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Brits abroad: Meet the 10 British riders at the 2021 Tour de France

Joe Robinson
22 Jun 2021

A total of 10 British cyclists are at the Tour de France, but who are they riding for and what might they get from the race?

The 108th Tour de France starts on Saturday 26th June in Brittany, France. Among the 176 riders taking the annual lap of France are ten Brits, over double the number of the 2020 edition.

The Ineos Grenadiers headline affairs where home riders are concerned with three among their team of eight. Wales's Geraint Thomas and London' Tao Geoghegan-Hart form part of a leadership quartet for the team while ever-present road captain and peloton enforcer Luke Rowe lines up for his seventh consecutive Tour.

Team BikeExchange's Simon Yates will be on the hunt for stage wins after racing the Giro d'Italia in May. Meanwhile, four-time yellow jersey winner Chris Froome returns to the Tour as road captain for the Israel Start-Up Nation team.

Mark Cavendish returns to his favourite race after a three-year absence looking to close in on Eddy Merckx's elusive stage wins record. Southeast Londons' Fred Wright makes his Tour debut for Bahrain-Victorious while duo Connor Swift and Dan McLay have received the call up for Breton ProTeam Arkea-Samsic. Oh, and there's even a Tour debut for the bully from Inbetweeners too.

Below Cyclist takes a look at each of these ten riders and what their goals will be over the next three weeks.

British riders at the 2021 Tour de France

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)

The 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas returns to the Grande Boucle with the bit between his teeth to prove that his one and so far only yellow jersey victory was not a fluke. Sounds harsh considering he rode to the overall podium in 2019 but you just get the impression Thomas has lacked the conviction to return to that Tour-winning form of 2018. Until now.

The Welshman took an impressive stage win at the recent Criterium du Dauphine, finishing third overall, and took the overall victory at the Tour de Romandie in May too. Just the form you need to win a Tour, right?

In most years, yes, those results would make Thomas the bookies' favourite but these times are a changing with Slovenian duo Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic still considered the two riders to beat.

Tao Geoghegan-Hart (Ineos Grenadiers)

Hackney-born and raised, Geoghegan-Hart harbours ambitions of following in the footsteps of hero Bradley Wiggins and proving that young lads from London can really become Tour champions one day. He makes his Tour debut as part of the Dave Brailsford quartet, sharing any potential leadership ambitions with Thomas, Carapaz and Porte.

Arguably, of the four, it is Geoghegan-Hart who will be the most expendable in regards to his yellow jersey aspirations but with that being the case, it could be the 26-year-old who is afforded the most freedom to animate things in the mountains.

Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers)

Ineos Grenadiers' road captain and enforcer, Luke Rowe has the big responsibility of guiding General Classification hopefuls Thomas, Porte, Geoghegan-Hart and Carapaz through to the mountains incident-free.

Pointed elbows and a sharp tongue at the ready, expect Rowe to never be far from the front in the first week as he usually bosses proceedings, especially if the race begins to get a bit nervous.

We expect Rowe to earn his salary across the first weekend, a lumpy, technical and sometimes exposed journey through the Breton region of France. Here he will have to be switched on. Once the race reaches the mountains, however, Rowe's job will be over and it will all be about surviving to Paris.

Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

He couldn't, could he? I mean, even getting a ride at the Tour felt like a pipedream little over a month ago and now, here we are, discussing whether Mark Cavendish could really target Eddy Merckx's overall stage win record of 34. He needs four to draw level, five for the outright record. It seems a stretch but the Manxman sure likes to prove us wrong, doesnt he?

Cavendish's call up to QuickStep's Tour team comes as defending green jersey winner Sam Bennett pulls out with knee injury. Luckily for Cavendish, one man who will be present is the best sprint leadout man in the world right now – Michael Morkov. Sit on that man's wheel and you will win races.

Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation)

Four times a Tour champion, seven times a Grand Tour winner, the greatest three-week rider of the 21st century so far* and here we are, questioning whether Chris Froome was even good enough to get picked for this year's race.

In truth Froome has been a shadow of his former self, and his Israel Start-Up Nation team have already declared he will take on the Tour in road captain capacity with no ambitions around GC. There are some that are even dubious of Froome's ability to make it through the entire three-week race. 

I say cut the man some slack. The fact he even returned to racing after that horrific crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine is worth applauding, let alone racing the Tour, cycling's most demanding race. 

*Don't tell Alberto Contador. 

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange)

Simon Yates will be following up his recent third place at the Giro d'Italia with his fifth career participation at the Tour, however rather than targetting the General Classification, he comes on a stage win-hunting mission.

Last time Yates did that, again having raced the Giro, he left with two victories and we suspect a similar result this time. Ultimately, he is among the very best climbers in the world so when it comes to contesting mountain stage wins among a reduced breakaway, the odds stack in his favour.

If we had to pick out one day in particular where we believe Yates will shine, how about Stage 15, a 192km mountain raid through the small principality of Andorra, the very place Yates happens to live?  

Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious)

Geoghegan-Hart will not be the only Londoner making his Tour debut this summer. Former VC Londres junior Fred Wright will be doing it for those south of the river as he makes up part of in-form WorldTour team Bahrain-Victorious. Let's just hope all those reps of Layhams pay off.

The 22-year-old made his Grand Tour debut at last autumn's Vuelta a Espana so knows the craic when it comes to racing over three weeks and he will likely prove a vital ally to recently-crowned Italian National Champion Sonny Colbrelli who will fancy his chances for stage glory across the opening week.

Mark Donovan (Team DSM)

Team DSM's Mark Donovan has come a long way since bullying Will, Jay, Neil and Simon. Quite the turnaround to now be making his Tour debut, I wonder if that French exchange student had any influence on this career decision?

Inbetweeners namesake references aside, you may not know much about Donovan, we can tell you that he currently resides in Girona, Spain but is Cumbria-born and raised, loves lasagna, and unwinds with Call of Duty and Fifa.

Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic) 

The young Yorkshireman made his Tour debut last year in the service of Colombian GC man Nairo Quintana. It proved a roaring success. He earned showering praise from Nairoman for his exemplary bodyguard duties and even managed to make the Stage 21 breakaway across the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees. We even spoke to Connor about how well he did for a podcast here

For 2021, it will be much the same as he looks to guide Quintana through a complicated first weekend in Brittany. He will be brimming with confidence, however, as a recent visit to the region in May saw him clinch the biggest victory of his career so far, Tro Bro Leon.

Dan McLay (Arkea-Samsic)

A third Tour participation for the New Zealand-born Brit Dan McClay as he joins Swift in Arkea-Samsic's Tour team.

Leadout man for Nacer Bouhanni will likely be his main role for the three weeks however should the Frenchman struggle, McLay could be afforded his own opportunities in the bunch sprints. After all, let's not forget McLay took third on Stage 6 of the Tour back in 2016 behind Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel. 

British riders in last year's Tour de France

Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers)
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic)
Hugh Carthy (Education First)