Chris Froome will lead the team as he bids to win his second yellow jersey after the disappointment of crashing out early on last year. He will be supported by British riders Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, and Luke Rowe, while Richie Porte, Leopold König, Nicolas Roche, and Woet Poels round out the nine-man roster.
Porte has made the cut despite uncertainty after his withdrawal from the Giro d’Italia in May. The Tasmanian’s goal of winning the pink jersey started promisingly but was undone by a series of setbacks, including a knee injury, and he has not raced since abandoning after stage 15.
The inclusion of Stannard and Rowe, along with Thomas, reflects the demands of the opening week, which is replete with pitfalls and tailor-made for chaotic racing.
Stannard has won the last two editions of Het Nieuwsblad, Rowe has had top-10s at Paris-Roubaix and Het Nieuwsblad this year, while Thomas won E3 Harelbeke and was third at Gent-Wevelgem. They’ll be tasked with shepherding Froome across the exposed roads of Holland and northern France, not to mention the seven cobbled sectors that await on stage 4.
Thomas’s role won’t be confined to the opening nine days; he has showed his versatility in week-long stage races this year and his performance on the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse, where he climbed the Rettenbach glacier with an elite group, shows that he’ll be important in the mountain-heavy latter portion of the race.
With those mountains - where the general classification is likely to be decided - in mind, Froome will be able to count on the strength of König, Poels, and Roche. König is someone who is strong enough in his own right for top-10 overall finishes in Grand Tours, having finished sixth in the Giro d’Italia in May and seventh at the Tour last year when riding for NetApp-Endura.
Poels, in his first season with Sky, has ridden himself into form and put in strong shifts for Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné while Roche has received a vote of faith despite not being quite at his best since joining from Tinkoff-Saxo for 2015.
Kennaugh, who was dismayed at missing the cut last year after a valuable performance for Froome in 2013, is back in the fold and will have the chance to show off his recently retained British national champion’s jersey on the biggest stage.
There is no room for Danny Pate, Philip Deignan, Bernard Eisel, or Ian Boswell.
Team Sky for the Tour de France: Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, and Luke Rowe, Richie Porte, Leopold König, Nicolas Roche, Woet Poels.