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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Britain at the Tour
Sean Yates celebrates his yellow jersey in the 1994 Tour
As Chris Boardman lines up for his last attempt at the three-week marathon, David Millar becomes the 53rd Briton to try his hand at the Tour de France this summer.

Although UK cycling has always lived in the shadow of its continental neighbours, 22 riders from Britain have successfully completed at least one race.

As with Boardman and Millar this year, the baton tends to get handed from one generation to another, with only one race since 1955 failing to feature a Briton on the start list.

This is our guide to Britain's Top 10 Tour riders, based on races ridden and honours won.

1. Robert Millar

  • Tours: 11 (1983-1993) Finishes: 8 Best finish: 4th, 1984 (British record) Stage wins: 3 King of the Mountains winner 1984, only Briton to take major jersey to Paris
Millar's achievement is clear - the only Briton to finish a Tour in the top five and win a major prize in Paris.

He also helped the sport gain daily television coverage in Britain when his career coincided with that of brilliant Irishmen Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche.

The era also saw a British trade team, ANC-Halfords, make an unsuccessful assault on the 1987 Tour as the sport gained a new audience.

Millar was a pure mountain climber, light but very powerful on the slopes.

In 1983, he won a stage of his first Tour in the Pyrenees, his country's first victory for eight years, before finishing 14th.

A year later he jumped 10 places, when a second Pyrenean win also came his way, as well as the famous polka dot jersey for the Tour's best climber.

He returned to the stage-winner's podium in 1989, a race which saw him become the only Briton with two top 10 finishes.

And despite the spelling and their shared Scottish nationality, Robert is no relation to this year's debutant David Millar.

2. Barry Hoban

  • Tours: 12 (a British record, 1964-78) Finishes: 11 (British record) Best finish: 33rd, 1968 Stage wins: 8 (British record)
Just as Millar was the name to watch in the 1980s, so Hoban was a true contender in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Neither man wore the yellow jersey, but that was neither specialist's true target.

Hoban was a sprinter-roadman, a star of flat Tour stages and one-day classics, whose eight Tour stage wins is a British record unlikely to be broken in the near future.

The first came in 1967, while two years later he won two consecutive stages, a double win repeated in 1973.

One of the 1969 wins was in Bordeaux, the city visited more times by the Tour than any except Paris, and the one every sprinter wants to win.

Hoban proved his class when he was victorious there for a second time in 1975.

And unlike some fast-men who get off their bike at the sight of a mountain, Hoban had stamina with an incredible 11 finishes from 12 Tours.

3. Chris Boardman

  • Tours: 6 to date (1994-present) Finishes: 2 Best finish: 39th, 1996 Stage wins: 3 Yellow jerseys: 3 races (British record, 1994, 1997, 1998) Holds record for fastest stage in Tour history at Lille, 1994
Boardman is the only Briton to have worn the leader's yellow jersey in more than one Tour.

Boardman was only the second to wear yellow in the Tour
He is also the only rider to take it with a record speed in his first appearance in the race.

His prologue time trial of 1994 made quite an impact back home.

He was the first Britain to wear yellow in 32 years and just in time for the race to spend two heady days in southern England.

Boardman's speciality is the Tour prologue, the short test which decides the first yellow jersey.

The stage is basically the unofficial world championship for the distance, and Boardman has won three of these fast and furious challenges.

Last year the rider from the Wirral finished his second Tour, having suffered bad luck or crashes in all races except 1996 and 1999.

4. Tom Simpson

  • Tours: 7 (1960-67) Finishes: 3 Best finish: 6th, 1962 Stage wins: 3 Yellow jersey: 1 (1962) First Briton to wear yellow and finish in top 10
Simpson was the man who turned the dream of a Briton in yellow into a reality but then tragically died during the Tour itself.

Simpson on the Tour just days before he died
1962 was Simpson's best year, when he wore the yellow jersey on his way to sixth place in Paris.

He was also to become world road race champion although the popular rider will always be remembered as the committed competitor who died during the Tour.

It happened on the baking slopes of Mont Ventoux in 1967, when Simpson collapsed and got back on his bike before falling again, never to recover.

Tests showed amphetamines in his bloodstream, although this fact has not been allowed to diminish his reputation, since use was widespread in the peloton of the 1960s.

