Team guide: Star riders, memorable moments, which icy refreshment are they?

The Tour de France is right around the corner, so it’s important to refamiliarise ourselves with the 23 teams taking part.

Along with the 19 WorldTeams from the sport’s top tier, there will be four invited wildcard teams, drawn from the next tier down.

Along with star riders, memorable moments and racing style of each team, we’ll also be telling you which icy refreshment they most resemble…

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Ah, refreshing! De Clercq, Cavgana, Gaviria and Serry enjoy some icy refreshmemts

Image credit: Getty Images

AG2R La Citroën

  • Star Rider: Golden Greg van Avermaet
  • Memorable Moment: Bardet’s breakthrough in 2016 when he notched second overall. In retrospect, it was all downhill from there but at the time it all felt so hopeful.
  • Racing Style: These days they’re a classics team good at getting top tens but not-winning. Hard to see much success for them this year in Le Tour.
  • Icy Refreshment: Cherry Coke – always sort of ‘there’ in the off-license chiller cabinet, but you never choose it.

Alpecin Fenix

  • SR: Mighty Mathieu van der Poel
  • MM: This is their debut year, would you believe. They are auto-invited as the top-ranked ProTeam.
  • RS: Bag a few stage wins with van der Poel then, when he bails early for the Olympics, who knows!
  • IR: Fizzy Vimto – not an immediate top tier choice, but a reliable winner.

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Astana PremierTech

  • SR: Jakob Fuglsang, on paper at least.
  • MM: Contador dropping his own teammate Lance Armstrong in 2009. If you haven’t seen The Armstrong Lie, go watch this immediately.
  • RS: The sooner they abandon their GC hopes this year, the more productive their Tour will be. Lutsenko, Fraile and even Aranburu can all deliver stage wins.
  • IR: Pepsi Max – you think it’s bad but actually it’s quite good.

Bahrain Victorious

  • SR: Mikel Landa
  • MM: Landa’s panicked face last year as he realised his last domestique was about to pull off and he was about to have to try and drop Pog & Rog.
  • RS: They’ve started winning, recently. A lot, actually. It all depends how Landa’s GC goes, but there are a lot of stage wins in this for them.
  • IR: Original Magnum – dependable but ultimately a little disappointing.

Bora Hansgrohe

  • SR: Peter Sagan. You know, Peter Sagan.
  • MM: Sagan’s seven swashbuckling green jersey wins on Tinkoff, which then morphed into Bora.
  • RS: Win the green jersey in the mountains. Intermediate sprint points for days. Also, Wilco Keldermann?
  • IR: Lilt – used to be totally dominant in the summer time, but now a slightly fading force?

B&B Hotels p/b KTM

  • SR: Pierre Rolland / Bryan Coquard
  • MM: Last year at the height of ‘the BLM summer’ Kevin Reza became the focus of cycling’s own grapple with racial inequality.
  • RS: Breakaway fodder, with Bryan Coquard for the sprints.
  • IR: Appletiser – dark green, kinda tasty, but you’re never going to pick it as part of your meal deal.

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Cofidis, Solutions Credits

  • SR: Guillaume Martin, philosopher, athlete, sneaky GC candidate.
  • MM: They are and always will be the team after which the sport’s most notorious doping scandal was named.
  • RS: Prove we’re 100% clean now by absolutely never winning anything.
  • IR: Fab lolly – old school, low-budget, red and white.

Deceunick-QuickStep

  • SR: Julian Alaphilippe, but also, maybe – whisper it – Mark Cavendish!
  • MM: They’ve had some corkers, but Mark Cavendish crashing out of the grand départ in Yorkshire during his first stint with the team takes some topping.
  • RS: Stage wins, the green jersey, but also at least six days in yellow with Julian ‘The Last Musketeer’ Alaphilippe.
  • IR: Cornetto – various flavours, but all reliable winners

EF Education First NIPPO

  • SR: Rigoberto Uran, coming in hot for a GC tilt after strong Suisse showing.
  • MM: That time in 2017 when Rigo won a stage despite only having two gears for the last 10km.
  • RS: Super-strong Colombians backed by a phalanx of cheerful North Americans. Fun!
  • IR: Panda Pop Cherry flavour – bright pink, absolutely buzzing with EF numbers.

