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With the Tour de France fast approaching, I connected with one man who has watched every stage over the last 51 years, legendary commentator, Phil Liggett.

2024 will be the 52nd Tour de France that he will be commentating on and consequently has seen every great rider.

To that end, I thought it would be interesting to get Phil to pick his “dream team” of eight riders from across the 51 Tour de Frances that he has worked on.


The first point Phil noted was that “It’s no good having a team with three top names because the infighting will start and who’s going to lead the team?”

This resulted in Phil opting for a balanced team.  “I think you’ve got to go for two likely winners and the rest, are going to be super domestiques.”

Team Leaders

The first pick on the team sheet and the leader of Phil’s “dream team” is the rider with the joint record for the most Tour de France stages wins and most overall wins (five), Eddie Merckx.  “You take Eddie Merckx straight away as the one to win.”

It’s no surprise Eddie was picked first.  The Belgian is the is the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling.   He achieved 525 victories throughout his career, winning every Grand Tour.  In addition to that he is one of only three riders to have won all five ‘Monuments’ (Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and the Giro di Lombardia).

The next choice, was also rather straightforward, Sean Kelly, as Phil recalls “there weren’t many people who could beat Sean Kelly.”  Sean would be the man for the sprints, he won the Points classification  on four occasions (1982, 1983, 1985, 1989), include 5 stage wins.

This meant that with two leaders, several big riders were instantly excluded from the list to ensure a balanced team.  Tour de France winners such as Cadel Evans (2011) Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, 1990), Stephen Roche (1987) would be left off the roster to ensure team harmony, this is because as Phil explained, they are all winners and “could confuse the tactics.”  Phil was adamant that team harmony was an important part of winning the biggest bike race in the world.

Super domestiques

With the main men in the team settled on, and a list of potential riders who could be domestiques discounted next came picking those who could support the leaders, which was more difficult.  “We’ve got to find six really good domestiques who are willing to not finish the Tour, as long as they’ve done something to keep the man who is going to win the Tour in the right position.

So, you want guys who are very good climbers and capable of setting the pace on the flats and towards the hills that you can shed, but still have the ability to get in.”

The first domestique and the third rider in the team is Sean Yates.  “One guy you’d always count on is Sean Yates. He used to get on the front, he was so strong and he would hurt everybody for two hours so they couldn’t attack.  He would be a big asset in the team” Phil said.  Yates competed in 12 Tours, completing nine.  In 1994 he took the overall lead by one second, becoming only the third Briton to wear the yellow jersey.

2008 Spanish Tour de France winner Carlos Sastra would be included in the team.  Phil noted, “He wasn’t a lucky winner. You never get a lucky winner.  He was a rider who was capable of riding great mountains.

Sastra would be a good man to have in the team. And you do need two climbers on your team capable of going with your leader.”

Raymond Poulidor was the next name Phil suggested, jokingly noting “to keep the French public happy.”  However, the real reason is because as Phil fondly remembers, “he was a wonderful personality.” Sadly, he never wore the yellow jersey but he did win 7 stages and was an exceptional rider, winning Milan–San Remo in 1961 and La Vuelta a España in 1964.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe would also be included. “I’d like Julian in the team because he is a real aggressive bike rider.”  Julian is certainly a formidable talent, he has won stages at each of the Grand Tours, even winning the Mountain Classification in the 2018 Tour de France, Milan-San Remo Classic as well as being a multiple World Champion.

Phil noted he would include 2023 World Champion Mathieu Van der Poel from today’s generation of cyclists. As well as being the World Champion, he has already won some of the biggest races such as Milan–San Remo (2023),Tour of Flanders (2020, 2022, 2024) and  Paris–Roubaix (2023, 2024).

The final spot

This left one final spot remaining.  Spaniards and serial Tour de France winners Alberto Contador and Miguel Induráin were discounted on the basis that they were winners and unlikely willing to play a subservient role to Eddie Merckx, similarly, this logic was applied to current superstar Tadej Pogačar. 

Raymond Poulidor was considered for the final spot on the roster “maybe Raymond Poulidor, he’d finally get his first win. He’d be the backup for Eddie Merckx” Phil surmised.  Raymond Poulidor was known as “The Eternal Second,” because he never won the Tour de France despite finishing in second place three times, and in third place, five times.  Despite these near misses he did win the 1964 Vuelta a España.

However, the final position in the team goes to American cyclist, Andy Hampsten. He was the best young rider in the Tour de France in 1986, won an individual stage in 1992, winning on Alpe d’Huez.  He never won the Tour de France but did win the Giro d’Italia in 1988.  

The roster and stats

The eight riders have been selected and it reads as follows:

Eddie Merckx
Sean Kelly
Carols Sastra
Andy Hampsten
Raymond Poulidor
Sean Yates
Julian Alaphilippe
Mathieu Van der Poel

To summarise, it is a team that has a combined total 58 stage wins at the Tour de France, four Mountain Classifications, seven Points Classifications and six General Classifications, with each rider at least having one stage.

General ClassificationPoints ClassificationMountain ClassificationStage wins
Eddie Merckx53234
Sean Kelly0405
Carols Sastra1013
Andy Hampsten0001
Raymond Poulidor0007
Sean Yates0001
Julian Alaphilippe0016
Mathieu Van der Poel0001


In summary, the team that Phil has selected is formidable and with a lifetime of magical moments that he has seen first-hand it hasn’t been an easy task.  Sadly, there is no space for incredible talents like Mark Cavendish, who holds the joint record of most stage victories with Eddie Merckx (34).  Four-times Tour de France winner Chris Froome and similarly there is no space for Swiss time trial expert Fabian Cancellara or Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan, however, this just shows the fantastic riders Phil has had the privilege of watching over a career that will see him take to the commentary box for the 52nd when the Tour starts at the end of June.