Welcome to the Feed Zone – Cycling Weekly‘s nourishing digest of Tour de France news, facts and gossip.

START TIMES FOR TOUR PROLOGUE
Iban Mayoz, the Spanish rider for Footon-Servetto, will kick things off when he rides down the start ramp in Rotterdam at 16.15 local time (15.15 UK time) on Saturday. Mayoz – not to be confused with the former Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Iban Mayo – is making his Tour debut.

Last man off, at 19.32 (18.32 UK time) will be defending champion Alberto Contador.

Team Sky’s leader, Bradley Wiggins, will be among the earlier starters, at 16.55 (15.55 UK time).

Here are some of the key start times. All times are local. Take an hour off for UK times.
16.15 Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto)
16.27 Jeremy Hunt (Cervélo)
16.33 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
16.53 David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)
16.55 Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
17.11 Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo)
17.32 Charly Wegelius (Omega Pharma)
17.39 Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
18.29 Lars Boom (Rabobank)
18.37 Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
18.43 David Millar (Garmin-Transitions)
18.47 Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank)
19.07 Steve Cummings (Team Sky)
19.09 Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
19.20 Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
19.21 Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia)
19.23 Thor Hushovd (Cervélo)
19.24 Nicolas Roche (AG2R)
19.28 Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
19.29 Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky)
19.30 Lance Armstrong (Radioshack)
19.31 Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
19.32 Alberto Contador (Astana)

NO PRESS BRIEFING FOR RADIOSHACK
Lance Armstrong’s team has decided not to have a formal press conference in the days leading up to the Tour de France. Many of the top teams – including Team Sky, HTC-Columbia, Cervélo and Quick Step – have scheduled short question and answer sessions for the press. But Armstrong seems reluctant to engage with the media – except in controlled circumstances. On Thursday night he apparently sat down with three hand-picked reporters presumably deemed suitably on-side to avoid asking any questions with the words ‘Floyd Landis’ or ‘Food and Drug Administration’ in them. As he came off the stage at the team presentation yesterday, a journalist from another title introduced himself and asked Armstrong if he could have a minute of his time. “Absolutely not,” came the reply.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS SHOW THEIR COLOURS
Not all the national road race champions paraded their new colours on the podium at Thursday evening’s team presentation. We understand there’s a bit of a race against time to get Geraint Thomas’s new British champion’s jersey to him before the Tour starts, for example.

Ten national time trial champions will wear their jerseys in Saturday’s prologue. They are:

Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) Saxo Bank
Nicolas Vogondy (France) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Tony Martin (Germany) HTC-Columbia
Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) Team Sky
Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania) Cervélo
Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Team Sky
Rui Costa (Portugal) Caisse d’Epargne
Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne
David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions

And when the road stages kick off, there will be 13 riders in their national champions’ jerseys.
Aleksandr Kuschynski (Belarus) Liquigas
Nicki Sorensen (Denmark) Saxo Bank
Thomas Voeckler (France) BBox Bouygues Telecom
Christian Knees (Germany) Milram
Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) Team Sky
Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank
Alexandr Pliuschin (Moldova) Katusha
Niki Terpstra (Netherlands) Milram
Thor Hushovd (Norway) Cervélo
Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia) Katusha
Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne
Martin Elmiger (Switzerland) Ag2r
George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing

BRITISH CHAMPION IN THE TOUR
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas is the first reigning British road race champion to ride the Tour de France since Sean Yates in 1992. Robert Millar won the national title in 1995 and should have ridden the Tour but his French Le Groupement team – sponsored by a company of pyramid sellers – went bust just days before the grand depart. In 2007, David Millar won the national title but the race was held in August because the original event, in June, was washed out by heavy rain.

TOUR FACTS
If you’re following the Tour for the first time or just want to impress your friends with your knowledge, this may interest you.

Most wins… Lance Armstrong 7 (1999-2005)
Eddy Merckx 5 (1969-72, 1974)
Jacques Anquetil 5 (1957, 1961-1964)
Bernard Hinault 5 (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)
Miguel Indurain 5 (1991-1995)
Philippe Thys 3 (1913, 1914, 1920)
Louison Bobet 3 (1953-1955)
Greg Lemond 3 (1986, 1989, 1990)

Alberto Contador (2007, 2009) could become the fourth rider to win three Tours this year.

