Cycling / Tour de France: Anglo era fades into history

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The Independent Online
IT IS nine years since Robert Millar made Tour de France heads turn with his victory in the mountains category - the first and only Briton to win one of the three jerseys in the race of races, writes Robin Nicholl.

The Scot's achievement, plus his fourth-place finish that year, the best by a Briton, will stay on the shelf for a long time, possibly forever, as the era of the Anglo fades into Tour history.

In the 1980s it was like history revisited for the French as the English- speakers invaded by bike. They had come before in ones and twos in the 1950s, but now there were more - Irish, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans, as well as the aforementioned Millar.

They made a serious impact. Stage wins were acceptable, but not when they started wearing the red, green and yellow jerseys of Tour leaders. And when Greg LeMond won the Tour, and Stephen Roche won the Tours of France and Italy and the world road race title in the same year. . .quelle horreur]

Now, however, the pressure is off. The English-speakers have had their day. Roche said he wanted to retire after this Tour, but was persuaded to stay until later in the year. Sean Kelly, after winning four green jerseys from 13 Tours, has talked about this being his final season. Missing this Tour might be the catalyst. Sean Yates, a stage-winner and a tireless worker for others, is giving himself another year, and Millar completed his 17th major tour yesterday. He will be 35 in September.

Phil Anderson, the first Australian wearer of the yellow jersey, reckons he has two years left. Like Yates he is a devoted workhorse in the Motorola team, where the new American prospect, Lance Armstrong, came through with a stage win in his first Tour.

He is the only English-speaking prospect. Britain has yet to find someone who can keep the flag flying in the tradition of Brian Robinson, Tom Simpson, Barry Hoban and Millar.

There is a question mark over LeMond's continued participation. The American, who faces an operation after breaking a bone in his right wrist, missed this year's race because of a virus. He will now miss the world championships, and although intent on riding the Tour next year, doubts must remain.