Blog: Christian Vande Velde flies under the radar

American third overall in France

In the 2006 Tour de France, the first after Lance Armstrong's retirement, American George Hincapie captured the leader's yellow jersey after Stage 1. As the only teammate alongside Armstrong in each of his seven Tour victories, we thought Hincapie or another compatriot could take over for Armstrong and keep yellow in the American family, so to speak.

Then came the Floyd Landis debacle.

Levi Leipheimer showed signs of brilliance, winning the final time trial to finish third overall in 2007. Aha! Another American poised to inherit Tour greatness!

Then came the Amaury Sport Organization/Team Astana debacle.

As the spike of Americans racing the Tour has shrunk to four in 2008, it's exciting to see someone unexpected in the hunt, 32-year-old Illinois native Christian Vande Velde, lying third overall after a brutal first week, just 38 seconds behind pre-race favourite Cadel Evans.

Where did this guy Vande Velde come from? Can he hang with the big boys the next two weeks? Check out our Procycling blog to find out more about the Garmin-Chipotle captain, and check back Tuesday for regular Tour blogger Daniel Friebe's eagerly anticipated results of the "Campaign To Coin A New Nickname For Mark Cavendish".

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