Cycling: The 101st Tour de France starts today in Leeds with the introduction of the teams. Ten Germans, nine Swiss and one Austrian will also be called onto the stage.
In this article, we introduce you to the drivers that you should pay attention to from a German-speaking point of view.
Ten German starters
The German professionals make up the largest contingent in this list. However, they are spread over a total of seven teams.
Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing)
At 42, Jens Voigt is the oldest competitor of this Tour de France alongside his former teammate Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida). The Berliner-by-choice will be at the start of the loop through France for the 17th time (this year with a detour to Great Britain): a record!
In the years 2001 and 2005, Voigt was allowed to wear the yellow jersey of the overall leader once. This year he will try to get through the first dangerous stages without falling, in order then to present his sponsor at the front one or the other time.
André Greipel (Lotto Belisol)
The 31-year-old German champion André Greipel will again try to give his team one or two stage wins this year. His superior victory last weekend at the national championships in Baunatal shows that he is in top form. Here he proved that he recovered well from his shoulder injury from spring.
Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Belisol)
At 32, Marcel Sieberg is a bit older than his captain André Greipel, whom he will again be loyally supporting this year. Sieberg is one of the biggest drivers in the field and will probably take on the role of noble helper and last starter in Greipel's sprint train this time as well.
Marcel Kittel (Giant Shimano)
Looking at the palmarès of Marcel Kittel from Arnstadt, it is hard to believe that he is only 26 years old. Last year he surprised everyone by winning the sprint on the first stage, taking both the yellow and green jerseys. The first win was followed by three more stage wins, including one on the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Kittel can also be expected this year. He showed what he can do at the start of the Giro d'Italia, where he dominated the stages in Ireland under adverse conditions. However, Kittel will not be entirely happy with the team's line-up, which lacks one of his most important allies in Johannes Fröhlinger.
John Degenkolb (Giant Shimano)
John Degenkolb is only a year younger, but almost as fast. His strengths lie in the heavier sprint stages, but he could also shine in the fifth stage of the day. Then it's over cobbled sections of the classic Paris-Roubaix where he finished second this year.
Marcus Burghardt (BMC)
Marcus Burghart will be at the start of the Tour of France for the seventh time, for Team BMC for the fifth time in a row. The 30-year-old Zschopauer is what you would call a loyal noble helper. He's there when you need him, but strong enough himself to win out of a group. In addition, his captain Tejay Van Garderen will be able to rely on Burghardt's eye and understanding of racing. And who knows, maybe he'll even succeed in his second stage after 2008.
Roger Kluge (IAM)
After Milram's exit, the Beijing Olympic silver medalist had a few lean years in terms of participation in the Tour de France. In the colors of the Swiss team IAM, the 28-year-old Berliner can now look forward to his second start. Fast paced, he will put himself fully at the service of his team captains Sylvain Chavanel and Mathias Frank. In addition, as Heinrich Haussler's last approach, he will try to help him to another stage success at the Grand Boucle to help.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
At only 29 years of age, Tony Martin from Eschborn is already an old hand. The three-time and reigning time trial world champion recently rode a strong Tour de Suisse and also shone in the German title fights in Baunatal. He will be particularly looking forward to the time trial at the end of the Tour. But even before that, he might get one or the other freedom. In any case, his condition gives reason to hope.
Andreas Schillinger (NetApp Endura)
Andreas Schillinger from the Upper Palatinate can look forward to his Tour de France debut at the age of 30. And he earned it honestly. In recent years he has been one of the strongest drivers in the Raublinger racing team and was one of the guarantors for the success of his teammates. This also describes the role he will play in the coming weeks. In the service of his captain Leopold König, he will try to help him achieve a result similar to that of the last Vuelta. There the Czech finished ninth overall and won a stage.
Paul Voss (NetApp Endura)
Paul Voss from Rostock is also celebrating his Tour de France debut at the age of 28. Like Schillinger, he will put himself at the service of the team. The coming weeks will certainly show that he is also good for one or the other escape attempt.
Among the Swiss, Team IAM has the largest contingent of Swiss professionals. Five Swiss will tackle the Tour de France for the racing team.
Martin Elmiger (IAM)
Last weekend, Martin Elmiger again secured the title of Swiss champion. In the sprint of a group of three, he prevailed against his competitors. In the coming days, he is quite capable of presenting the championship jersey in a group. Should he remain in the field, however, he will slave away for Mathias Frank and Sylvain Chavanel.
Mathias Frank (IAM)
His move from BMC to IAM seems to have inspired Mathias Frank. In preparation for the Tour de France, he rode a strong Bayer Tour and an outstanding Tour de Suisse. In the current condition, a top 10 place is certainly possible.
Reto Hollenstein (IAM)
It is the first Tour de France for the 29-year-old. He will put himself entirely at the service of his captains. With strong performances in recent weeks, he recommended himself for his nomination.
Sebastien Reichenbach (IAM)
The first Tour de France also begins for Sébastian Reichenbach in Leeds. At the age of 25, the Swiss is also the youngest driver in the Swiss team. His role will probably be to look after his teammates in the first few hours of racing on each stage.
Marcel Wyss (IAM)
The 28-year-old Marcel Wyss has his strengths above all on the mountain and will put himself entirely at the service of Mathias Frank and Sylvain Chavanel. It is acceptable that he is given a special role in the squad because of his qualities.
Michael Schar (BMC)
Last year's Swiss champion is part of Tejay Van Garderen's squad this year. Like Marcel Burghardt, he will try to keep him out of the worst and guide him safely through the demanding opening stages.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek)
Fabian Cancellara goes into his ninth goal de France. After skipping a start last year, he will especially like the fifth stage. Then it goes over the pavement of Paris-Roubaix. The hell of the north is one of the Berner's declared favorite races. He will also try to outsmart Tony Martin in the time trial.
Gregory Rast (Trek)
For Gregory Rast, helper duties for his captains Fränck Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia will be on the agenda in France. Stage successes in the past have shown that he is also good for one or the other victory himself. However, the team has to give him freedom to do so.
Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge)
Michael Albasini is the only Swiss in the Orica-GreenEdge squad, but is currently one of the most successful drivers in his country. Last weekend he finished second at the Swiss Championships. If he gets the confidence of his team, he is certainly good for one or two stage wins.
Austria is only sending one driver into the race this year.
Bernhard Eisel (Sky)
The 33-year-old Voitsberger belongs to the squad of defending champion Chris Froome. His tasks are thus clearly outlined. From the start of the tour he will be a key supporter and in this role can often be seen at the front of the field.