5. Sean Yates

  • Tours: 12 (joint British record) Finishes: 9 Best finish: 45th, 1989 Stage wins: 1 Yellow jersey: 1 (1994)
Yates emerged with Millar just as coverage of the sport was increasing, and gave years of loyal service as one of the very best domestiques in the bunch.

Typically for a product of the British racing scene he was also a strong time triallist, and gained his stage win in an individual test at Wasquehal.

Some Tour stage wins come from a lucky break, but this was no such thing - he had beaten the world's best in the "race of truth".

His yellow jersey came on one of Britain's best Tours, that of 1994.

It was just days after Boardman had become the first Briton in 32 years to wear the jersey and also after Yates had ridden past his own English home.

He was a popular race leader throughout the peloton and thoroughly deserved another day in the limelight as his career approached its end.

Yates is now managing the British Linda McCartney team, which hopes one day to appear at the Tour.

6. Michael Wright

  • Tours: 8 (1964-74) Finishes: 3 Best finish: 24th, 1965 Stage wins: 3
With Tommy Simpson's death, 1967 was a tragic Tour for the British.

Yet it was also the first time the country had won two stages in the same race, with Hoban's first win coming alongside Wright's second.

Wright won three stages in his eight Tours, as he and Hoban provided their country with the most consistent period of stage wins it has known.

7. Brian Robinson

  • Tours: 7 (1955-62) Finishes: 5 Best finish: 14th, 1956 Stage wins: 2 Shares with Tony Hoar distinction of first Briton to finish Tour, in 1955
Three British riders - including the intriguingly-named Pierre Gachon - made Britain's debut in the 1937 Tour

But it was 1955 before anybody tried again, with nine riders led by Robinson who finished 29th that year and 14th in 1956.

By 1957 he was the only Briton on the startline but a year later made an even more significant breakthrough, with Brest in Brittany seeing Britain's first stage win in the great race.

It was a feat he repeated in 1959 between Annecy and Chalon-sur-Saone.

That race which saw a second top 20 finish for being Britain's Tour pioneer, and by the time he left the scene, more riders were crossing the channel to start the race, with a record 11 taking part in 1961.

8. Max Sciandri

  • Tours: 7 to date (1990-present) Finishes: 4 Best finish: 47th, 1995 Stage wins: 1
Apart from Boardman, Britain's only other stage winner of the 1990s has been the man born in Derby to an Italian father and English mother.

Sciandri in national colours
Despite his Italian address, Sciandri rides for Britain and won Olympic bronze in 1996 for the country of his birth.

That was a year after his only Tour stage win over a route from the Alps into St Etienne which is repeated for the 1999 race.

His chances of Tour victory are few and far between since he does not excel in the high mountains, and is not the fastest sprinter.

But intermediate stages are perfect for him, as are the one-day classics in which he has an impressive record.

Sciandri now rides for Yates at the McCartney squad and will miss this year's Tour.

9. Graham Jones

  • Tours: 5 (1980-87) Finishes: 4 Best finish: 20th, 1981

10. Paul Sherwen

  • Tours: 7 (1978-86) Finishes: 5 Best finish: 70th, 1978
Jones and Sherwen are the cream of the many other British professionals who have gone to the Tour without winning a stage or enjoying a day in yellow.

Both are also responsible for continuing to help the sport through work with the media, and each helped British cycling bridge a tough period between Hoban's stage wins and Millar's mountain raids.

Sherwen's debut came in the Hoban's last appearance - 1978.

Jones reinforced the numbers from the 1980, and reached the high point of 20th place in Paris in only his second Tour.

Sherwen was a TV commentator when Jones ended his Tour career by guiding the inexperienced ANC-Halfords team through a difficult debut.

And Jones now follows the Tour with BBC Radio 5 Live, while Sherwen works for Channel 4 television.

Best of the rest

Of the other 42 riders, only Vic Denson (1961-68) rode more than five Tours, while three others have managed top 50 finishes at the race's end.

Derek Harrisson finished 32nd in 1969, and Victor Sutton 37th in 1959.

Probably the unluckiest man to miss our top 10 is Alan Ramsbottom, who finished a heady 16th in the 1963 race.

Others enjoyed success on the continent including Malcolm Elliott, who finished two Tours de France and also won the points jersey outright in the Tour of Spain in 1989.

See also:

28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
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