Team Sky have confirmed the eight riders who will bid to help Chris Froome retain his Tour de France title when the race gets under way in Leeds on Saturday, July 5.
As Sir Bradley Wiggins had already confirmed, there is no place in the nine-strong line-up for the 2012 champion and Geraint Thomas is the only other British rider to make the cut in the UK team.
The 28-year-old Welshman will be a key ally of Froome on all types of terrain but the defending champion’s main asset is likely to be Australian Richie Porte. A superb cyclist in his own right, the 29-year-old will have the task of setting a strong pace for Froome in the mountains before catapulting his leader towards the summit.
Another big name in the Sky squad is Bernhard Eisel. The 33-year-old Austrian will be embarking on his 15th ‘Grand Tour’ and this experience is also likely to be vital.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford told the team’s website: "Team Sky returns to the Tour de France with the reigning champion and we are looking to win the yellow jersey for the third time in three years and a second consecutive time for Chris Froome. Defending champion Chris Froome is an exceptional talent, a brilliant stage racer, and he’ll lead the team.
"We know how hard it is to win this race and that it takes a totally focused and carefully constructed team, with the right blend of riders, to give us the best chance of victory. Each rider has been selected to play a specific role which will involve total sacrifice and commitment to the team’s ambition of reaching the Champs-Élysées in yellow.”
This year’s Tour cuts through west Essex and East London during Stage Three from Cambridge to the capital and the reigning champion is eagerly looking forward to racing on home soil again.
"Everyone in the team is hugely excited about the Tour de France starting in the UK and racing in front of home fans as defending champion will be an incredible honour,” Froome commented.
"We did a recce of the Yorkshire stages a few weeks ago and the excitement was already starting to build and the support that we have received has been fantastic. I’ll never forget the atmosphere on the roads during the London Olympics and to receive similar support at the Tour would be amazing. There’s no greater motivation for us than riding in front of our UK fans.”
Sky have become the tenth team to announce their full nine-rider line-up and it reads: Bernhard Eisel (Austria); Chris Froome (Great Britain); Vasil Kiriyenka (Belarus); David Lopez (Spain); Mikel Nieve (Spain); Danny Pate (USA); Richie Porte (Australia); Geraint Thomas (Great Britain); Xabier Zandio (Spain).