The American came of age through the Alps and Pyrenees during the 2002 race.
Best Tour: 2002 - 8th overall
The then Rabobank team leader was inspired by a host of family members who watched him throughout the race.
What resulted were a string of telling rides, which saw him the highest American finisher after Armstrong in eighth place.
He crashed out in 2003 but bounced back to ninth overall last year before switching his allegiance to new team Gerolsteiner for this year.
His preparations show his focus is on the Tour and nothing else this season.
After his eighth place in 2002, he claimed he had always been destined to ride the race.
He said: "I remember watching it on TV when I was 13, from my home in Butte, Montana, and thinking, 'wow' and knew that someday I'd be there."
Despite that, he spent his teenage years cycling in the summer to strengthen himself for alpine skiing, then his first love.