When Greg LeMond became the first American to race the Tour de France in 1984 and then started beating the Europeans at their own game, he paved the way for the current generation of professional American cyclists who have joined the peloton along with Lance Armstrong. They've turned this greatest of bike races into an American sport as much as a European one, with Americans winning more races since LeMond donned the Yellow Jersey in 1986 than any other single nation.
For Americans, however, the only name most of us recognize is Lance Armstrong. Seven world class cyclists will represent the United States from three different teams, two of which are American teams. Here are the names from the United States to follow as you watch the action.
Team Astana has the winningest cyclist in Tour history, Lance Armstrong. The 37 year old came out of retirement to show that it can be done, but for this year's tour Armstrong says he'll ride to support team leader Alberto Contador of Spain.
The other American on Astana, Levi Leipheimer, hails from northern California, where he won the Tour of California three years in a row. He's been racing for pro teams in Europe for the last decade. Leipheimer placed 6th in the 2009 Giro d'Italia last May.
Look for Levi and Lance in the Team Astana blue and yellow.
The American Garmin-Slipstream has several Americans on its roster. They are the flamboyant and funny David Zabriskie of Salt Lake City; European racing veteran Christian Van de Velde of Chicago; Danny Pate of Colorado Springs; and Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, WA, who is making his TdF debut this year.
You can spot Garmin-Slipstream riders in their distinctive orange and blue argyle kit.
Finally, George Hincapie of Greenville, SC continues racing for the American Team Columbia-HTC (formerly Columbia-High Road). Hincapie was Armstrong's chief lieutenant, assisting Armstrong for all seven of his Tour de France wins. Hincapie also served as domestique for Alberto Contador's Tour de France win in 2007 when he raced with Team Discovery.
You can spot the Columbia-HTC riders in their white jerseys and shorts with yellow and black highlights and logos.