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Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Friday, 2 July 2010 13:07 UK

Brits on Tour

Tour de France 2010
Start: 3 July, Rotterdam Finish: 25 July, Paris
Coverage: Listen to the final hour of every stage on the BBC Sport website (UK only), with selected stages on BBC 5 live sports extra; Watch live on Eurosport and ITV4; Live text commentary each day on BBC Sport website

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas is one of three British riders in David Brailsford's Team Sky

By Peter Slater
BBC Radio 5 live commentator

How times have changed. Five years ago there wasn't a single British rider in the Tour de France.

But when the field comes to the start here in Rotterdam on Saturday, not only will Britain have its largest entry since 1968, it will also have genuine contenders for three of the main jerseys.

Oh, and there's the first British-based team since the ill-fated ANC-Halfords squad in 1987.

Eight Britons will be at the Grand Depart in 2010. Bradley Wiggins arrives full of confidence after finishing fourth last year, Mark Cavendish is still reckoned to be the fastest man in a bunch sprint, and new British national champion Geraint Thomas must be a contender at least for the young riders' white jersey.

Wiggins is team leader for Dave Brailsford's latest brainchild. Three years ago Brailsford told the world of a magnificent ambition, to win the Tour de France with a British rider within five years and to win it clean.

Now, with major commercial backing, could it really happen? Team Sky is a reality, and alongside Wiggins in the Netherlands are both Thomas and Steve Cummings, one third of one of the strongest teams in the peloton.

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Wiggins tells me his focus has changed. In previous years he'd be a favourite to win the prologue time trial and hang on to the yellow jersey for as long as possible. Now it's the overall classification which matters, so if he's a few seconds behind Fabian Cancellara around the Dutch port (which everyone probably will be) then it won't be as big a disappointment.

If Wiggins can make the podium three weeks on Sunday, it would mark the best ever finish for a British rider. It would be some achievement.

Of course, Alberto Contador remains a short-priced favourite to win in Paris with Andy Schleck, his brother Frank and Cadel Evans among the other challengers.

Throw in Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso and 2008 Tour champion Carlos Sastre and it could be a fiercely contested battle for yellow. And let's not forget a certain seven-time former champion from Texas. Lance Armstrong says it's his last Tour, and he'll want to do well.

MATT SLATER'S BLOG

Cavendish also has different priorities in 2010. He wants to win stages but most of all he wants to finish the Tour in green.

Last year he felt he was robbed of the points jersey by the race commissaires, who scrubbed his stage win in Besancon, allowing Thor Hushovd to sneak away in the Alps and win enough intermediate points to take the prize.

Once again Hushovd will be the Manxman's main danger, and in his Cervelo TestTeam are two more of the British invaders, Jeremy Hunt and Dan Lloyd, both thrilled to be taking part in their first ever Tour de France.

The other two in the British octet are both seasoned campaigners, but David Millar and Charly Wegelius will have important roles to play in their teams. Millar is road captain for the Garmin-Transitions squad while Wegelius rides his third Tour, his second for the Belgian Lotto outfit.

On the road in the first week the riders will be tested by the winds of the Dutch coast, the Ardennes and the cobbles of northern France. Plenty to tax the field before they enter the Alps next weekend.

There may be disappointments ahead for the British boys, but look how far we've come in five years. (Read Cycling Weekly's profiles of the British eight)

My own opinion is that Wiggins will finish in the top three and that Cavendish will take the green jersey in Paris. Am I being overly optimistic or simply suffering from blind patriotism? We'll know soon enough!

There will be daily BBC Radio 5 live commentary online for UK users of at least the last hour of each stage.



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see also
Tour de France 2010 guide
02 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France day by day
01 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Wiggins eyes Tour de France glory
01 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France dope test 'flawed'
02 Jul 10 |  Europe
Armstrong set for Tour farewell
29 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Britain's Lloyd gets Tour call-up
26 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Wiggins in top condition for Tour
25 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Cavendish upbeat on Tour chances
24 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Cummings and Thomas get Tour nod
24 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Contador man to beat - Armstrong
14 Jun 10 |  Cycling
Armstrong team hits out at Landis
21 May 10 |  Cycling
Illness hits Armstrong Tour plans
07 Apr 10 |  Cycling
Contador seals 2009 Tour victory
26 Jul 09 |  Cycling


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