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AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Tour de France organizers announced on Tuesday the final four teams invited to compete in this year’s 101st edition of the race which begins on July 5 at Leeds in England. French second division teams Bretagne-Seche (Brittany-Seche) and regular participants Cofidis were included along with Swiss formation IAM and German team Netapp, organizers confirmed. Only the Cofidis outfit have featured on the Tour de France before while the other trio are newcomers to a race won last year by Kenyan-born, British rider Chris Froome.
Twenty-two teams of nine riders will be on the start line as the mythical three week race gets set to feature in England for only the third time. Apart from the four invited teams, the other 18 squads qualified automatically as members of the top flight WorldTour circuit.
“The ASO (Amaury Sport Organization, and organizing body for the Tour) keeps a close eye on international cycling and continues to support French cycling,” explained TDF director Christian Prudhomme.
The 2007 race began in London, the only other time the race kicked off in the United Kingdom, where Swiss time-trial specialist Fabian Cancellara won the prologue before former green jersey winner Robbie McEwen of Australia won the first stage which finished in Canterbury. The 2014 race starts in northern England for the first time with a 191km ride to Harrogate before the second day of racing between York and Sheffield. The peloton then make their way down to Cambridge where they will race over 159km to London on stage 3.
The rest of the 18 stages will take part in France as the pack wind their way around the country and back to Paris for the traditional finish on the Champs Elysees on July 27.
France (5): AG2R La Mondiale, Bretagne-Seche, Cofidis, Europcar, FDJ.fr (Francaise des Jeux)
United States (3): BMC, Garmin, Trek
Belgium (2): Omega Pharma, Lotto
Italy (2): Cannondale, Lampre
Netherlands (2): Belkin, Giant
Germany (1): Netapp
Australia (1): Orica
Demmark (1): Tinkoff
Spain (1): Movistar
Great Britain (1): Sky
Kazakhstan (1): Astana
Russia (1): Katusha
Switzerland (1): IAM