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Tour chat: league of nations

July 24, 2014

The tour and the other big cycling races used to be dominated by a few countries like France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. In the last couple of decades the English speaking countries (Australia, USA, Ireland, UK and recently even Canada and New Zealand) have been doing well. Today cycling is becoming very global with most parts of the world represented in sport’s biggest event.

Let’s have a patriotic look at the race after 16 stages. There are still 5 stages to go and plenty to fight for those remaining in the peloton. 198 riders from 22 teams started the Tour.

Argentina’s only rider left the race on stage 6.

Australia (9 of 10 riders racing and 1 team) is not having as good a race as last year or compared to the Giro earlier this year where they also did very well. Finally won a stage with Rogers but no-one competing for any of the four main jerseys.

Austria’s Eisel is an important gregario (a term used in Italy and Spain that I prefer to domestique) and road captain in Team Sky. He has less to do now that Sky’s GC ambitions are over.

Belgium (8 of 10 still going, 2 teams) is having mixed fortunes. Their teams have picked up four stages but not with Belgian riders. GC hope van den Broeck is fading and out of the top ten.

Belarus (Kiryienka) see Austria.

Canada’s both riders are still going but not much to say about them.

China has one rider (first time for the most populous country) and has been doing a great job for Kittel by chasing down the breaks.

Colombia (only Serpa still going of the 3 that started) is having a quiet race. We have become used to them at the front of big races, including dominating the Giro this year. They are missed and hopefully they will return in force next year.

Croatia has one rider who I have not heard of but apparently is still in the race.

Czech Republic has two riders including Konig who is having a great race and may finish in the top ten.

Denmark has three riders and officially one team (Tinko). The team has won two stages and might pinch the mountains jersey, some consolation after losing their GC favourite.

Estonia has two riders, both still going but not much chance of winning a stage and not in contention for a jersey.

France (44 riders, 5 teams) is having a fabulous race after many disappointing years. Two stage wins and one day in yellow but more impressively they might take two GC podium spots (possibly 4 in top ten), the white jersey and team competition. The time trial will be a big test to see if and who gets on the podium.

Germany (10 riders, one team) is having such a good race that their broadcasters might even return. The TV men took the huff after so many doping scandals and stayed at home. Luckily for the rest of us, their riders keep coming and Kittel is the fastest man on wheels at the moment and already has three stage wins. Greipel is not far behind in the sprints and Martin is a real powerhouse; both have won a stage. Their team (Netapp Endura) is also doing well and has a chance of a GC top ten finish.

Ireland’s Roche was an important gregario, now that his team leader is out he has a chance to do something for himself. Running out of stages to do that though.

Italy (17 riders, 2 teams) is another country on top of the world with favourite Nibali looking great for the GC win and has also picked up three stages. Trentin has also won a stage. The Italian teams are not doing quite so well though, are very likely pick up the green jersey, so it is not all bad news.

Japan only has one rider who works hard in his French team but is unlikely to win anything for himself in this year’s tour.

Kazakhstan (2 riders) sole team is likely to win the biggest prize, the yellow jersey for general classification.

Latvia see Croatia.

Lithuania also see Croatia.

Luxembourg has the two Schlecks (only Frank still racing) and Gastauer. Unfortunately no good news for them again this year.

Netherlands (15 of 17 riders still going and 2 teams) picked up the pave stage (Boom and his Dutch team) and a handful of stages for top sprint team Giant-Shimano. They can also claim two riders in the top ten, but only just and only for now, as they have been struggling to hang in there.

Norway’s sole rider Kristoff has two superb stage wins.

New Zealand’s Bauer came very close to a win after a long break. Lead out man Henderson was out very early.

Poland (5 riders) is becoming a very strong cycling nation. They have one stage win with Majka and he may also win the mountains competition. Kwiatkowski has also been very prominent and was an earlier wearer of the white jersey.

Portugal (4 of 5 riders still going) has world champ Rui Costa who was an outside bet for the GC podium. However, he has had a disappointing tour and left the race on the second rest day.

Russia (2 of 4 riders racing, and 1 team). Disappointing and largely anonymous year for the big country with a long cycling history. Might win the mountains competition.

Slovakia (2 riders) has Sagan he only needs to finish to win the green jersey. No stage wins yet this year though.

Slovenia has two riders (both still going) but not seen much of them.

Spain (only 13 of the 20 riders that started still in the race, 1 team) used to have more teams than anyone else but the country’s financial woes has hit the sport’s sponsorship. Only Movistar are in the race this year, but they are a very strong team. Spain does not have much to celebrate this year after favourite Contador crashed out. Valverde might still win a podium spot. Rodriguez is aiming for the mountains prize and win it if his old legs can gain a few more points.
Switzerland (7 of 9 riders still going, 1 team) might have been aiming high but with old star Cancellara exiting without doing anything and rising star Frank crashing out they will be disappointed.

Ukraine has only Grivko who is working for his team leader.

US (7 of 9 still racing, 2 teams) had big hopes especially with youngsters Talanksy and van Garderen. The former crashed out (and has lots to learn) but the more experienced van Garderen still has an outside hope of the podium. Will need to finish very strong to achieve that, but is a better time trialler than the rest of the GC favourites still racing.

UK (only 2 of 4 riders racing, one team) is having a nightmare tour after winning the last two. Favourite and holder Froome was out early, top sprinter and leading stage winner Cavendish was out even earlier. Might finish the race without winning anything.

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