Ewan and Benoot lead Lotto Soudal hunt for stage wins at Tour de France

Caleb Ewan will make his Tour de France debut at the head of a Lotto Soudal team that also includes Tiesj Benoot, Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens.

Lotto Soudal announced their Tour roster on Tuesday, with each of the eight-man squad confirming his participation via social media. Maxime Monfort, Roger Kluge, Jens Keukeleire and Jasper De Buyst complete the line-up.

Ewan is in his first year at Lotto Soudal after arriving from Mitchelton-Scott during the off-season. He had been slated to make his Tour debut in 2018 but was surprisingly left out of the selection on the eve of the race. This time out, he will look to be in the mix for the first maillot jaune on stage 1 in Brussels.

"It’s going to be my first Tour de France so I’m very excited to do it. It’s a dream come true for me," said Ewan in a video posted on social media.

"I’m also excited about the first stage being a sprint because it’s an opportunity for us sprinters to take the yellow jersey. On top of that it’s going to be exciting to be part of a Belgian team starting the Tour in Belgium."

Ewan has clocked up seven victories so far at Lotto Soudal, including a brace of stage wins at the Giro d’Italia. His final outing before the Tour came at the ZLM Tour, where he claimed victory on the final stage ahead of Max Walscheid (Sunweb) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma).

"Caleb Ewan will be at the start of the Tour for the first time in his career, but he will put the necessary pressure on himself," said Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant in a statement from the team. "With already three stage wins in the Giro and one in the Vuelta, I think the ambition to also win a Tour stage will come automatically. During the sprint preparation, Caleb will be perfectly supported by, amongst others, Jasper De Buyst and Roger Kluge but by the other Lotto Soudal riders as well."

Benoot placed a fine 4th overall at last week’s Tour de Suisse but Sergeant downplayed the idea that he or any of Lotto Soudal’s stronger climbers would target the general classification. Benoot placed 20th overall on his Tour debut in 2017.

"The Tour is about three topics: sprint stages, days for escapees and mountain stages. Only during the days in the mountains, it won’t be easy for us to take a stage win and attacking will be the mindset of Lotto Soudal during those stages," Sergeant said. "Even though some riders already announced they won’t participate, we don’t have any real ambitions for the general classification. We are fully aiming for a stage victory."

The 2019 Tour de France gets underway in Brussels on July 6.

Lotto Soudal for the Tour de France: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Thomas De Gendt, Caleb Ewan, Jens Keukeleire, Roger Kluge, Maxime Monfort and Tim Wellens.

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