Brits on Tour: every British cyclist to have ridden the Tour de France
From Charlie Holland and Bill Burl in 1937 to the WorldTour superstars of today, which British riders have started the Tour de France?
Scott Thwaites will become the 67th British rider to start the Tour de France, when the 2017 edition rolls out with a time trial in Dusseldorf on Saturday (July 1).
After two Brits – Charles Holland and Bill Burl – went where no British riders had gone before by starting the 1937 Tour de France, it was the British team of 1955 which truly blazed a trail.
Since then, there have only been three Tours without a British rider on the startline – in 1976, 2004 and 2005.
So which British riders have earned a spot in cycling’s greatest race during its 104 editions? And how did they fare? Here’s the full list – and their Tour highlights.
It was not until 1937, the 31st edition of the Tour de France, that British riders entered the race for the first time, with two Brits in the three-strong British Empire team (Canadian Pierre Gachon was the other rider).
Charles Holland (1937)
An Olympic team pursuit bronze medallist, Holland was the more successful of the two Brits to enter in 1937, but abandoned after several mechanical issues on stage 14C in the Pyrenees.
Bill Burl (1937)
London-born Bill Burl’s role in 1937 is remembered less than Holland’s, because he was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone on stage two after colliding with a photographer.
The first British team ever to enter the Tour de France, during a period when it was raced by national teams, did so in 1955. Of the ten-strong line-up, two men finished. In 1958, Brian Robinson became the first British rider to win a stage of the Tour de France.
Dave Bedwell (1955)
Essex-born Dave Bedwell won four stages of the inaugural Tour of Britain in 1951, and took a further nine in his career; a British champion at amateur, semi-pro, and pro level he abandoned his only Tour de France on stage three.
Tony Hoar (1955)
One of two Brits to finish the 1955 Tour de France, Hampshire’s Tony Hoar was the lanterne rouge, finishing last in 69th place.
Stan Jones (1955)
Stan Jones was one of two riders from the Concorde Club to form part of the British team, but missed the time cut on stage seven in the Alps after suffering several punctures.
Fred Krebs (1955)
Austrian-born Fred Krebs was a top-ten finisher at the inaugural Tour of Europe and at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but a knee injury curtailed his only Tour de France.
Bob Maitland (1955)
The other of two Concorde Club members selected, Bob Maitland was a two-time British hill climb champion and 1948 Olympic silver medallist but abandoned on stage nine after a crash.
Ken Mitchell (1955)
A nasty saddle sore curtailed Yorkshireman Ken Mitchell’s sole Tour de France, though he did go on to finish runner-up at the Tour of Britain later that year.
Bernard Pusey (1955)
A Commonwealth Games bronze medallist the previous year, and Tour of Ireland winner, Bernard Pusey abandoned the Tour de France on stage two.
Ian Steel (1955)
Scot Ian Steel won the 1951 Tour of Britain and 1952 Peace Race but, as one of the few non-Hercules team riders in the British setup was forced to ride as a domestique in his only Tour de France and abandoned, demoralised, in the mountains.
Bevis Wood (1955)
Lancastrian Bev Wood enjoyed domestic success in the early 1950s, but abandoned the 1955 Tour de France on stage three.
Brian Robinson (1955-1961)
The most famous of Britain’s first ever Tour de France team, Yorkshireman Brian Robinson finished the 1955 race in 29th place overall, which earned him professional contracts in Europe and Tour de France berths thereafter with mixed international teams.
In 1958, he won stage seven of the Tour de France in Brest, after Arigo Padovan was relegated for irregular sprinting, and secured his second Tour stage win with a solo break to Chalon-sur-Saone. Robinson rode seven consecutive Tours in all, finishing five with a best result of 14th in 1956. A podium finisher at Milan-San Remo in 1957, Robinson also won the 1961 Criterium du Dauphine Libere.
