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Cycling’s national champions are fired up for the Tour

Wiggins, Chavanel and Gilbert proudly display their national colors

LES HERBIERS, France (VN) — World champion Thor Hushovd, in his rainbow stripes, may have stolen the show at Thursday’s Tour de France team presentation by donning a wig and brandishing a hammer as the Norse god of thunder; but also sharing the spotlight were the riders in distinctively colored national championship jerseys who won their respective title races last weekend.

At the head of the line were Sky’s Brad Wiggins in the British red-white-blue hoops, Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert in Belgium’s black-yellow-and-red, and Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel in the French blue-white-and-red.

Leopard-Trek has two champs, but the team played down the colors, incorporating them into their regular uniforms: Fabian Cancellara with a mini version of the Swiss white-on-red cross and Fränk Schleck sporting just thin bands of Luxembourg’s red-white-and-blue.

The other champions wore more conventional outfits. Katusha’s Pavel Brutt had Russia’s blue-and-red stripes on a white jersey; Saxo Bank-SunGard’s Nicki Sørensen is in red and white for the fourth time; Lampre-ISD’s Gregor Bole was in the white-navy-and-red of Slovenia; and Garmin-Cervélo’s Ramunas Navardauskas displayed the yellow-green-red bands of Lithuania. But Spain’s new champion, José Rojas of Movistar, couldn’t wear his new red-and-yellow jersey as it wasn’t ready.

2011 French road championships, Sylvain Chavanel and children
Chavanel celebrates his nationals win with his children. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET

Winning a national road race championship is one of the most exciting moments in a pro bike racer’s career. That excitement is doubled when he goes straight on to ride the Tour with the champion’s jersey on his back.

That’s certainly the case with Chavanel, who has been battling for a decade to win the French road title. He did it last Sunday before massive crowds on a hilly circuit at Boulogne-sur-Mer, where he first bridged alone to an early move and then departed on a winning solo effort before his main rivals caught the break.

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