Meet the American Cyclists Racing the 2023 Men’s Tour de France
Six U.S. riders will line up for the start of the men’s Tour de France on Saturday, July 1. The women’s Tour lineup has yet to be announced.
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One is the freshly minted U.S. national champion, another is the last U.S. rider to win a Tour de France stage. One is back at the Tour after a five-year hiatus, and three more are in their second-year efforts.
These are the select few Americans in the 2023 men’s Tour de France: Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek), Lawson Craddock (Jayco-AlUla), Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM), and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar). All six are intent on leaving their mark during the next three weeks on cycling’s biggest stage.
The 2023 Tour sees America’s newest generation of riders hitting a new level of maturity, level, and depth as six riders are spread across six teams in the WorldTour.
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While none of these riders are targeting the race’s yellow jersey, chances are good that at least one of them could win a stage. Though all start with the helper role next to their names, opportunities can spring for any one of them.
“If I could win a stage, that would be incredible. That would be my Tour made if that happens,” Powless said. “If we have someone going for GC, I could have a really satisfying Tour helping to get them on the podium, but if it looks like we have a bit more freedom, winning a stage would be incredible.”
Powless has been close to winning a stage, and Simmons and Jorgenson have also come agonizingly close. Kuss is the lone U.S. starter who already boasts a Tour stage victory on his palmarès. That came in 2021, making him the first U.S. rider in a decade to win a Tour stage, since Tyler Farrar did so in 2011.
Vermaerke is bouncing back after crashing out in the first week last year with a broken clavicle, while Craddock returns for his first Tour since 2018 in the role of all-round helper at Jayco-AlUla that’s loaded with stage-hunting ambitions.
Here’s who’s lining up Saturday in Bilbao.
A Generational Shift
Six starters is a solid number for the recent haul of Americans in the Tour.
That’s one less than in 2022, but still the highest since nine started in 2014. Gone from last year’s crew that included seven U.S. starters are Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates). Both raced the Giro d’Italia, with McNulty scoring a stage victory in the Italian grand tour.
The all-time high is ten, hit twice over the decades. The first was in 1986 with the arrival of 7-Eleven and the confirmation of Greg LeMond. The second came in 2011, when Garmin, RadioShack, HTC Highroad, and BMC Racing all brought teams loaded with Americans.
There’s been an American starter in every Tour since 1981 when Jonathan Boyer blazed the trail as the lone American for three straight editions of the Tour. Greg LeMond’s debut in 1984 doubled that number, and the arrival of 7-Eleven and later Motorola assured a steady American presence in the Tour.
The mid-1990s saw a relative lull as the LeMond generation filtered out and a new wave led by now-disqualified Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, and others on the U.S. Postal Service team elbowed their way into the Tour. Since the late 1990s, there’s been at least three U.S. riders in every Tour.
The rise of Kuss and Powless has heralded the arrival of a new generation. The U.S. imprint is deep across the peloton, with riders being represented on more than a half-dozen teams in the WorldTour.
The Best Chances for a Stage Win
Which American rider has the best chance to win a stage this year? A lot of that depends on each man’s role within the team. Domestique riders—those who must help the team captain—are often ordered to stay in the bunch to assist with pace setting, instead of being allowed to attack into breakaways that sometimes win stages. A team’s ambitions in the hunt for the yellow jersey, or other prizes, often determines whether a rider is given the chance to attack for a potential win.
Kuss, the last American to win a Tour stage, will be riding as super-domestique for defending champion Jonas Vingegaard. With big rival Tadej Pogačar hungry to reclaim the yellow jersey, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Kuss might be cut loose to chase another stage win, even if Vingegaard is solidly in yellow. Pogačar is unsafe at any gap, and thus Kuss will likely be ordered to stay alongside his captain.
Jorgenson was impressive in his Tour debut last year, riding into three breakaways, but he told Velo in an exclusive interview that he’s being designated as the “last man” for Movistar’s GC hope Enric Mas. That means Jorgenson is likely to lack the freedom to attack on his own for victories. That could change if Mas loses all hope of the final podium.
“The team management is clear that I am selected to help Enric,” Jorgenson told Velo. “The podium is the team’s number-one objective, and they’ve been pretty clear as long as Enric is there, I am going to be there to help him on the most selective days. They want me to be the last man for him when the group is small and gets tactical.”
Neilson Powless, Oneida, the first Native American rider in the Tour de France, is in the top 11 currently in the General Classification. Highest placed US rider. #TourDeFrance2022 https://t.co/fq4GODlk8R
— Daniel Koch (@danielkoch2023) July 12, 2022
Powless will also have to see how the race plays out. His team leaders, Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán, are second-tier favorites to challenge for yellow. Powless’s team brings an aggressive squad, so he should see at least a few opportunities to attack, even if the podium is within range.
“If we have Richie or Rigo up in GC and we can get someone on the podium that would be incredible as well,” Powless said. “I am going to have to be pretty fluid with it, with what my goals are going to be, because depending on what position we are going to be in with the team it is going to change. If we have someone going for GC, I could have a really satisfying Tour helping to get them on the podium.”
Recently-crowned U.S. national road champion Simmons could see the most freedom at the outset of the Tour. New-look Lidl-Trek doesn’t bring a top podium contender, and instead the team will be hunting breakaways and sprints across the Tour. Last year, Simmons rode into several breaks, and hopes to carry some lessons out of that experience into Bilbao.
Vermaerke and Craddock both will be working in the trenches, and each of them will be part of teams bringing ambitions both for the bunch sprints and the GC. Team DSM packs Romain Bardet and Sam Welsford in the sprints, while Jayco-AlUla brings Simon Yates and Dylan Groenewegen.
Few Americans in Paris
Below are the number of American men to start the Tour de France since 1981.
2022 — 7
2021 — 4
2020 — 3
2019 – 4
2018 — 5
2017 — 3
2016 — 5
2015 — 3
2014 — 9
2013 — 6
2012 — 8
2011 — 10
2010 — 8
2009 — 7
2008 — 4
2007 — 6
2006 — 8
2005 — 9
2004 — 7
2003 — 6
2002 — 9
2001 — 8
2000 — 9
1999 — 8
1998 — 6
1997 — 6
1996 — 3
1995 — 2
1994 — 3
1993 — 3
1992 — 5
1991 — 5
1990 — 7
1989 — 5
1988 — 6
1987 — 7
1986 — 10
1985 — 2
1984 — 2
1983 — 1
1982 — 1
1981 — 1