dot jersey for one stage, Froome proved he too is more than capable of topping the Tour podium.

Wiggins’ withdrawal through injury has now ended any doubts over Froome leading Team Sky this year, leaving the stage wide open for him to follow his team mate’s success and add to what has been an incredible year already.

Having kicked off with victory in the Tour of Oman in February, he also wore the leader’s jersey for a stage at the Tirreno-Adriatico before finishing second overall.

Victory at March’s Criterium International and the Tour de Romandie the following month soon followed before his crowning achievement of the year so far as he took the overall classification at the Criterium du Dauphine, the ultimate form-finder for the Tour.

A versatile all-round rider, he is equally adept in the mountains and the flatter stages as proved by his second place in the points classification and third in the mountains during the Dauphine.

A more-than-capable time trialist, he also bagged a bronze medal in the discipline at last year’s London Olympics and starts the 100th Tour as firm favourite to add the yellow jersey to his growing palmares.

Geraint Thomas is back on the road after winning Olympic gold on the track last year

Name: Geraint Thomas
Age: 27
Team: Sky
Previous tour participations: 2007 (140th), 2010 (67th), 2011 (31st)
Key results in 2013: Points classification winner – Tour Down Under; Second – Bayern-Rundfahrt; Third – Tour Down Under; Stage winner – Tour Down Under (stage 2)

Olympic gold medallist Thomas returns to the Tour after missing last year as he concentrated on the track instead.

The decision paid off as he rode to victory alongside Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Sky team mate Peter Kennaugh in the team pursuit in world-record time.

Now back on the road, Thomas returns to the Tour for the first time since an impressive showing in 2011 which saw him wear the white jersey for the opening seven stages.

The Welshman, now 27, will be a key domestique as he bids to guide Froome to the yellow jersey and has already admitted it would be a dream come true if he could play a part in another British win.

He proved his strength as a support rider at this month’s Criterium du Dauphine, guiding Froome and Australian team mate Richie Porte to a one-two finish and claiming 15th place himself.

Although better known for his sprinting ability, he also finished third in the mountain classification at the Tour Down Under and will have a big part to play if Froome is to beat Alberto Contador to the yellow jersey.

Peter Kennaugh will ride his debut Tour de France after supporting Chris Froome at the Criterium du Dauphine

Name: Peter Kennaugh
Age: 24
Team: Sky
Previous tour participations: debut
Key results in 2013: Winner – Lincoln Grand Prix; Fourth – National Championships

A surprise pick by Sir Dave Brailsford, the 24-year-old Manxman will be making his Tour de France debut as part of Sky’s bid to lead Froome to the yellow jersey.

Like Thomas, Kennaugh only returned to road racing after shattering the world record as part of Great Britain’s gold medal-winning Olympic team pursuit squad in London last year.

But Brailsford obviously saw enough in his young protégé to select him over more experienced campaigners like Christian Knees and super domestique Dario Cataldo.

Although best known for his sprinting ability, Kennaugh proved his versatility after playing a key support role in this month’s Criterium du Dauphine.

He is also developing a reputation as a fast, courageous rider having won the domestic Lincoln Grand Prix and he just missed out on a podium place after a strong ride at the National Championships.

While Froome’s ambitions will undoubtedly come first, Kennaugh could also emerge as an outsider for the white jersey and admitted it would make him ‘super happy’ if he could wear it just for one stage.

Ian Stannard battled in difficult conditions at the Milan-San Remo and is rewarded with his Tour de France debut

Name: Ian Stannard
Age: 26
Team: Sky
Previous tour participations: debut
Key results in 2013: Second – National Championship; Sixth – Milan-San Remo; Eighth – Bayern-Rundfahrt

The only one of Britain’s Olympic road-racing team not to have ridden in last year’s Tour de France, Stannard narrowly missed out to Cavendish in his bid to defend his national road race title last weekend.

Essex-boy Stannard’s reputation as a domestique has steadily risen in recent years though, most recently being part of Sky’s success at the Criterium du Dauphine.

He also showed incredible physical and mental strength at Milan-San Remo, battling the freezing conditions to lead Thomas before taking up the mantle himself when the Welshman crashed.

He led over the summit of the Poggio  but missed out in the sprint to come in sixth.

At national level he has already proved himself as one of the hardest-working domestiques in the peloton, and made a spirited defence of his national title, narrowly losing out to Cavendish.

If he can repeat the efforts he displayed in helping Cavendish win the 2011 World Championship he will be a vital part of Froome’s bid for victory.

