Team Sky have announced their nine-man team for the 98th edition of the Tour de France, starting on 2 July at the Passage du Gois.
"Competing in the Tour de France is what every young rider dreams of and I'm really excited about the challenge ahead."
Bradley Wiggins, who came fourth in 2009 to equal the best ever Tour de France finish by a British rider, and recently won the prestigious Critérium du Dauphiné, will lead the squad which includes fellow Brits Geraint Thomas, who will be riding his third Tour de France, and Ben Swift who will be making his debut in the event.
Talented young Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen will make his second Tour de France appearance after last year’s debut where he secured two podium finishes. Joining him will be Colombia’s Rigoberto Urán, both having proved key strengths in the mountains at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The line up features experienced Grand Tour riders including Spanish duo Juan Antonio Flecha, who will be making his ninth Tour de France appearance, and Xabier Zandio, who has previously ridden in the event five times. They will be joined by Germany’s reigning Road Race Champion Christian Knees, who will be riding in his ninth Grand Tour, and Simon Gerrans, previous stage winner in all three Grand Tours.
Team Sky have also revealed that all kit, bikes, equipment and vehicles will change from blue to green for all 21 stages of the race to help raise awareness and support for Sky Rainforest Rescue, a three year partnership between Sky and WWF to help save a billion trees in the state of Acre, northwest Brazil.
All of the riders, with the exception of Swift who has sprinted to five stage wins already this season, helped Wiggins to his impressive victory in the Dauphiné earlier this month and Team Principal Dave Brailsford explained: "This is a strong and balanced team with a real depth of talent to cater for all the race’s challenges, from the team time trial to its high mountain finishes.
"The squad have raced and trained together consistently well and are full of confidence after excellent results at Bayern Rundfhart and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"There is a great blend of experience and youth in our squad. As well as riders like Bradley, Flecha, Simon, Christian and Xabier who have ridden the Grand Tours on numerous occasions, the line up also includes some of the peloton’s brightest young talents in Edvald, Geraint, Rigoberto and Ben. We have a really exciting team that can’t wait for 2 July."
Brailsford is particularly looking forward to Swift's first appearance in cycling's blue riband event, adding: "I am delighted that Ben Swift will be making his Tour debut, he is enjoying a breakthrough season with five wins already and he will absolutely thrive on this opportunity to test himself on the biggest stage of all."
Relishing the challenge
The action gets under way in little over a week and the riders themselves head to the race full of confidence following those recent successes, with Dauphiné hero Wiggins confirming: "The team is in great shape, full of confidence and riding well.
"We all want to put on a good show for our fans as their support for the team throughout this season has been incredible. It’s going to be a great three weeks of racing."
That was echoed by Swift who told us: "Competing in the Tour de France is what every young rider dreams of and I'm really excited about the challenge ahead. The team is riding well and we can’t wait to get going against the world’s best riders."