Stan Brittain (1958, 1960-1961)
Twice a podium finisher at the Peace Race, Liverpool-born Stan Brittain rode the Tour de France three times, but only finished once – 66th place in 1958.
Ron Coe (1958, 1961)
The first ever winner of the professional British national road race, Yorkshireman Ron Coe started two Tours but completed just five stages in 1958 and four in 1961.
John Andrews (1959, 1960)
One of the three ‘Nomades du Velo Anglais’, alongside Tony Hewson and Vic Sutton, John Andrews’ pursuit of success in Europe led to two Tour de France starts but he did not finish either.
Tony Hewson (1959)
A long mechanical delay due to a buckled wheel nearly cost Tony Hewson on the cobbled stage to Roubaix on stage three, but after finishing just inside the time cut he was not so lucky four days later when asked to wait for a team-mate.
Victor Sutton (1959, 1960)
Praised for his climbing by Fausto Coppi, Vic Sutton finished 37th in the 1959 Tour de France but according to a British coach at the time was unable to really fulfil his potential in Europe.
Brits like Brian Robinson and Vic Sutton raced for mixed international teams in the late 1950s but British teams returned in the 1960s and with great success before the Tour reverted to trade teams only. Britain’s star of the 1960s, of course, was Tom Simpson. The 1965 world champion became the first Brit to pull on the yellow jersey and his sixth place finish in 1962 remained the best British Tour de France result for two decades.
John Kennedy (1960)
Glaswegian John Kennedy turned pro in Europe in 1957. His only Tour de France, as part of the British team in 1960, ended in the Pyrenees during stage 12.
Harry Reynolds (1960)
Birmingham-born Harry Reynolds enjoyed success on British shores, but his only Tour de France ended during the 12th stage.
Norman Sheil (1960)
Liverpool-born World and Commonwealth track champion Norman Sheil finished second in the Paris-Ezy road race prior to the Tour de France, but abandoned after ten stages of his only Tour.
Tom Simpson (1960-1962, 1964-1967)
A man whose name will be forever linked to the Tour de France, 1965 world champion Simpson was the first Brit to pull on the yellow jersey and finished sixth overall in 1962 – at that point the best ever British result.
But the Durham-born rider was to lose his life on Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour, after taking a combination of alcohol and amphetamines, which proved lethal in the Provence heat.
Vin Denson (1961, 1964-1968)
Vin Denson led Belgian champion Edward Sels out to four stage wins at the 1964 Tour de France, and won a stage of the 1966 Giro d’Italia, but Simpson’s death had a profound effect on him and he retired two years later.
Albert Hitchen (1961, 1967)
Multiple successes on British shores, including two national titles, earned him a spot on the British team in 1961 and 1967 but his Tour was very short-lived on both occasions.
Ken Laidlaw (1961)
Scottish rider Ken Laidlaw earned the combativity prize for his attack on the road to Superbagneres, and finished his only Tour in 65th place.
George O’Brien (1961)
Merseysider George O’Brien enjoyed some success in local events, but his only Tour de France ended after three stages, by which point he was last on GC.
Peter Ryalls (1961)
Sheffield-born rider Peter Ryalls completed just the first three stages of his only Tour de France.
Sean Ryan (1961)
Only completed the first two stages of his sole Tour de France, but the Yorkshireman did go on to race in France for several years.
Alan Ramsbottom (1962, 1963)
Lancastrian Alan Ramsbottom rode two Tours in his first two years as a professional rider – his best finish of 16th in 1963 would have been even better, he believes, had he not been riding as a domestique.
Barry Hoban (1964, 1967-1975, 1977, 1978)
Yorkshireman Barry Hoban won eight Tour de France stages between 1967 and 1975, though his first win was tinged with sadness as it was gifted to the British team the day after Tom Simpson’s death.
In 1969, Hoban became the first Brit to win back-to-back Tour de France stages and still sits second on the all-time list of British stage winners at the Tour – only Mark Cavendish has more.
