Barring the unforeseen, it’s unlikely an American will contest the top step of the final 2011 Tour de France podium. That battle belongs to Spaniard Alberto Contador and Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck.
But this year’s Tour field boasts a deep wealth of Yankee talent, including a top sprinter, a quartet of potential top-5 finishers, one of the sport’s most promising young riders, and a star-crossed veteran who will be starting his record-tying 16th Grand Boucle.
Here’s an alphabetical look at those seven select Americans, plus one Canadian who could also make some noise at the 98th running of the Tour de France, which kicks off on July 2.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo)
In 2005, Danielson was the toast of the cycling world following his dramatic triumph at the Tour de Georgia, a race then-teammate Lance Armstrong helped him win. In the aftermath, the Colorado resident was heralded as the next great American grand tour threat; VeloNews even labeled Danielson “Heir Apparent” in reference to a soon-to-retire Armstrong.
Six years later, it’s clear the appointments placed on Danielson were misguided. While by no means a bust (he was top 10 on GC at last year’s Vuelta a España), Danielson never developed into the world beater some had predicted. In fact, this year marks his first chance to even start the world’s biggest bike race.
But don’t be put off by his Tour rookie stature. The 33-year-old is an elite climber with better than average time trialing skills, a fact borne out by his third place finish at May’s Tour of California and a ninth place finish at the Tour of Switzerland. If Danielson can keep a cool head (something he struggles with at times) a stage win and/or a top-5 overall finish are not completely out of the question.