Groupama FDJ

  • SR: Fastman Arnaud Démare, good shot at the green jersey.
  • MM: Thibaut Pinot climbing off in 2019, when he was absolutely 100% gonna win – what a sickener…
  • RS: Latterly GC, but this year without Pinot you’d imagine sprintin’ and stage huntin’.
  • IR: Orangina – bicycle racing teams simply don’t get Frencher than this..

Ineos Grenadiers

  • SR: Throw a stone in the team bus and you’ll hit one. Richie Porte, Richard Carapaz, Geraint Thomas… even Tao Geoghegan Hart could win.
  • MM: Gosh. Wiggins in ’12, or one of the other six years they’ve won the bloody thing?
  • RS: Crush. Kill. Destroy.
  • IR: Feast Ice Cream – your dad’s favourite.

Intermarché Wanty Gobert

  • SR: Louis Mientjes, South African former starlet who has struggled to reach his potential.
  • MM: Guillaume van Keirsbulck’s solo, 190km breakaway in 2017. Memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.
  • RS: Since stepping up to WorldTour, they might be less inclined to act as pack-filler, but it’s hard to see where a win will come from.
  • IR: Twister ice lolly – green and white, surprisingly good

Israel StartUp Nation

  • SR: Until quite extremely recently, Chris Froome.
  • MM: They signed Froome on a mahoosive contract to help them try and be competitive at Le Tour, and that has not gone well for them.
  • RS: Up until this year, stage hunting, but the team says they are putting their weight behind Mike Woods for the GC, after Froome failed to make the grade in time.
  • IR: Tap water – plain, functional, ultimately uninspiring.

Jumbo-Visma

  • SR: Primož Roglič, he used to be a ski jumper.
  • MM: Losing the Tour in 2020 on the very last day may just become this generations unforgettable ‘Lemond-Fignon’ moment.
  • RS: Tenderise the enemy with Wout, obliterate them with Primož. Big money, serious faces.
  • IR: Fruit Pastilles lolly – simple, effective, conservative, gets the job done.

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Lotto Soudal

  • SR: Caleb Ewan, the pocket rocket.
  • MM: Thomas De Gendt on the Ventoux in 2016, and Thomas De Gendt in every Le Tour breakaway since.
  • RS: This is fundamentally a sprinting team that’ll try and take opportunities when not protecting Ewan.
  • IR: Diet Coke – a zippy caffeine hit, always in and around the top three.

Movistar

  • SR: Marc Soler, finally emerges from the shadow of the infamous ‘trident’.
  • MM: Big Mig Indurain won five Tours in a row when this team was called Banesto. That was in the ‘90s.
  • RS: Internecine leadership squabbles. Dominate the team classification.
  • IR: Bitter Kas – very popular in Spain but not appreciated much elsewhere, very bitter aftertaste.

Team Arkea Samsic

  • SR: Somehow, inexplicably, Nairo Quintana…
  • MM: 2020’s odd couple pairing of flatland bodyguard Brit, Conor Swift, and diminutive Colombian climber, Quintana, really warmed the heart. Beyond that, there aren’t many memories to choose from.
  • RS: Top names like Warren Barguil and Quintana might be able to deliver a result in the mountains. It’ll be interesting to see if Nacer Bouhanni is selected given his travails this year.
  • IR: Fanta Lemon – ignore at your peril, it low-key slaps but never gets the plaudits.

Team BikeExchange

  • SR: Simon Yates.
  • MM: Back when the Aussie franchise was known as Orica, they got their team bus stuck under a finish gantry. Also that time an inflatable kite fell on Adam Yates.
  • RS: We’re led to believe Simon Yates will be stage hunting as he prepares for the Olympics, while Michael Matthews might have a shout at the green jersey.
  • IR: A good old 99 ice cream – tasty, but can be a bit flaky.

