AG2R-La Mondiale have confirmed the first six riders in its Tour de France selection and released a shortlist of four names to fill the final four berths. The team will be led by Romain Bardet, who placed second overall a year ago, while Pierre Latour will make his Tour debut.
Bardet's key mountain domestiques Alexis Vuillermoz – a stage winner at Mur de Bretagne in 2015 – and Mathias Frank have also been confirmed in the line-up, together with Axel Domont and Oliver Naesen.
Jan Bakelants, Samuel Dumoulin, Ben Gastauer and Cyril Gautier are in contention to fill the final three spots, with a decision to be made after their respective national championships this coming weekend.
"The Tour de France is the major event of the season, and the number one goal for the team," said AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu. "We have selected the best performing group possible to surround Romain Bardet, our leader, in order to provide him with the security and serenity he needs for three weeks of racing. In addition, we have riders who are also strong and capable of winning stages."
Bardet placed sixth overall at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, recovering from a disappointing time trial to produce an aggressive display on the final weekend in the mountains. After placing second at the Tour de France a year ago, Bardet carries French hopes for the 2017 Tour and Lavenu maintains that he still has "a certain margin of progression possible."
The highly-rated Latour arrives at his Tour de France debut buoyed by a solid 15th overall at the Dauphiné. He claimed a stage victory atop the Alto de Aitana at his first Grand Tour appearance at the Vuelta a España last year and could offer crucial support to Bardet.
"He is young and talented, and capable of great things," Lavenu said.
Mathias Frank was a team leader at the Tour during his tenure at IAM Cycling, placing 8th overall in 2015, but the Swiss rider has declared himself happier in the supporting role he now occupies at AG2R-La Mondiale. Together with Vuillermoz and Latour, he will be expected to accompany Bardet in the high mountains, while Naesen, the revelation of the Cobbled classics, will offer an important wheel to follow in the opening week.
"He was the big surprise of the beginning of the season," Lavenu said. "With a little more luck, he could have won some great Classics, and he has not finished surprising us on all sorts of terrains."
AG2R-La Mondiale team for the Tour de France: Romain Bardet (Fra), Pierre Latour (Fra), Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Mathias Frank (Swi), Axel Domont (Fra) and three from Jan Bakelants (Bel), Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Ben Gastauer (Lux) and Cyril Gautier (Fra).
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