Michael Wright (1964, 1965, 1967-1969, 1972-1974)
Finished second on his first ever Tour de France stage. Though born in Hertfordshire his first language was actually French. Nevertheless, his British nationality helped earn him selection to the Tour de France and he won three stages of the race in all, in 1965, 1967 and 1973.
Peter Chisman (1967)
Won the 1963 Milk Race, having led from start to finish, but his only Tour de France lasted less than three days.
Peter Hill (1967)
Finished fifth on stage three of his only Tour de France but abandoned the race two days later.
Colin Lewis (1967, 1968)
British road race champion in 1967 and 1968, the same two years he rode the Tour de France, Colin Lewis was actually the best-placed British finisher on Mont Ventoux the day of Simpson’s death.
Arthur Metcalfe (1967, 1968)
Another of the four Brits still in the 1967 race when Simpson died, Arthur Metcalfe finished the 1967 Tour in 69th place overall but did not finish the following year.
Robert Addy (1968)
Bob Addy’s only Tour de France lasted ten stages before he abandoned the race.
John Clarey (1968)
Londoner John Clarey won the Bournemouth Three Day in 1968, earning him Tour de France selection, and after coming fifth on stage nine he finished 63rd overall.
Derek Green (1968)
Criterium success in Britain led to selection for the 1968 Tour de France, but Derek Green abandoned early in the race.
Derek Harrison (1968, 1969)
Birmingham-born Derek Harrison rode two Tours, abandoning his first before finishing 32nd overall at his second.
Hugh Porter (1968)
Hugh Porter finished seventh in the prologue of the 1968 Tour de France but injury forced him to abandon days later – which allowed extra time for him to prepare for the first of four world pursuit gold medals on the track.
Barry Hoban was Britain’s star of the 1970s, but the number of Brits at the Tour de France dwindled. Indeed, the 1976 edition was the first without a British rider since 1955. And only two British riders – Bill Nickson and Paul Sherwen – made their Tour de France debut in the decade. Nevertheless, stage wins from Hoban and Michael Wright ensured a moderate helping of British success.
Bill Nickson (1977)
After earning a pro contract with TI-Raleigh thanks to domestic success, Bill Nickson rode his only Tour de France in that same year, 1977, where he abandoned in the Alps.
Paul Sherwen (1978-1982, 1984, 1985)
Widnes-born Paul Sherwen rode seven Tours during his career, finishing five, and earned plaudits for his six-hour solo chase, over six mountains, at the 1985 Tour de France after crashing which, despite finishing outside the time limit, was rewarded with reinstatement. Sherwen is now best known for his Tour de France commentary with Phil Liggett.
Success returned in 1980s, with Robert Millar becoming the first Brit to win one of the Tour’s classifications when he was crowned King of the Mountains in 1984. Only seven British riders rode the Tour during the decade, however, with the Scot the most successful.
Graham Jones (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987)
A former Manchester United youth player, Cheadle-born Graham Jones opted for cycling instead and rode the Tour de France five times in all, finishing a career-best 20th in 1981.
Robert Millar (1983-1993)
Scottish ace Robert Millar was not only the first Brit to be crowned King of the Mountains at the Tour de France, but the first rider from any English-speaking country when he won the polka dot jersey in 1984.
His fourth place finish at that year’s Tour proved to be his best, and stood as the best British performance ever at the Tour before Bradley Wiggins’ exploits. Millar won three Tour de France stages in all and also finished second at the 1985 and 1986 editions of the Vuelta a Espana and 1987 Giro d’Italia.
Sean Yates (1984-1995)
Rode 12 consecutive Tours – a British record – primarily as a domestique but Sean Yates won a stage in 1988, took the British champion’s jersey all the way to Paris in 1992 and wore the yellow jersey for one day in 1994.
Adrian Timmis (1987)
British-based team ANC-Halfords received a wildcard to the 1987 Tour de France, and Adrian Timmis was their best-placed finisher in 70th place.
