BIRTHDAY BOYS

? Saturday, July 5, is Philippe Gilbert?s 26th birthday. Happy birthday Philippe! What better way could there be to celebrate his birthday than for the Française des Jeux man to win the opening stage in Plumelec?

Erik Zabel will be 38 on Monday and Garmin?s Martijn Maaskant is 25 on the day the race reaches Paris.

? The riders who will be celebrating a birthday during the Tour are:

7th ? Erik Zabel (Milram), 38 ? Saint-Malo ? Nantes

8th ? Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre), 31 ? Cholet time trial

11th ? Juan Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 28 ? Brioude ? Aurillac

15th ? Alan Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 26 ? Pau rest day

15th ? Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step), 27

17th ? Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto), 31 ? Lavalanet ? Narbonne

21st ? Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), 27 ? Cuneo rest day

26th ? Christophe Laurent (Garmin-Chipotle), 31 ? Cérilly ? St Amand Montrond

27th ? Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Chipotle), 25 ? Etampes ? Paris

STAGE WINNERS AND JERSEY WEARERS

There are no previous Tour de France champions in this year?s field but there 13 riders who have experience of wearing the yellow jersey in the past.

They are: Robbie McEwen, Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O?Grady, Jens Voigt, Oscar Pereiro, George Hincapie, Thor Hushovd, Cyril Dessel, Christophe Moreau, Thomas Voeckler, Erik Zabel, Rubens Bertogliati and David Millar.

There are 34 former Tour de France stage winners in this year?s race (as long as you count Cadel Evans and Kim Kirchen, who were awarded victories after Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive last year).

Former Tour stage winners in this year?s race (including prologues)

12 stage wins: Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel

5 stage wins: Thor Hushovd

3 stage wins: Fabian Cancellara, Oscar Freire, David Millar

2 stage wins: Stuart O?Grady, Jens Voigt, Filippo Pozzato, David Moncoutié

1 stage win: Cadel Evans, Yaroslav Popovych, Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck, Alejandro Valverde, Jose Luis Garcia Acosta, Oscar Pereiro, Kim Kirchen, George Hincapie, Juan Mauricio Soler, Felix Cardenas, Baden Cooke, Robert Hunter, Gert Steegmans, Matteo Tosatto, Christophe Moreau, Jimmy Casper, Denis Menchov, Juan Antonio Flecha, Pieter Weening, Pierrick Fedrigo, Sandy Casar, Rubens Bertogliati, Magnus Backstedt

OLDEST AND YOUNGEST

? The oldest rider in the field is Stéphane Goubert of Ag2r-La Mondiale. He?s 38 years and 3 months.

? The youngest rider is Gerald Ciolek, who is 21 years and nine months.

SPECIAL GUEST STAR

? David Le Lay is riding for Agritubel as a guest. He usually rides for Breton team Bretagne Amor Lux but is on loan to Agritubel for the Tour. He?s a Breton rider who has been signed up because of the Tour?s start in Brittany.

TOUR BY NATIONALITY

Twenty teams of nine riders means a field of 180. There are 27 nationalities represented (note, we are counting Kenyan-born Chris Froome as British because he is now racing on a British licence).

Australia 9

Austria 2

Belarus 2

Belgium 12

Brazil 1

Canada 1

Colombia 3

Czech Republic 1

Denmark 2

France 40

Germany 16

Great Britain 3

Italy 21

Luxembourg 3

Netherlands 10

New Zealand 1

Norway 1

Poland 1

Russia 5

Slovakia 1

Slovenia 1

South Africa 2

Spain 30

Sweden 2

Switzerland 4

Ukraine 2

USA 4

The most eclectic teams are Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle who each have riders from eight different nationalities. Euskaltel-Euskadi, who only sign Basque riders, are made up of nine Spaniards. Gerolsteiner have eight Germans, Agritubel and Française des Jeux each have eight Frenchmen and Lampre have eight Italians.

JUST CHAMPION

These are the reigning national champions who are in this year?s Tour de France. Interesting to note neither Italian champion, Filippo Simeoni (road ? rides for Ceramica Flaminia) nor Marco Pinotti (time trial, not selected by Columbia) are not in the race.

Road

Nicki Sorensen ? Denmark (CSC)

Nicolas Vogondy ? France (Agritubel)

Fabian Wegmann ? Germany (Gerolsteiner)

Frank Schleck ? Luxembourg (CSC)

Julian Dean ? New Zealand (Garmin-Chipotle)

Alejandro Valverde ? Spain (Caisse d?Epargne)

Time trial

Adam Hansen ? Australia (Team Columbia)

Sylvain Chavanel ? France (Cofidis)

David Millar ? Great Britain (Garmin-Chipotle)

Luis Leon Sanchez ? Spain (Caisse d?Epargne)

Fabian Cancellara ? Switzerland (CSC)

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

There are 48 riders making their Tour de France debut this year.

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