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GENEVA (VN) — Breakaways, close calls, crashes, and nearly a yellow jersey — so how did the U.S. riders fare in the first half of the Tour de France?
With seven riders starting in Denmark on July 1, the American presence in the Tour peloton was the largest since nine started in 2009.
The Tour reached its near halfway point on Monday’s rest day with one fewer, however, with Kevin Vermaerke crashing out in Saturday’s eighth stage.
Here’s a rundown of how the U.S. contingent is faring so far:
Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost)
Powless came within seconds to become the first American since 2006 to wear the yellow jersey.
He rode into the winning breakaway in Wednesday’s romp over the cobblestones to finish fourth, and just missed a chance to take yellow when Wout van Aert buried himself to limit the team losses to Tadej Pogačar.
The very next day, Pogačar won the stage to snag the yellow jersey and deny Powless the honor by just four seconds. Had Pogačar not won and snatched bonus second, Powless, who finished on the same time would have won yellow.
Only five Americans have worn the yellow jersey in the Tour, but Lance Armstrong, David Zabriskie, George Hincapie, and Floyd Landis all saw their stints in yellow removed from the official results. Greg LeMond is the last official yellow jersey, who wore it for the last time early in the 1991 Tour.
Powless gave up some time on Super Belles Filles and again Sunday, but ended the weekend just inside the top-10 overall.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates)
The Arizonan is back for his second Tour with the defending champions, and he’s quickly emerging as one of the most reliable riders since Tadej Pogačar’s team.
After a quiet string of opening days, including a minor spill, McNulty surged to the fore in Super Belles Filles, where he was a key member in the UAE train. He took the penultimate pull to trim the bunch, and repeated the feat in Saturday’s uphill grinder the next day.
On Sunday, he rode into the main breakaway to give the team an extra tactic dynamic. He enters the rest day in 19th overall.
Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar)
Jorgenson played a key role in helping to save the GC hopes of Enric Mas during the decisive cobblestone stage Wednesday.
Mas was caught out behind a crash on the third cobbles sector, and Jorgenson and teammate Nelson Oliveira helped tow him back to the main GC group. Mas finished safely with the favorites in what as a huge relief for the Spanish WorldTour team.
Jorgenson’s been quietly pulling domestique duties in his Tour debut, and vows to help Mas all the way to Paris.
Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo)
Another Tour rookie, Simmons rode into a breakaway in stage 6 to Longwy with Wout van Aert and Jakob Fulgsang. Simmons held on as long as he could before Van Aert dropped him, something that left Simmons speechless in the face of awesome power.
After helping his team negotiate the treacheries of the first week, Simmons hopes to have more chances for breakaways in the second half of the Tour.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma)
Kuss quietly rode across the first week of the Tour to avoid any major crashes or setbacks, and enters the key climbing stages looming in the Alps this week.
Kuss is the last American to win a Tour de France, with his victory last year in Andorra. With co-captain Primož Roglič still recovering from his crash on the cobbles, Kuss will have his hands full in the coming days to try chaperone both the Slovenian and Jonas Vingegaard into the Alps.
A solid ride up Belles Filles with 10th and again Saturday in Lausanne confirmed he’s in top shape for the alpine challenge. With Alpe d’Huez on the horizon Thursday, anticipation is growing to see if Jumbo-Visma might let Kuss ride into an early breakaway to take pressure off the team to chase.
Joe Dombrowski (Astaną-Qazaqstan)
The Virginian made his Tour debut at 31 and steered clear of trouble in the first week. Dombrowski had never raced on cobbles before, and rode in with one of the last groups to survive the pavé.
Dombrowski will have full freedom to chase stage victories in the Alps and Pyrénées, and promptly rode into the main break on Sunday. Though he later didn’t have the legs to finish it, he vows to keep swinging for the fences.
Expect more of the same across the Alps as Dombrowski hopes to add a Tour stage win to his palmarès that already includes a stage in the Giro.
Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM)
The Tour rookie crashed out Saturday in an early spill in the eighth stage. Riders were caught up in a pileup, and Vermaerke landed hard on his left side. Officials later confirmed a shoulder injury with a broken collarbone, and he was unable to continue in the race despite trying to keep going.
Vermaerke‘s crash came on the same day his parents arrived in France to watch him race, and he said he was crushed to be forced to exit.
“I’m gutted to end the Tour de France like this. I have no words,” he said. “I really wanted to continue on but unfortunately it was just not possible. I was really enjoying the opening week with the guys. The legs felt good and the atmosphere at the race was incredible, so I’ll take some nice memories with me but this motivates me even more to come back stronger.”