Kings of Europe and beyond: The 12 national champions showing off their country’s jersey with pride at the Tour de France

Wearing the national champions jersey at any time is a great honour.

But doing so at one of the three Grand Tours – and the Tour de France especially – brings with it extra significance.

Twelve of the 176 starters that rolled out of Brussels yesterday morning did just that having triumphed in their home country over the last couple of weeks (or in the case of Max Richeze several weeks ago).

Certain kit designers have been busier than others with those working for Bora Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep, especially, having the heaviest workloads.

There’s no standard template for the designers to follow – some will introduce flashes of the national flag to existing kits, a bit like Bora Hansgrohe do, while others allow the flag to become the kit, similar to the Italian jersey worn by Elia Viviani to little success in the Giro.

Yesterday presented the first opportunity to see many of the new jerseys on the shoulders of the riders.

We’ll reserve judgement on which kits we like best until we see more of them out on the road but here are the 12 men who have the honour of carrying their national jersey around Belgium and France for the next three weeks.

Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) – Austria

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It’s been a successful couple of weeks for Konrad. Not only did the 27-year-old Austrian secure his first World Tour podium with a strong performance at the Tour de Suisse, he also took his first national title.

He and Bora teammate Gregor Mühlberger worked well in the Austrian road race to neutralise attacks from Trek-Segafredo’s Michael Gogl in the final 20km before Konrad was able to kick through and take the win.

Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) – Germany

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It was a similar story for Bora in their home country where Schachmann took the German title.

In fact, Bora had a clean sweep on the podium with Marcus Burghardt second and Andreas Schillinger third.

The trio looked in control for much of the latter stages, getting themselves ahead with just Katusha’s Nils Politt and Georg Zimmerman, of Tirol-KTM, in pursuit as the race entered the final laps of a small finishing circuit.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) – South Africa

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The South African national jersey is nothing new to Impey who soloed to victory in Pretoria to defend the title he won 12 months ago.

Not many people gave the Mitchelton-Scott rider a chance, especially given he had no team support.

Dimension Data’s Nicholas Dlamini looking certain to take the title after breaking away on a climb on the final circuit.

But Impey beat the odds to catch Dlamini and attacked at just the right time on the infamous Tom Jenkins climb to break clear and take the lead. He then time-trialled to victory by 25 seconds from Ryan Gibbons.

Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) – Latvia

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Skujins might be the owner of the name most commentators struggle to pronounce but he’s also the holder of the Latvian national road race jersey.

The 28-year-old won the Latvian time trial title in 2018, but opted not to defend the title, and instead focused solely on the road race, a decision that paid dividends.

Second and third went to the same pairing as last year – seven-time winner Aleksejs Saramotins of Japanese continental outfit Interpro Cycling Academy and Andžs Flaksis, who races for Arapahoe Resources–BMC.

Skujins’ jersey is perhaps the most disappointing of the lot – Trek’s decision to wear white at the Tour means his special edition doesn’t look a whole heap dissimilar to the regular version!

Natnael Berhane (Cofidis) – Eritrea

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The 28-year-old prepared for the Tour de France in the best possible way – regaining the Eritrean title he last won in 2015.

And yesterday we saw what the two-time African continental champion was all about as he jumped into the four-man breakaway with Greg Van Avermaet.

While he may not have been able to match the Olympic champion over the Muur and the Bosberg, he got plenty of time to show off his national jersey for the TV audiences before being swallowed up by the peloton.

Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) – France

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It’s been a remarkable turn around in the last year for Barguil, who appeared to have lost his way a little after leaving Team Sunweb in less than ideal circumstances.

He was sent home from the 2017 Vuelta a Espana after a disagreement over team goals before dropping down from World Tour level to Pro-Continental with the then-Fortuneo-Samsic.

Barguil also suggested last week that he’d thought about quitting the sport before having a change of heart.

The 27-year-old won a seven-man sprint in the Muscadet wine-making region to take the French title ahead of the Cofidis duo of Julien Simon and Damien Touze.

Amund Jansen (Jumbo-Visma) – Norway

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There were laughs aplenty in the Jumbo-Visma camp last week when Jansen scoped his first Norwegian title.

Dylan Groenewegen thought ti would be a good idea to play a prank on his teammate and duly presented him with his new jersey… which turned out to be a Danish national jersey!

There were a tense few moments with Jansen clearly falling for the joke before Groenewegen confessed it had all been a well-timed gag.

Jansen took the Norwegian title by winning a three-man sprint over Andreas Leknessund and Carl Fredrik Hagen.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team) – Kazakhstan

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There was a double celebration for Lutsenko in Kazakhstan after securing both the road race title and the individual time trial title in the same weekend.

As you’d expect, Astana Pro Team riders were dominant across the championships and Lutsenko beat teammate Dmitriy Gruzdev into second place in both races.

Lutsenko soloed to victory after breaking clear in the final 10km of the 160km race, and finished just over a minute ahead of Gruzdev.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) – Spain

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One national jersey we won’t be seeing this summer is the Spanish one held by Valverde.

Valverde, who took his third national title in his home region of Murcia, will be in his World Champions jersey having triumphed in Innsbruck last year.

In fact, it won’t be until after this year’s championships in Yorkshire that we’ll have the chance to see the 39-year-old in a red and yellow Movistar kit, as long as the evergreen Spaniard doesn’t retain his title in Harrogate.

Valverde went clear on the final ascent of the Santuario de la Fuensanta with Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana and Cofidis’ Jesus Herrada before beating the former in a two-man sprint.

Sebastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ) – Switzerland

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There was a changing of the guard for Groupama-FDJ at the Swiss championships with Reichenbach succeeding teammate Steve Morabito as national champ.

The 30-year-old and his friend Simon Pellaud launched an attack with 50km to go and, despite some strong efforts from the bunch behind, stayed away to contest the final sprint in Oberwangen.

Reichenbach’s teammate Stefan Kung – who was seventh in the road race – will also be in a Swiss national jersey again having won the individual time trial for the third successive year.

Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – Denmark

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Morkov had his young Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Kasper Asgreen to thank for his win at the Danish road race in Nysted.

The neo-pro controlled things superbly, thwarting a number of attacks in the final lap but Morkov powered through in the closing 150m to beat Niklas Larsen (Virtu Cycling) and Michael Carbel (Fortuneo-Samsic).

It’s the 30-year-old’s second Danish title, coming five years after his first triumph.

Max Richeze (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – Argentina

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Richeze has had plenty of time to get accustomed to his national jersey, the Argentinian winning his country’s championship race back in April.

The veteran 36-year-old was calmness personified in a race which sparked into life in the final hour of racing with attacks and counterattacks coming from the peloton before the predicted bunch sprint.

Richeze timed his sprint to perfection, kicking out with less than 150m to go and winning by a bike length ahead of Nicolas Naranjo (Agrupacion Virgen De Fatima) and Hector Lucero (Municipalidad de Pocito).

Main image Chris Graythen/Getty Images courtesy of Deceuninck-QuickStep.

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