Tour de France: Froome to rely on Stannard and Rowe for protection

Sky's squad takes shape

Chris Froome will have Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard by his side during the Tour de France, with both domestiques expected to make Team Sky's line-up. Both Rowe and Stannard helped Froome defend his Critérium du Dauphiné crown earlier this month and were also in the Sky squad that catapulted Froome to Tour de France success in 2015.

Rowe, who has been developed into a Classics rider as well as a key part of the Tour squad, compared this year's build up to 12 months ago, when selection was far less certain.

"It's a nice position to be in. Last year I was really fighting to get into the squad but bar illness or injury it looks like a done deal. It's a good position to be in," he told Cyclingnews.

The majority of Team Sky's Tour de France team is expected to come from the Dauphiné team, with Froome, Rowe, and Stannard joined by Mikel Landa, Wout Poels, Sergio Henao and Michal Kwiatkowski, while Geraint Thomas is set to join up with the team after his Tour de Suisse ride.

That would leave the team with one more spot to fill. Potential contenders include Salvatore Puccio, Mikel Nieve, Leopold Konig and Vasil Kiryienka. 

Rowe believes that the more mountainous parcours this year will have a bearing on team selection but that his role – of protecting Froome on the flat – will not alter.

"It's a harder race with hills and mountain stages almost straight from the start. It's going to be a tough race. The final make-up and build of the team, I'm not sure and we'll have to wait and see, but it's certainly going to be a more climbing-orientated team."

Stannard, 29, has been with Froome during both of his Tour wins (2013 and 2015).

"We're going there again to try and win the Tour with Chris. My role there will be to look after him on the flat stages and if that means us taking control on some stages, we'll do that," he said.

Stannard will skip the British nationals and remain at home training ahead of the Tour de France.

"I've been training hard and it's around two weeks to the start. My personal role hasn't changed. I'll look after Froome as long as I can with Luke on the flat and then once the gruppetto is formed I'll try and stay well hidden," he added.

"I don't know the line-up, or make the decisions, but I just make sure that I'm going in the right direction."

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