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Come on sprinters, light my fire

Four was Robbie McEwen's lucky number last year,

Four was Robbie McEwen's lucky number last year, (Image credit: AFP Photo)

The Tour de France is known for it spectacular sprint shows - the elbow-throwing and head-butting high velocity finishes litter the first week and give fans a chance to see their favourites vie for glory. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown gives a rundown of the men gunning in the bunch sprints.

Sprint trains thunder over the final 10 kilometres to deliver their captain to the last few hundred metres. The dangerous affairs result in a sweaty-legged god rising to victory while others are left pounding their handlebars and, sometimes, sliding across the pavement.

The fires will start to burn en route to Stage 1's Canterbury finish and will keep going though the week before being interrupted by high mountain passes. Only the true hard-men of speed will make it over the Alps and Pyrénées to keep battling for the sprint stages on the other side and, all going to plan, be in contention for the Maillot Vert, the best sprinter's jersey, in Paris.

There are five men at top of the sprint game that give the other contenders fear: Aussies Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) and Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto), Belgian Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic), Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Spaniard Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

The fierce rivalry between the two men from Down Under spells excitement for race fans. Despite his prologue tumble, O'Grady is coming into this Tour de France as reigning Paris-Roubaix champion and could find the sprints come just that bit easier with the win in his palmarès. Inspiration will give the extra punch for O'Grady, with the Tour running a route similar to that of the Spring Classic, only in reverse to finish in Compiègne.

Read the full sprinters' feature.

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