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Brent Bookwalter loves Dutch roads.
In May in Amsterdam, the BMC racer missed the maglia rosa by two seconds in the first stage at the Giro d’Italia. Just two months later, the American posted another excellent prologue ride, stopping the clock 11th at 35 seconds off Fabian Cancellara’s time.
“I had high hopes today, but since the Giro, I haven’t been at home slamming out 10-minute efforts for the prologue; it wouldn’t have done me any favors when the team needs me later in the Tour,” Bookwalter told VeloNews. “I’d love to survive and make it through all the way to the end, because there are important stages all the way up to Paris. The management is super-cool and wants me to fight, but they don’t want me to go so hard that I have a bitter taste about the Tour, because hopefully this is the second of many grand tours.”
Bookwalter was one of the most reliable BMC riders during May’s Giro, arriving to Verona in his grand-tour debut. He wasn’t expecting to start the Tour, but there was one last spot remaining, and Bookwalter got the nod by proving that he’s a reliable helper in all types of terrain.
“Those eight guys ahead of me were shoe-ins and there was one spot open. I found out a week ago this past Thursday. We didn’t start talking about it seriously until two, two-and-a-half weeks after the Giro,” he said. “I was tired after the Giro, but I wasn’t among the walking dead.”
Bookwalter was near the top of the rookie class making its Tour debut in Saturday’s prologue.
Michael Barry made his long-awaited first Tour appearance while Team Sky teammates Thomas Geraint and Edvald Boasson Hagen — fifth and ninth, respectively — were very strong in their Tour debuts.
“I am here to learn and do the best I can for my teammates,” Boasson Hagen told VeloNews. “This is my first Tour, so I am not thinking about the green jersey or fighting in the sprints. I want to learn what it is to race the Tour and help my team.”
One veteran also making his first Tour appearance was 36-year-old British rider Jeremy Hunt, who is riding the Tour for the first time in his 14-year professional career.
“It’s never too late. The Tour is one of those races that you dream about your whole life. When you’re a boy, you dream of racing the Tour, Paris-Roubaix. I am excited to be here at the Tour,” Hunt said. “It was special today to be on the start ramp. I am a classics rider, so I have never been to the Tour de France before.”