Team DSM

  • SR: Romain Bardet, but they have a real gaggle of strongmen to pick from.
  • MM: Had a purple patch in 2013 and 2014 when Marcel Kittel won eight stages of Le Tour, including two wins on the Champs Elysees.
  • RS: One of the standout teams of 2020 with their voracious attacking style, which garnered eight podiums, of which three were stage wins.
  • IR: McFlurry – one pot, but filled with many swirling and delicious flavours.

Team TotalEnergies

  • SR: Anthony Turgis, a fierce competitor who could thrive on the toughest classics-style days.
  • MM: Way back when they were known as Europcar, Thomas Voeckler’s unbelievable ten-day stint in the maillot jaune in 2011 sent France into raptures. It’s never got as good since.
  • RS: Put a man in the breakaway, erry damn day. Change the kit right before the race and annoy some print journalists.
  • IR: Irn Bru – a little bit nostalgic, and passionately loved by its devotees.

Team Qhubeka Assos

  • SR: Have been very coy about exactly who they’re sending, but Fabio Aru is on their team roster and who could forget his iconic, short-lived surprise attacks of yesteryear?
  • MM: Hard to look past Steve Cummings on Mandela Day in 2015. Pure goosebumps, the very best of sport.
  • RS: Operating on a fraction of the other WorldTeams’ budgets, they continuously manage to deliver the results.
  • IR: Mini Milk – they don’t cost much and everybody loves ‘em.

Trek-Segafredo

  • SR: Vincenzo Nibali, one of three past-winners of Le Tour on the start list.
  • MM: After John Degenkolb’s win on the Roubaix stage in 2018 there weren’t many dry eyes in the house.
  • RS: After a magical year in which Richie Porte rode to the podium, the team is now Porte-less – and looking down the barrel of a threadbare month in France unless they can magic up some reduced-bunch finishes for Stuyven & Theuns.
  • IR: Amaretto & Coke – classic American, with a big slug of Italian flavour.

A Coca-Cola support vehicle in the 2002 Tour de France. Amaretto not pictured.

Image credit: Getty Images

UAE Team Emirates

  • SR: Tadej Pogačar, the champ.
  • MM: Oh I don’t know, how about winning the Tour de France?
  • RS: Last year Pogačar kinda snuck under the radar a little, but he won’t get the chance to do that twice. They’ve spent big to bolster their Tour squad.
  • IR: San Pellegrino Aranciata flavour – more money than they know what to do with.

– – –

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Norrie and Draper set up all-British quarter-final at Queen’s

Cam Norrie booked his place in the quarter-finals of the Queen’s Club Championship with a straight sets win over Aslan Karatsev on Wednesday afternoon.

Norrie’s Russian opponent has enjoyed a stellar year to-date, rising to 24th in the ATP rankings. But Karatsev showed none of that form and confidence in a disastrous service game late in the first set to give Norrie a chance to serve for the lead – one he duly took.

And any chance of a comeback dissipated when Karatsev fell awkwardly early in the second set, picking up a knock that he never recovered from, with Norrie winning 7-5 6-2.

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“I felt very comfortable,” Norrie said after his win. “He started strong and I managed to hold my serve and stay with him. A huge win for me and definitely a big step up from my first match on Monday.

“It was pretty tricky midway through that second set and I managed to hold tough. He’s having a great year, he’s won a lot this year. It’s another match on the grass so it’s all invaluable stuff.”

Norrie will face fellow Brit Jack Draper in the last eight in west London.

The 19-year-old survived an onslaught of aces from big-serving Alexander Bublik to win in straight sets – despite his opponent rocketing down 21 aces in the match.

Both sets went to tiebreaks, with Draper edging the first 7-5 and then running away with the second 7-0 to set up that mouth-watering tie against Norrie.

Fellow Brits Dan Evans and Andy Murray could make it four home representatives in the quarter-finals, with the pair due to play on Thursday, weather permitting.

