14 Belgians at the start of the Tour de France

There are 14 Belgian riders taking part in the world's biggest cycling event. Belgian fans hope that Jurgen Van den Broeck can pose a challenge to the two main favourites, Australia's Cadel Evans and Britain's Bradley Wiggins.
Jurgen Van den Broeck: better luck than last year?

198 riders start in today's prologue in the Walloon city of Liège. Two of the 22 teams are Belgian: Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lotto-Belisol. However, the 14 Belgian riders are scattered over a number of different teams:

  • Jurgen Van den Broeck, Francis De Greef, Jurgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto)
  • Kevin De Weert, Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma)
  • Jan Ghyselinck, Romain Zingle (Cofidis)
  • Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
  • Maxime Monfort (Radioshack)
  • Johan Vansummeren (Garmin)
  • Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil)
  • Maarten Wynants (Rabobank)
  • Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank)

Can Van den Broeck challenge Wiggins?

Most Belgian eyes are on Jurgen Van den Broeck, who took 4th place two years ago, but who crashed out last year - just like Wiggins. The Belgian is one of the contenders for a top-3 spot, behind the main favourites Evans and Wiggins. He trained especially to improve his time trial, it remains to be seen how far he got with that, although earlier tests this year were promising.

Van den Broeck is one of the leaders in the Lotto team, together with the German sprinter André Greipel. Another Belgian enjoying a protected status in the Lotto team is Jelle Vanendert, who was close to taking the mountain jersey last year, and who conquered the hearts of the Belgian cycling fans by winning the prestigious mountain stage to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees last year.

Philippe Gilbert, who took it all last season, will have his mind set on Sunday's stage to Seraing before his home crowd. The uphill finish should suit the Belgian well.

The newly-crowned Belgian champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma) is not taking part and focuses on the Olympic Games. The Tour de France stays in Belgium (Wallonia) until Monday.