When the riders line up for the start of the 2009 Tour de France in Monaco next July, there will be a strong contingent of British riders among their number.
In 2008 Mark Cavendish became the first British rider to win four stages of the Tour de France in a single year. The Team Columbia rider left the race early to prepare for the Olympic Games in Beijing, but in 2009 he will have no such distractions, opening the way for more stage wins and perhaps the green jersey.
Of course, Cavendish (pictured) isn’t the only British rider capable of winning a Tour stage – David Millar has already proved he has what it takes, and his new Garmin-Chipotle team-mate Bradley Wiggins is another man to watch in the time trials and break-aways.
We take a look at which Brits will be riding the 2009 Tour, and rate their chances for stage wins.
After four stage wins this year, Columbia?s Mark Cavendish will be gunning for the green jersey in 2009.
There are eight stages that could end in a bunch sprint and Cavendish has said the green jersey is his target for the Tour.
?Next year I?ll be going full on for it,? he said. ?I didn?t go for the intermediate sprints in the Tour stages last July but next summer I?ll be focusing on doing things differently. I?ll be going for them as well as the bunch sprints. This year I got four stage wins but pulled out. Next year I want to go a step further.
?It?s a hard route and I will have to be going really well to finish it, but that?s the goal,? he said. ?I will do 10 days or so of the Giro, then come to the Tour absolutely at my best.
?There?s a few chances in the first week, but I want to be up there contesting the bunch sprints for the points even if there is a break that stays away.
?This year a lot of the stages were uphill from the very start so I was doing a lot of chasing. Next year the flat stages look flatter. But with three days in the Pyrenees and three in the Alps, plus Mont Ventoux, it?s a hard Tour.?
BRADLEY WIGGINS AND DAVID MILLAR
Bradley Wiggins and David Millar (pictured above) may not be able to win the hilly opening time trial, but they will still want to finish as high as possible, because with the team time trial two days later, they could both be in with a chance of getting the yellow jersey.
Their Garmin-Chipotle team will be among the favourites for the team time trial in Montpellier, especially as the race starts in their European base of Girona two days after that.
Millar?s strategy is to ?check [the TTT course] out months in advance. We can win on any course, we?re the best team in the world by far.?
What will Bradley Wiggins bring to the team? ?More horsepower,? says Millar. ?Now we have literally the best team in the world on paper.”
Thirty year old Charly Wegelius (pictured above) is leaving Liquigas to join Silence-Lotto, where his role as climbing domestique has gained even greater significance after Bernhard Kohl?s positive test for CERA. Kohl had been set to join Silence.
As Evans said: ?A guy like Wegelius can do a great job for the team. We need guys like him who can work in the mountains. His strength and consistency in the mountains, his mentality as a rider for the team is second to none, and in that respect he?s one of the best in the world.?
AN OUTSIDE CHANCE…
Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd will lead the Cervelo Test Team, which is set to feature four British riders. Whether any of them gain selection for the Tour de France is another matter. Roger Hammond will concentrate on the Classics. Daniel Lloyd and Dan Fleeman are both good climbers, but the Tour would represent a huge step up from the An Post team they rode for this year.
The final British rider, Jeremy Hunt, was in the running for selection by Credit Agricole this year but was overlooked at the last minute. Cervelo may see him as a potential lead-out man for Thor Hushovd.
BARLOWORLD?S PLACE IN JEOPARDY
Barloworld?s Moises Duenas was kicked out of the 2008 Tour de France after testing positive for EPO. That means the squad?s chances of being offered an invitation to the Tour are hanging by a thread ? and that is bad news for Britain?s Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome.
Tour de France 2009: Stage list