It’s been 30 years since Jonathan Boyer of Carmel, California, became the first American to compete in the Tour de France. And every year since, the number of U.S. riders competing, like the race itself, changes.
This year, 10 Americans will compete representing four teams in the July 2-24 event. The diverse group includes two first-time Tour de France entrants, three riders with top-10 or perhaps podium aspirations and one rider pedaling toward the record books.
The 10 U.S. entrants in the TdF this year also equals the most Americans riding in a Tour de France in a single year.
In 1986 when Greg LeMond claimed the first of his three titles, 10 American riders total competed for two teams: LeMond and Andy Hampsten for the French team, La Vie Claire, and Eric Heiden, Davis Phinney, Bob Roll, Alexi Grewal, Ron Kiefel, Chris Carmichael, Jeff Pierce and Doug Shapiro for the first American team in the race, 7-Eleven.
The 2011 U.S. corps begins with George Hincapie (BMC), who will be competing for the 16-time. He’ll tie the record of Joop Zoetemelk, the 1980 TdF winner who finished the event in all of his 16 participations.
Hincapie, who has one individual stage winner and has ridden in support of eight Tour de France titlists, has a career-best 15th overall finish (2005) and will be seeking his 15th finish.
Here’s an alphabetical synopsis of the 10 American riders competing in the 2011 Tour de France:
Brent Bookwalter, Athens, Ga., 27, BMC, 2nd Tour
A strong time trialist who will be counted on to ride in support of overall contender Cadel Evans of Australia, Bookwalter finished his 2010 Tour de France debut 147th overall.
Tom Danielson, Boulder, Colo., 32, Garmin-Cervelo, 1st Tour
Danielson was a phenom as a young rider, but he’s finally rebounded from injury, illness and some unproductive years. He’ll make his Tour de France debut after a third overall finish Behind Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer at the Tour of California in May.
Tyler Farrar, Wenatchee, Wa., 27, Garmin-Cervelo, 3rd Tour
Farrar is seeking in first TdF stage win after too many seconds and thirds to Mark Cavendish. Farrar has stage wins at the Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain and lots of other sprint wins, including four victories this year. Farrar crashed out of the TdF in 2010. Will this be his breakthrough year for a stage win or more?
George Hincapie, Greenville, S.C., 38, BMC, 16th Tour
If teammate Cadel Evans has a legitimate chance to win the overall title, he’ll get there largely because of Hincapie’s teamwork across the farmlands of the French countryside. Hincapie may also find a suitable stage for an assault on a second TdF individual stage win.
Chris Horner, Bend, Ore., 39, RadioShack, 5th Tour
Sleek and always smiling, Horner won the Tour California in May, and he’s climbing as well as he has at any point of his 17-year pro career. He was the top U.S. finisher last year in 10th overall and believes he has a legitimate chance for the podium this year. Horner has won his share of races, but never an individual stage of a grand tour.
Editor's Note: This story is by longtime cycling journalist James Raia who's traveling to France today to bring you this year's EMT coverage of the TdF.
You can read about the rest of the Top 10 American riders competing in the 2011 Tour de France on Jame's web site HERE.