Newly-crowned British champion Mark Cavendish could swap his national champion jersey for the maillot jaune after stage one (Credit: Vaughn Ridley/

Name: Mark Cavendish
Age: 28
Team: Omega Pharma-Quickstep
Previous tour participations: 2007 (DNF), 2008 (DNF), 2009 (131st, points – 2nd), 2010 (154th, points – 2nd), 2011 (130th, points – 1st), 2012 (142nd, points – 4th)
Key results in 2013: Winner – Tour of Qatar, National Championship; Points classification winner – Giro d’Italia, Tour of Qatar; Stage winner – Giro d’Italia (stages 1, 6, 12, 13, 21) Tour de San Luis (stage 1), Tour of Qatar (stages 3, 4, 5, 6), Three Days of De Panne (stage 2)

With 23 stage victories to his name to date, Cavendish was named all-time best Tour de France sprinter by L’Equipe last year.

The Manx Missile is fourth on the all-time list of Tour de France stage wins and in terms of stage victories is Britain’s greatest Grand Tour rider of all time.

Starting the Tour on the back of winning the points classification at the Giro d’Italia, Cavendish will be racing as British national champion too after winning in Glasgow last weekend.

His success at the Giro made him just the fifth rider to have topped the points classification at all three Grand Tours and he now wants to follow Millar and Wiggins in becoming the third Brit to wear the leader’s jersey at all three.

If he is to achieve it, this year appears to represent his best ever chance with Saturday’s first stage in Corsica being, unusually, a sprinter-friendly stage.

From there he will bid to regain the green jersey he won in 2011 from Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan (Cannondale), while closing in on Eddie Mercx’s record 34 career stage wins.

The former Sports Personality of the Year will also bid to win the final Champs-Elysees stage for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year.

He comes into the Tour having enjoyed a revival in form this year since joining Omega Pharma-Quickstep from Sky.

Alongside success at the Giro, he took the general and points classification jerseys at the Tour of Qatar – just the second overall stage race victory of his career – and finished third at the Ster ZLM Toer.

He is unlikely to get many better opportunities to wear the maillot jaune than this year, but victory in Corsica will not come easily with Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) both strong rivals for the first stage and the points classification.

Tour de France veteran David Millar will support a strong Garmin-Sharp team on his 12th appearance

Name: David Millar
Age: 36
Team: Garmin-Sharp
Previous tour participations: 2000 (62nd), 2001 (DNF), 2002 (68th), 2003 (55th), 2006 (56th), 2007 (69th), 2008 (67th), 2009 (82nd), 2010 (157th), 2011 (76th), 2012 (106th)
Key results in 2013: Third – National championship

A veteran of the Tour, Millar – a multiple Grand Tour stage winner – has finished the Tour de France 11 of the 12 times he has ridden it.

Once a team leader at Cofidis before his doping ban in 2004, Millar now performs a key support role for a Garmin-Sharp team who will be led by Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin.

Traditionally a time-trial specialist, he is still capable of stage wins as proved last year when prevailing in a sprint finish on the medium-mountain category stage 12.

He helped Talansky to second at this year’s Paris-Nice, and Martin to a top-ten finish in the Tour de Suisse but was unable to finish the Milan-San Remo, Giro d’Italia and E3 Harelbeke.

If Garmin-Sharp are to cause an upset this year, Millar will have a big role to play within the team but a repeat of last year’s stage victory appears much less likely.

Significant others

Ireland’s Dan Martin, born in Birmingham, could spring a surprise as one of Garmin-Sharp’s leaders after winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Name: Dan Martin
Age: 26
Team: Garmin-Sharp
Previous tour participations: 2012 (35th)
Key results in 2013: Winner – Volta a Catalunya, Liege-BastognepLiege; Eighth – Tour de Suisse; Stage winner – Volta a Catalunya (stage 4)

Yes, strictly speaking Martin – one of three riders set to lead Garmin-Sharp – is Irish, but the 26-year-old nephew of 1987 Tour champion Stephen Roche was born in Birmingham – and he is rather good.

A one-time Vuelta stage winner, he will join fellow Irishman and cousin Nicolas Roche – Stephen’s son – on the start line in Corsica on Saturday.

Having finished 35th on his Tour debut last year, he is now hoping to continue a fine year which has seen him take overall victory at the Volta a Catalunya and storm to Liege-Bastogne-Liege success already.

Most recently at the Tour de Suisse, having launched a break which helped Ryder Hesjedal top the mountains classification after stage two, Martin finished eighth overall after his leader crashed out in stage three.

By selecting three leaders Garmin-Sharp accept they are taking an unconventional approach to this year’s Tour but manager Jonathan Vaughters remains hopeful of an upset.

And if they do manage to cause a few shocks, there is every chance Martin will be central to them.

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