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Murray beats Paire at Queen’s to claim first singles win on grass since 2018

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Federer out of Halle Open with defeat to Auger-Aliassime

Roger Federer slipped to a round-of-16 defeat to Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Halle Open on Wednesday in a setback ahead of Wimbledon.

Federer has won the title at Halle ten times in his career and had never previously lost earlier than the quarter-final stage on the German grass courts, but was second-best for much of the match against his young Canadian opponent.

The 39-year-old edged a close first set 6-4, but four unconverted break points for Auger-Aliassime hinted at things to come.

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And Auger-Aliassime turned on the style in the second and third sets, racing to a 4-6 6-3 6-2 victory.

Roger Federer beim ATP-Turnier in Halle

Image credit: Getty Images

As he turns 40 this year, the All England Club is likely Federer’s best chance of adding another Slam to his collection. And his withdrawal from Roland Garros raised concerns about his fitness ahead of Wimbledon, having only this season returned from two operations on his knee.

Following on from his earlier round win in Halle over Ilya Ivashka, Federer said that he is in decent shape going into Wimbledon.

The back’s good, I feel fine, it’s really just the legs and the match fitness that I’m looking forward to and getting through here breakers, like I did in Paris as well, and getting through here on a different surface, staying calm, taking the right decision when it’s most important – that’s what it’s all about for me right now.

But the nature of his defeat to Auger-Aliassime will raise fresh questions over Federer’s ability to win at Wimbledon.

Federer does not have much competitive tennis under his belt this year, but has still taken part in the early season hard court and clay swings, before moving on to grass.

“You can’t compare to the clay courts,” he said about returning to grass.

“You’re not going to get those rallies that you’re maybe looking for, you might get those service winners, aces and get your opponent guessing a lot more on the return games than on any other surface.”

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Euro 2020: Turkey v Wales – Follow LIVE

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How Lukaku became the complete centre-forward

It doesn’t feel long ago that many were questioning whether Romelu Lukaku could do it at the highest level. It doesn’t feel like it because it wasn’t. Lukaku’s time in English football – first at Chelsea, with a loan to West Brom, then more prominently at Everton and Manchester United – felt a case of ‘almost, but not quite’. He didn’t become a first team starter at Chelsea. He wasn’t able to propel Everton into a regular European side. United didn’t become a title-winning side with Lukaku leading the line. He only once broke 20 league goals in a season. It seemed a little anticlimactic.

But the moment he set foot in Serie A, everything just seemed to click for him. The goals are the headline, with 23 and 24 in the last two seasons. Unlike at United, he’s taking the penalties, and that obviously helps. But he’s become a much more rounded player, causing defenders all sorts of different problems in a way he couldn’t quite before. Antonio Conte seemed to just get how to help Lukaku thrive from day one. And he brought his Inter form to the Euros in Belgium’s first game against Russia, and surely has a strong case as the best individual performer in the tournament so far. So how has he become so dominant now when his Premier League form was patchy?

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A big part of the story has been understanding just what he is. Standing at 6’3 and being so well built even as a teenager, he brings with him certain preconceptions. His managers in England – Steve Clarke, Roberto Martinez (now of course at Belgium), Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – all responded to that in different ways. Clarke – strangely – got the best out of him at West Brom. Lukaku was clearly a cut above his teammates, so the gameplan would at times be ‘give it to Romelu’. He’d have to be the complete striker, doing the lot, and he thrived at it. Martinez, too, wanted Lukaku to offer a range of skills. He’d run in behind, hold the ball up, link well and obviously score goals. Everton’s struggles under Martinez often meant he would have to carry the side, which he did excellently in his final season if less well the year before.

But it was Mourinho who had other ideas. United had just come off a season with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line. What Mourinho wanted was another target man who could hold the ball up, then bring runners into play. We saw him bulk up physically to try and become this all focal point in the mould of Didier Drogba. He did a solid job of it, but never looked entirely comfortable in the role. So much of what made him tick was deliberately stripped out of his game.

