The Tour de France presentation was like a huge call of the school register, but as the 180 starters climbed onto the podium and waved to the crowd, there were some big names missing.
Some have been kept out of the Tour because they have broken the anti-doping rules, and the race will be all the better for their absence. Others have succumbed to injury or loss of form. Others are focusing on goals later in the season.
Here we list the biggest names missing from this year's Tour and why they're at home instead of in Monaco.
Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Epargne
Caisse d'Epargne stepped down from what could have been a bitter dispute with ASO by deciding to leave Valverde out of the Tour team. With the Spaniard banned from racing in Italy for his involvement in Operacion Puerto, stage 16 could have been embarrassing for everyone as it crosses the border briefly.
Samuel Sanchez Euskaltel-Euskadi
One of the most puzzling omissions. The Olympic road race champion was seventh overall in last year's Tour. He's had a very light racing programme this year, didn't ride the Giro, and was a respectable ninth in his last event, the Tour of Catalonia in May.
Damiano Cunego Lampre
Had a difficult Giro d'Italia and has finally accepted he's not a Grand Tour contender any longer. Has decided to skip the Tour and will focus the remainder of his season on the World Championships in Mendrisio.
Ivan Basso Liquigas
As one of the riders who signifies the Operacion Puerto case that embarrassed the grand depart in Strasbourg three years ago, Basso's face would not be welcome at the Tour. Liquigas decided to announce very early their intention to leave him at home to avoid falling out with the organisers.
Tom Boonen Quick Step
There's still a big question mark over Boonen. The French have barred him. Quick Step have tried to over-turn the decision. The lawyers have failed to decide. With so little time before the start, it's difficult to imagine the French backing down now.
Thomas Dekker Silence-Lotto
After years of rumours and a controversial relationship with the Italian trainer-doctor Luigi Cecchini, the Dutch rider was told that a sample from late 2007 had tested positive for Dynepo. Silence-Lotto dropped him from the team, calling up Charly Wegelius instead.
Tadej Valjavec AG2R
10th overall in last year's Tour, was ninth at the Giro d'Italia but did not get selected for the Tour.
Janez Brajkovic Astana
Slovenian had expected a Tour spot after working selflessly for the team in the Giro.
Chris Horner Astana
An unwelcome surprise for the veteran American, who had fully expected to be selected.
Remy Di Gregorio Française des Jeux
One of the young French hopes seems to have been derailed lately. He won't get a chance to develop this July, having failed to make the cut.
Dan Martin Garmin-Slipstream
All set to make his Tour debut, but tendinitis in his right knee has failed to clear up. Better to sit it out and wait for the Vuelta than ruin a young career.
Tom Danielson Garmin-Slipstream
Well down the pecking order. Even when Martin was ruled out, it was the Dutchman Martijn Maaskant who took his place.
Marcus Burghardt Columbia-HTC
A stage winner in last year's Tour, there's no room in Columbia's star-studded roster this year.
Thomas Lovkvist Columbia-HTC
The 25-year-old has ridden - and finished - the last four Tours. Not this year, though. He rode the Giro, excelling in the first ten days, before fading.
Robbie McEwen Katusha
Broke a bone in his leg in a crash at the Tour of Belgium. Misses the Tour for the first time since 2001.
Gert Steegmans Katusha
Won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees last year while riding for Quick Step. Refused to sign Katusha's so-called anti-doping charter, requiring riders to pay five times their annual salary as a fine in the case of a positive dope test, so was left out of the Tour team.
Simon Gerrans Cérvelo
Surprisingly left out, particularly as he won at Prato Nevoso in the Alps last year, and took a stage of the Giro in May. Perhaps paying the price for going training with one of his team-mate Carlos Sastre's biggest rivals (Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer) in the US?
Tour de France 2009 - Cycling Weekly's full coverage
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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