Paul Watson (1987)
Paul Watson finished sixth at the 1987 La Fleche Wallonne, earning a Tour de France start, but he did not finish his only Tour.
Malcolm Elliott (1987, 1988)
A stage and points classification winner at the Vuelta a Espana, Malcolm Elliott rode (and finished) two Tours with a best stage finish of third on stage 12 of the 1987 edition.
While the 1990s were a lean decade for British cyclists in Europe in general, there was still at least one Brit in every Tour de France during the decade. Both Chris Boardman and Sean Yates pulled on the yellow jersey in 1994, with the former going on to do so again in 1997 and 1998.
Max Sciandri (1990*, 1995-1998)
Derby-born Max Sciandri was an Italian national on his Tour debut in 1990, but rode four Tours after taking British citizenship, winning a stage in 1995.
Chris Boardman (1994-1999)
Chris Boardman won his very first Tour de France stage with a record-breaking prologue in Lille in 1994 to pull on the yellow jersey.
Boardman went onto wear the yellow jersey twice more after winning the opening stages in both 1997 and 1998. Boardman also crashed out of several Tours, including while wearing the yellow jersey in 1998, leaving him with a career best GC finish of 39th in 1996.
British riders started the new millenium with a bang when David Millar won the opening stage of the 2000 race. It couldn’t last of course, and there weren’t any Brits at the 2004 and 2005 editions while Millar was suspended, but the decade ended with British riders – not least Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins – at the forefront.
David Millar (2000-2003, 2006-2013)
Maltese-born Scot David Millar won a Tour de France stage at the first time of asking on his debut in 2000, a 16.5km time trial in the Futuroscope theme park which saw him pull on the yellow jersey. He nearly repeated the feat in 2003, missing out to Bradley McGee after his chain dropped in the final 500m after his Cofidis team opted to ride bikes without front derailleurs.
A two-year ban for doping halted Millar’s progress, but he pulled on the polka dot jersey in 2007 after a day in the breakaway en route to Cantebury – making him the first Brit to wear all four Tour de France jerseys. Millar, who also became the first Brit to lead all three Grand Tours during a career, won the last of his four Tour de France stages in 2012.
Sir Bradley Wiggins (2006, 2007, 2009-2012)
Originally better known for his exploits on the track, Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France breakthrough came in his third Tour, when he finished fourth in 2009 (later retro-respectively upgraded to third, and therefore the first British podium finish).
Wiggins crashed out of the 2011 race, when he was among the favourites, with a broken collar, but roared back in 2012 to become the first ever British Tour de France winner. The race also proved to be his last Tour, making him one of few riders to end their Tour de France career on the Paris podium.
Mark Cavendish (2007-2017)
The Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, made his Tour de France debut in 2007, won his first four stages the following year and took 16 stage wins across the next three years when the HTC team were at their very best.
Cavendish became the first Brit to top the points classification when he won the green jersey in 2011 and then realised a career goal of pulling on the yellow jersey after winning stage one of the 2016 race. Victory on stage three of that same race took Cavendish joint-second on the all-time list of Tour stage wins with 28, before he moved cleared of Bernard Hinault with yet another triumph on stage six and clocked win number 30 on stage 14.
He will bid to add to that tally in 2017, after overcoming glandular fever to start the race.
Charly Wegelius (2007, 2009, 2010)
Finnish-born Brit Wegelius was a Giro d’Italia regular, but only rode three times at the Tour de France – earning his best Grand Tour finish of 45th in the 2007 edition.
Geraint Thomas (2007, 2010, 2011, 2013-2017)
Geraint Thomas briefly wore the white jersey for best young rider in 2010 and 2011, before returning from 2008 Olympic gold medal success on the track to become an integral part of Team Sky’s squad, helping Chris Froome to two overall titles, while securing his best overall finish to date (15th) at the 2015 race.