Lukaku might look like a target man, but he’s in many ways a very different profile of player. The player he is most reminiscent of is Ruud van Nistelrooy. Like the Dutchman, he has great body strength and a deceptively good dribble on him. Van Nistelrooy’s famous goal against Fulham, in which he took the ball all the way from the halfway line, feels like the kind of strike Lukaku would love to score. But what they both share the most is an instinctive understanding of space. He’s arguably the best striker in the world right now at recognising which channels to run into every time. Both Inter and Belgium have understood this, and play directly to his strengths. His goal in the Milan Derby last February summed up his trademark move. The Belgian drove forward with the ball at his feet, sees the space open to his left before the opposition defenders, and is able to drag the ball into that area to open up a great shooting opportunity.

We saw those exact qualities against Russia. His first goal was a classic poacher’s finish, being more alert to the situation than anyone else and capitalising on a defender’s mistake. The second was one where he ran in behind to great effect, showing the quality Manchester United wasted by attempting to convert him to a target man. But it was in between where he nearly pulled off his trademark. The ball broke to him into space and he dragged defenders wide with him, opening up room for Leander Dendoncker to break into the box. Lukaku played Dendoncker in well, but the Wolves player blasted his shot over the bar. It was classic Lukaku, but this time in service of someone else, showing he can offer more than simply goalscoring.

Fortunately, he has a manager who understands these qualities and how they have developed over time. “He’s not the same player he was three years ago,” Martinez said recently.

Now he is able to create many more spaces for his teammates and we need to make the most of that with the national team too

Martinez has given Lukaku licence to link more and use his ability to drive into space to help others.

This has taken on more importance as Belgium have lacked key stars. Kevin De Bruyne missed the opening game through injury, and it’s unclear when he will return or if he will do so at 100%. Eden Hazard was also short of fitness against Russia, and that speaks to his ongoing troubles since joining Real Madrid. It doesn’t look like we’re going to see the Hazard of old at this tournament. This means Belgium need more from Lukaku, not just as a point striker but a rounded threat. He’s certainly started off by doing that.

This does change the way Belgium play. A side built around De Bruyne and Hazard is by necessity one of lots of little cute passes. That would be a team that wants to play possession football and attempt to create chances through eye-of-the-needle passes. This Belgium is slightly different. The Belgium built around Lukaku has to be more about transitions and opening up space to break quickly on the counter. While Hazard might be a problem, De Bruyne can slide back in as a complimentary piece here pretty naturally. The Manchester City man has always been the one who quickens the tempo, so linking with Lukaku should be closer to his natural speed than the work Pep Guardiola has him do.

What Lukaku won’t be doing is standing with his back to goal looking to bring down long balls and play in wingers running past him. Doing this is as unnatural to him as it would have been for Van Nistelrooy. Lukaku needs to be running into space in order to do what he does best. This can involve playing a better style of football to find him than simply hoofing the ball up the pitch, which isn’t a problem for Martinez’s attacking instincts. Belgium are here to play good football, which suits the modern iteration of Lukaku down to the ground.

Lukaku’s next opponent is Denmark, and that’s sure to be an emotional affair. After Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, Lukaku was first to lend his voice in support of his club teammate, shouting “Chris, I love you” at the TV cameras. It was obvious playing after seeing Eriksen’s incident affected him. “It was difficult to play because my mind was with my team-mate Christian,” he said after the Russia win. It’s certain to play on his mind on Thursday. As much as Eriksen is a good friend of his, Lukaku has a job to do.

The key thing for Denmark will probably be staying in a compact block and denying the space in behind. If Lukaku is forced to have everything in front of him, he won’t be able to use his now signature move and find a channel to attack. This would force Belgium’s attack to become more static and predictable. But you’d have to back Lukaku to find the space in the end. Staying concentrated in a low block for 90 minutes isn’t easy work, and the striker will be there to pounce the exact moment anyone makes a mistake.

Is there anyone at Euro 2020 in a better moment right now than Lukaku? After two excellent years in Italy and a slightly tweaked Belgium team built more around him, he’s here to get serious. While he’s been dominating Serie A, recognition across the continent and, especially in England, has sometimes eluded him. If he keeps up this form for the next month, it is unlikely anyone will ever doubt him again. It’s Lukaku’s world, and we’re just living in it.