Most second places… Joop Zoetemelk (Netherlands) 6

Fastest Tour… 41.654kph – Lance Armstrong, 2005

Fastest road stage… 50.355kph, Laval to Blois, 191km, 1999 (won by Mario Cipollini

Fastest time trial… (over 20km) 54.545kph, 24.5km, 1989 (won by Greg Lemond)

Most stage wins… 34 by Eddy Merckx

Most days in yellow…
111 Eddy Merckx
83 Lance Armstrong
79 Bernard Hinault
60 Miguel Indurain
52 Jacques Anquetil

Smallest winning margins
8 seconds – Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon in 1989
23 seconds – Alberto Contador beat Cadel Evans in 2007
32 seconds – Oscar Pereiro beat Andreas Kloden in 2006 (after Floyd Landis was disqualified)
38 seconds – Jan Janssen beat Herman Van Springel in 1968
40 seconds – Stephen Roche beat Pedro Delgado in 1987

Most green jerseys won… 6, Erik Zabel (1996-2001)

Most king of the mountains titles… 7, Richard Virenque ) 1994-1997, 1999, 2003, 2004

Most Tours ridden… 16 by Joop Zoetemelk

Prize money…
Overall winner – €450,000
2nd place – €200,000

How much do you earn for each day in yellow? €350

What’s a stage win worth? €8,000

TOUR FIRST-TIMERS
All nine riders in the Footon-Servetto team are riding the Tour for the first time this year, making them the least experienced line-up here.

In all, there are 63 debutants in the race. Six of Lampre’s riders have never ridden the Tour before. Britain’s Daniel Lloyd and Jeremy Hunt make their first appearances riding for Cervélo. Team Sky has four first timers – Michael Barry, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings and Serge Pauwels.

The debutants likely to make the biggest impact are Janez Brajkovic, the Radioshack rider who recently won the Critérium du Dauphiné, Jakob Fuglsang, the emerging Saxo Bank rider and Lars Boom, who will be one of the fancied riders in the prologue.

SASTRE AND HUSHOVD GO FOR YELLOW AND GREEN
The 2008 Tour de France champion, Carlos Sastre, was cautiously optimistic when talking about his chances. Having struggled with injury earlier this season, which forced him to battle through the Giro d’Italia, he is relieved to be riding pain-free. “I don’t have pain, that is the most important thing,” said the Cervélo rider.

Sastre also said he was nervous about the cobbles on Tuesday but had confidence in his team-mates to see him through safely. “I don’t have much experience on the cobbles. In the Giro we had the stages in the Netherlands in the beginning so I am used to the stress. It’s going to be stressful for everyone. It’s not that easy for me because I have back problems and, at 60kg, I’m not suited to the cobbles but it’s part of the race, part of the game.”

His team-mate, Thor Hushovd, will help divert some of the pressure away during the first week. “I had an okay Classics, with a bit of sickness, but I was coming better, then I crashed in training and broke my collarbone so I had to start on zero again,” he said. “At the Tour of Switzerland it was very difficult at the start but I was getting better and now I have won the national title so I am ready to go for stages and, hopefully, the green jersey.”

Asked if his Norwegian compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) could challenge for the green jersey, Hushovd said: “Maybe one day but he’s a young guy doing his first Tour. He needs time. One day I am sure he can win it. He’s also on a team where they are going for the overall so he will have other work to do.”

Hushovd, who won the prologue at the 2006 Tour in Strasbourg, said he was not in the frame to win but would hope to do well to give himself a chance of aiming for the yellow jersey when the race reached Classics territory. “Before my crash I did think about the prologue but afterwards I couldn’t train on the time trial bike so I can’t focus on it now.”

MORE FROM CYCLING WEEKLY
Struggling to satisfy your desire for Tour de France news… how about these articles from the team at Cycling Weekly

Our man Ellis Bacon was at the team presentation in the centre of Rotterdam last night. Here’s what the riders said…

Saxo Bank’s Bjarne Riis is right behind the Schleck brothers despite the news that they will be leaving the team at the end of the year.

Lance Armstrong predicts there will be carnage on the cobbles on Tuesday.

Jeremy Hunt and Dan Lloyd are looking forward to their first taste of Tour action.

Here’s the full start list

Who’s going to win? CW rates the favourites here.

There are eight British riders in the Tour this year – more than at any time since 1968 when the race was run with riders representing their national teams rather than trade teams. Here are the Great Britain Eight.

  • adam

    Being stuck out in Finland and having no TV I was wondering if anyone knows a good site to watch the Tour online?

    Last year there was some Portuguese TV website that ran it (without the need for cunning IP address fooling thingies). Any help warmly appreciated!

    Ahem… I will of course also be following it one Cycling Weekly’s excellent by the minute coverage…. 😉