Chris Froome (2008*, 2012-2017)
Though a Kenyan national when he rode his first Tour in 2008, Froome had taken British citizenship by the time he supported Bradley Wiggins in 2012. Second overall that year, Froome also won his first stage and briefly wore the polka dot jersey.
In 2013 he was in sublime form, winning three stages – including atop Mont Ventoux – as he sealed his first overall win. Froome then bounced back from crashing out of the 2014 race by becoming the first Brit to win the race twice with overall victory (and a stage win) in 2015. By also securing the polka dot jersey in the same race, Froome became the first rider since Eddy Merckx to achieve the GC-mountains double at a Tour.
Last year, he was in similarly unstoppable form, winning on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde and in an individual time trial, while also running part the way up Mont Ventoux after a crash. His overall victory made it four British wins in five years.
The formation of Team Sky in 2010 has ensured Brits are now commonplace at the Tour. Mark Cavendish became the first Brit to win the points classification in 2011, a year in which he was also crowned world champion, and Bradley Wiggins was crowned the first ever British Tour de France winner a year later. Chris Froome’s three overall victories in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and his King of the Mountains title in 2015, means Britons continue to rule the Tour’s roads, while Adam Yates became the first Brit to win the white jersey of best young rider in 2016.
Steve Cummings (2010, 2012, 2015-2017)
A domestique for Team Sky in 2010 and BMC Racing in 2012, Cummings moved to MTN-Qhubeka for the 2015 season and claimed a famous solo stage win for the African team on Mandela Day. He bagged his second solo stage win in the race the following year, and will appear as British champion in 2017.
Jeremy Hunt (2010)
Jeremy Hunt was aged 36 when he appeared in his first and only Tour de France for the Cervelo Test Team in 2010, having turned down the chance to ride as British champion with Banesto in 1997.
Daniel Lloyd (2010)
Also a member of the Cervelo Test Team in 2010, Daniel Lloyd finished his only Tour de France in 162nd place.
Ben Swift (2011, 2017)
Though with Team Sky from its inception until 2016, Ben Swift has ridden just one Tour de France to date. His move to UAE Team Emirates this year means he’ll be back on the start line for the first time in six years.
Ian Stannard (2013, 2015, 2016)
Essex rider Ian Stannard has enjoyed individual success in the Classics, but was also a key part of Chris Froome’s three GC wins in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Pete Kennaugh (2013, 2015)
Olympic gold medallist on the track, Manxman Pete Kennaugh was a surprise inclusion in 2013 but excelled as a domestique in the mountains, and rode as British champion in 2015.
Simon Yates (2014, 2015, 2017)
Turned pro with Orica-GreenEDGE in 2014 and was handed a shock Tour de France debut that same year before completing the race for the first time 12 months later. He will now bid for success in the youth classification in 2017.
Luke Rowe (2015-2017)
Welsh rider Luke Rowe earned his Tour de France debut in 2015, with the primary aim of protecting Chris Froome on the flat and cobbled stages. He impressed enough to earn selection again in 2016, and will make it three in a row in 2017.
Alex Dowsett (2015)
After a couple of near-misses, Alex Dowsett was handed his Tour debut in 2015 and battled on after a crash on the cobbled stage four before finally abandoning in the mountains.
Adam Yates (2015, 2016)
Tasked with hunting stage wins in the mountains, the twin brother of team-mate Simon earned three top-ten finishes on his Tour debut in 2015. The following year he focussed on the GC, and rode to fourth place overall, claiming the white jersey of best young rider.
Dan McLay (2016-2017)
Sprinter Dan McLay made his debut at the 2016 Tour de France after picking up his first two pro wins earlier in the season. A string of top-ten finishes in the first week showcased his potential and he returns to the race in 2017.
Scott Thwaites (2017)
Scott Thwaites will make his Tour de France debut in 2017, in his first year with Dimension Data, one year on from his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana.
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