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‘Good enough to compete in Qatar’ – Why Portugal and Ronaldo could win 2022 World Cup

Forget Euro 2020, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are also capable of competing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar according to the latest Eurosport x The Beautiful Game podcast.
Portugal returned to the country-hopping Euros as defending champions and opened their account with a 3-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.
Ronaldo grabbed a brace to move onto 11 goals at the European Championships to move clear of France legend Michel Platini as the top scorer in the event’s history. Ronaldo has accumulated his haul across five tournaments while Platini scored his nine goals across just five games at Euro 84.

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Eurosport’s Pete Sharland joined TBG’s Dotun Abijoh and Justin Cole to salute the remarkable 36-year-old, who continues to prove age is just a number.

“Nowadays, the goalscoring isn’t really a surprise. It’s the fact that he’s still doing it, the longevity that he’s showing at 36 is just utterly remarkable,” said Sharland.

“The only thing I can really compare it to is Tom Brady in the NFL. I know Juventus had a really bad season but he was top scorer in Italy and now looks a really good bet to be top scorer in the Euros.”

While Portugal were surprise winners at Euro 2016, especially after they failed to win a game in the group stage, a repeat would not send shockwaves through the sport as a host of exciting stars have established themselves in national colours.

Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo have all forced their way into the Portugal setup – news that will undoubtedly delight Ronaldo ahead of Qatar 2022. That World Cup will take place from November 21 to December 18 next year due to the summer being unviable due to climate concerns.

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“He [Ronaldo] is realising now that a lot of these Portuguese players who we’ve been talking about for the last three-four years, this golden generation, they are really starting to come through,” Sharland continued.

“Any sort of idea about 2016 being the last hurrah for Portugal and Ronaldo is absolutely nonsense. I think this team is good enough to compete now and next year in Qatar. And a lot of these players are only going to get better, that’s the scary thing.

“And if Ronaldo keeps himself in the shape that he’s in, what change is there going to be between this year and next year in terms of his performance? He’s not going to get much slower, he’s lost a bit of pace obviously, but he’s completely reinvented himself to be one of the best penalty box poachers in the world.

“His game isn’t going to go anywhere else, he’s still got all the tools you need to be an elite goal scorer. It’s remarkable.”

Portugal are in the so-called Group of Death alongside France, Germany and Hungary at Euro 2020 – although they look strong contenders to qualify after Thursday’s win, with four third-placed teams also progressing to the last 16 if it suddenly falls apart.

France beat Germany 1-0 in Munich on Thursday night.

“Ronaldo will want to be the best until he retires. It’s as simple as that,” added Abijoh.

Watch mischievous Cristiano Ronaldo replace UEFA sponsor drink with water!

“He’s going to try to perform to the best level, he’s going to keep scoring goals. When I look at him, he still looks fast. The way he and [Lionel] Messi have changed the game in terms of goals and assists, making sure each season 40 goals. It’s so hard to do and for him to do that for so long shows you what greatness really is.

“These players that we’re hyping up. They might burst onto the scene and have one good season, but the difference between good and great is consistency and the one thing about Cristiano Ronaldo is he’s been consistent for over 10 years. And that’s what puts him up there as one of the greatest players to play the game.”

Ronaldo has been linked with a move away from Juventus this summer, having failed to deliver a coveted Champions League title to Turin.

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Carapaz wins Tour de Suisse, Mader secures Stage 8

Richard Carapaz secured the overall victory at the Tour de Suisse as Gino Mader was the Stage 8 victor on Sunday afternoon.

Carapaz negotiated attacks from Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) as he kept hold of his 17-second lead, taking another title for Ineos Grenadiers.

Mader, of Bahrain-Victorious, pulled away from the leading bunch and sprinted away from Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation).

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“I’m really happy it’s a team victory as we’ve all worked together really well,” said Carapaz after his win.

