A fact I’ve become rather obsessed and impressed with over the last while is that Liquigas are on a run of seven straight Grand Tours in which all of their riders have finished the race. And currently they are one of only eight teams in the Tour de France who still have a full complement of riders.
The other teams still fully intact in the Tour are Saxo Bank, Leopard-Trek, BMC, Cofidis, Lampre, HTC-HighRoad and Saur-Sojasun. Importantly, Contador, the Schlecks, Evans and Basso all have full-strength squads to call on as the Tour finally reaches the mountains tomorrow.
It is crucial during the rigorous mountain stages to have as much team support as possible in order to make life easier for team leaders. Historically, the winner of the Tour has always had most of their team-mates left in the race as the Tour reaches Paris, as shown in the graph below.
In all but two Tours since 1987, the winner of the race lost no more than two team mates on the road to victory. The exceptions are Greg LeMond in 1989, who famously had a very poor team upon his return from his hunting accident and Oscar Pereiro the ‘default’ victor in 2006.
During Armstrong’s Tour reign between 1999 and 2005, just four of his team-mates ever abandoned the race. That makes 59 out of 63 completed Tours during those seven successful years.
Indurain’s Tour reign makes for similar reading. Just three team-mates abandoned during his successful stint at winning the Tour between 1991 and 1995. His team never finished the Tour with less than eight riders.
In total, in 79% of the Tours since 1987, the winning rider has lost no more than one team-mate along the way. And in 92% of Tours, the winning rider has lost no more than two.
In a Tour that has thus far been marred my crashes, Contador, the Schlecks and Basso have done extremely well to hold on to their full complement of team-mates. With the hardest section of the race still to come, as history shows, they’re going to need every one of them.