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Caleb Ewan is 'absolute leader' for Lotto Soudal at Tour de France

Caleb Ewan won two stages at last year's Tour de France
Caleb Ewan won two stages at last year's Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

Caleb Ewan will lead Lotto Soudal at the Tour de France, where Philippe Gilbert and Thomas De Gendt will also feature in the eight-man line-up.

Ewan notched up two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia last month and warmed up for the Tour with another brace of victories at last week's Baloise Belgium Tour. The Australian has won five stages in the past two Tours, and he will look to benefit from the increased number of flat stages on this year’s route.

The bulk of the Lotto Soudal squad is devoted to Ewan’s lead-out train, with Roger Kluge, Jasper De Buyst, Tosh Van Der Sande and Harry Sweeny featuring. 

Gilbert, De Gendt and Brent Van Moer will have the freedom to chase stage honours elsewhere during the race.

Ewan's fellow Australian Sweeny is in his first season at WorldTour level, and the Tour de France will be the 22-year-olds first Grand Tour.

John Degenkolb is not in the final eight-rider selection, while Tim Wellens is struggling with an an undiagnosed illness.

"It is clear that Caleb Ewan is our absolute and rightful leader," Lotto Soudal general manager John Lelangue said when revealing the team. 

"I think there are six to seven stages where the sprinters can battle for the stage win. Caleb’s trusted train, with Jasper De Buyst and Roger Kluge, was successfully extended with Tosh Van der Sande and Harry Sweeny at the Belgium Tour. This combination has already been successful at the UAE Tour.

"The other three places are taken by stage hunters. Philippe Gilbert, Thomas De Gendt and Brent Van Moer will be targeting stage wins in the non-sprinter stages. Like we know them: with panache and courage. We are heading to Brest full of motivation."

Gilbert is lining up for his 11th Tour de France. The Belgian was forced to abandon each of his past three Tours through illness and injury. He missed part of the Classics campaign this Spring due to mental and physical fatigue but he returned to action in mid-April and recently placed 11th at the Baloise Belgium Tour.

Lotto Soudal are without Wellens, who has been ruled out of both the Belgian Championships and the Tour, due to an undiagnosed illness.

"At the moment, my body isn’t reacting to the training stimulus the way I want it to. I can’t push the amount of watts I need to do well at the Tour de France," said Wellens.

The Tour de France gets underway in Brest on Saturday, June 26.

Lotto Soudal for the Tour de France

  • Jasper De Buyst (Bel)
  • Thomas De Gendt (Bel)
  • Caleb Ewan (Aus)
  • Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
  • Roger Kluge (Ger)
  • Harry Sweeny (Aus)
  • Tosh Van der Sande (Bel)
  • Brent Van Moer (Bel)