“When you know you do things well you always get your reward and we have got a lot of confidence for what is to come.

The 28-year-old Ecuadorian then claimed that he would be leading the Ineos Tour de France team with Geraint Thomas, rather than the squad bringing a sole leader.

“The truth is this is a showing of the strength of the team that we have and of course I am going to share the leadership with Geraint,” Carapaz explained.

“We just want to win the Tour [de France] and depending how it goes, and we are going to go there with a strong team.”

Tour de Suisse Stage 5 race leader Chaves Rubio rides into a driveway

Mader’s impressive late showing allowed him another victory to follow up his Giro d’Italia Stage 6 win.

“I came to the Tour de Suisse with the ambition to do well on general classification,” said Mäder.

“I messed that up on stage 3 and [winning stage 8], I’m just incredibly happy. If they caught us I would have finished with nothing but at least I would have had a second place.

“And then I was just hoping something was left in my legs and in my head that keeps me going. It is a big win and the way I won today was completely different to the way I won out of a breakaway.

“I think I can say now I’ve arrived.”

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10/06/2021 AT 19:54

'Fearlessness' and 'swagger' biggest difference for England at Euro 2020 – Ferdinand

England’s current crop have a “fearlessness” and “swagger” to them that will help them at Euro 2020, according to Rio Ferdinand.

Gareth Southgate’s team kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign with a 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley, marking the first time that England have started a European Championships with a victory.

Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game after 57 minutes as England overcame a Croatian team that knocked them out of the semi-finals of the World Cup only three years ago.

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While not the most emphatic display, former England and Manchester United defender Ferdinand pinpointed what makes this group of players different to previous national teams.

“What I’m loving about this squad is that there’s a fearlessness about them because that comes with age,” he said on BBC Sport.

“When you haven’t been scarred by any previous tournaments – we’ve had loads of that over the years. These young lads that are coming through now haven’t got that.

Mateo Kovacic e Phil Foden – Inghilterra-Croazia Euro 2020

Image credit: Getty Images

“When you see Phil Foden coming into the tournament, bleaching his hair. You see Mason Mount talking about Modric, one of the best midfielders of his generation, with an arrogance, but a good arrogance that we like to see. That shows you that these boys have a swagger about them.

“They’ve all won tournaments as kids coming through for England which is an important factor.”

Former England and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard concurred with Ferdinand and used some of his experience in the dressing room at Stamford Bridge to draw a comparison.

“I noticed that as a player in the generation when Spain were the top team for a while and when France then took over,” he said.

“They would come through the dressing room at Chelsea and they had something about them.

“Sometimes our Englishness says ‘this could go wrong,’ but they believed in themselves. There’s a tiny bit about this [England] group like that.”

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Southgate: 'England dealt with the big occasion really well'

Gareth Southgate praised his England side for claiming a 1-0 win over Croatia under pressure on Sunday afternoon.

England won 1-0 courtesy of a Raheem Sterling second-half goal to give their group stage campaign a winning start – the first time they have won their opening game at a European Championship in 10 attempts.

Speaking to BBC Sport after the match, Southgate said: “It’s lovely to have given our fans and our country a really enjoyable afternoon. The players dealt with the big occasion really well. Right from the start, incredible heat, they played well and settled early in the game.

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“There were moments where the tempo dropped because of the heat but the majority of the game we were in control and didn’t give Croatia many opportunities and we looked dangerous.”

Southgate picked out goalscorer Sterling, as well as Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Philipps for his contribution.

“Kalvin Phillips is a player who is so understated. He has had a fantastic start to his international career. I thought he was immense throughout the game – as they all were – and I’m so pleased for Raheem.

“He was dangerous all game. His goalscoring record suggests we should have faith in him and I think he was motivated to show that.

“We are going to need all those attacking players through the tournament. We can make changes and we will need to. The key was to get pressure on Croatia’s midfield players and we managed to do that.

“That limited some of the supply and the defenders dealt with the longer balls well and read the game well. It was a day when everybody who got onto the pitch performed well and that was set up by the whole group.”

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