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Five is better than three, but it’s still a relatively thin field of Americans racing the 2016 Tour de France.
With Cannondale confirming its Tour roster Monday, naming Alex Howes and Lawson Craddock among its nine starters, the U.S. presence in the Tour peloton sees a slight bump from a near-record low of three last year, to five U.S. starters. It appears Tour rookie Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) will be Canada’s lone starter.
Several high-profile North Americans are missing this year’s Tour de France, including Ryder Hesjedal (Trek – Segafredo), Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data), Andrew Talansky (Cannondale), and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).
What happened? Like every year, a mix of injuries, team dynamics, and season goals came into the equation.
That’s the case for Farrar, 32, who was the odd man out at Dimension Data. In 2015, Farrar, a winner of a Tour stage in 2011 (the last by an American), slotted into the role as team captain at MTN – Qhubeka, a position he embraced after admitting that his best sprinting years were behind him. With the arrival of Mark Cavendish, who brought Mark Renshaw and Bernard Eisel (who took over Farrar’s road captain role) to help in the sprints, there was no room left for Farrar. The team wanted to bring at least three Africans — Daniel Teklehaimanot, Reinardt Van Rensburg, and Tour rookie Natnael Berhane — and it also had stage-hunters Edvald Boasson Hagen and Steve Cummings, with Serge Pauwels assuming a GC role.
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“This was a really tough decision to make,” said Dimension Data principal Douglas Ryder. “All the riders on the squad have stepped up, and shown their potential to be in the Tour de France squad.”
Trek – Segafredo’s Ryder Hesjedal posted a picture of himself on Twitter at the beach, writing, “The Tour just wasn’t in the cards this year,” meaning that Duchesne is likely to be the only Canadian rider in this year’s Tour.
Cannondale’s Andrew Talansky already announced last week he would be missing this year’s Tour, citing unspecified personal reasons and a goal of taking on the Vuelta a España, while Olympics-bound Taylor Phinney was also nudged from a spot at BMC Racing.
“If we could have selected 11 riders, we would have,” said BMC Racing sport director Yvon Ledanois. “In the end, I think we have chose a fantastic group of riders.”
So who’s in? For the Stars and Stripes, there are five Tour-bound riders. All hail from the three U.S.-registered WorldTour teams.
Last year, only three Americans raced (Farrar, van Garderen, and Talansky), the lowest number in two decades. With five, the participation inches up, but is still short of the record number of 10 Americans in a Tour (in 1986 and 2011, see below).
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) returns to his sixth Tour with a new role sharing the GC load with Richie Porte. Twice fifth, van Garderen was forced out of last year’s Tour with illness. A stage win at the Tour de Suisse confirmed he’s on form, but it will be interesting to see who takes over leadership of the team.
Brent Bookwalter, who is also Rio-bound in August and who signed a contract extension for 2017 on Monday, returns for his fourth career Tour start, and his first since 2013. Following a solid spring, with third at the Amgen Tour of California, eighth at Ruta del Sol, and 12th at Strade Bianche, Bookwalter will be one of the team’s key workers for the hilly transition stages and early climbs.
In one of the best comeback stories in the peloton, Trek – Segafredo’s Peter Stetina is back in the big dance following his horrific crash at the 2015 Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country). After a solid spring to confirm he’s back in top shape, he will slot in as a key helper for Trek’s GC man Bauke Mollema.
Cannondale brings Howes for his second Tour start while Craddock makes his Tour debut. Canadian Michael Woods, who missed a planned Giro d’Italia start with injury, and Ben King did not make the cut.
American riders in Tour de France by year:
2016 — 5
2015 — 3
2014 — 9
2013 — 6
2012 — 8
2011 — 10
2010 — 8
2009 — 7
2008 — 4
2007 — 6
2006 — 8
2005 — 9
2004 — 7
2003 — 6
2002 — 9
2001 — 8
2000 — 9
1999 — 8
1998 — 6
1997 — 6
1996 — 3
1995 — 2
1994 — 3
1993 — 3
1992 — 5
1991 — 5
1990 — 7
1989 — 5
1988 — 6
1987 — 7
1986 — 10
1985 — 2
1984 — 2
1983 — 1
1982 — 1
1981 — 1