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Bardet to lead AG2R La Mondiale's preliminary Tour de France squad, final two places still up for grabs - News Shorts

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Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) wins stage 21

Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) wins stage 21
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Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in pink

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in pink (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Greg Daniel wins the final stage and the overall at the 2016 Tour de Beauce.

Greg Daniel wins the final stage and the overall at the 2016 Tour de Beauce. (Image credit: Tour of Japan)
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Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) comes around the corner headed into the fast downhill

Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling) comes around the corner headed into the fast downhill (Image credit: Matthew Moses/Moses Images)

AG2R La Mondiale announced the first seven riders selected to compete in the Tour de France, which starts on July 2 in Mont-Saint-Michel. As expected Romain Bardet will lead the team, while the final two places on the roster will be announced after the French national championships.

This year's roster, so far, will also include Jan Bakelants, Mikaël Chérel, Cyril Gautier, Alexis Gougeard, Domenico Pozzovivo and Alexis Vuillermoz.

General Manager Vincent Lavenu commented on the seven-rider selection in a recent press release.

"Our team is ambitious, with a leader, Romain Bardet, surrounded by Domenico Pozzovivo (first participation), Jan Bakelants, Mikaël Chérel, Cyril Gautier, Alexis Gougeard and Alexis Vuillermoz, who are talented and consistent.

"We want to play a role for GC but also aim at stages victories. Team classification is also important for us. The last weeks prove that our riders are able to reach these goals."

Giant-Alpecin's Dumoulin, Preidler, Arndt and Degenkolb head to national championships week

Giant-Alpecin will field a series of riders at various national championship events throughout Europe next week. Leading the charge is Tom Dumoulin, who just returned from a three-week altitude camp and will look to pick up the Dutch national titles in the road race and the time trial.

Also participating in the events are Georg Preidler, who will look to defend his title in the Austrian time trial. Tobias Ludvigsson will compete in the Swedish championships and Zico Waeytens for Belgium.

John Degenkolb, Simon Geschke, Nikias Arndt and Max Walscheid will head to the German championships.

Søren Kragh Andersen will go to the Danish championships and Warren Barguil the road race at the French championships.

Giant-Alpecin for time trial national championships:
Austria (22/06): Georg Preidler
Denmark (22/06): Søren Kragh Andersen 
Germany (24/06): Nikias Arndt and Max Walscheid 
The Netherlands (22/06): Tom Dumoulin 
Sweden (22/06): Tobias Ludvigsson 

Giant-Alpecin for road race national championships:
Austria (26/06): Georg Preidler 
Belgium (26/06): Zico Waeytens 
Denmark (26/06): Søren Kragh Andersen 
France (26/06): Warren Barguil 
Germany (26/06): Nikias Arndt, John Degenkolb, Johannes Fröhlinger, Simon Geschke, Max Walscheid
The Netherlands (25/06): Roy Curvers, Laurens ten Dam, Tom Dumoulin, Lars van der Haar, Koen de Kort, Sam Oomen, Ramon Sinkeldam, Tom Stamsnijder, Albert Timmer
Norway (26/06): Sindre Skjøstad Lunke
Sweden (26/06) Tobias Ludvigsson

Axel Merckx 'blown away' by Axeon-Hagens Berman's winning performances

Axeon-Hagens Berman manager Axel Merckx says he’s blown away by his riders' series of strong performances in top-level bike racing around the globe.

Overseas, Axeon had a team racing at the Tour de Savoie, where Adrien Costa and Ruben Guerreiro went 1-2 in the individual time trial, and Tao Geoghegan Hart won the final stage and finished second overall.

The team also participated in the UCI 2.2 Tour de Beauce held in the Canadian province of Quebec, where Greg Daniel won the finale stage 5 in St-Georges and secured the overall victory. He took the overall lead after placing second on the stage 2 summit finish on Mont Megantic. In addition, his teammate Neilson Powless won the stage 3a individual time trial.

The two wins by Daniel on Sunday made it 13 victories for Axeon Hagens Berman in UCI competition and 18 overall on the year, according to a team press release.

Merckx said he was at a loss to explain the run of success for the American under-23 development program that has previously sent 18 riders to the WorldTour ranks the past nine years.

"This is beyond anything we have ever experienced," Merckx said. "This is actually unbelievable. To be honest, I don't know what to say. I am actually blown away. These guys have been developing so well the past two years. Now they are coming into the maturity of moving up and reaching a level where they are proving to everyone that they are strong riders and able to win races, motivate their teammates and make everyone around them stronger.

"I have said it before: it is not a competition. It is just friendship and camaraderie and the desire and will to actually make it happen. That is exactly what we mean when we say 'Prove It.'"

Huffman seals first big stage race victory at North Star Grand Prix

Rally Cycling's Evan Huffman secured his first big stage race overall title at the North Star Grand Prix on Sunday. In fact, the team had a dominant overall performance during the six-stage race, holding onto the leader’s yellow jersey from start to finish, taking three stage wins, four podiums and sweeping the final general classification podium with Evan Huffman, Brad Huff and Tom Zirbel.

"This is my first stage race victory at this level," Huffman said in a team press release. "It is a big step for me in my development and as a team leader. This season has been really good and I am riding the best I have ever ridden, both mentally and physically. The team has helped me tremendously."

North Star Grand Prix ended with the challenging Stillwater Criterium that boasts a steep climb up Chillkoot Hill each lap followed by technical descent. Huff, the national criterium champion, won the final stage. 

"The final stage was hard, but it went as planned," said Huffman. "We used Danny [Pate], Brad and Tom to roll attacks back each lap when the course leveled off at the top of the climb. In the second half of the race, the guys in the top 10 started attacking and I had to follow two moves, which was really hard. Tom led Brad out into the final climb and Brad went really fast up the hill to win the stage."