Team Sky have confirmed the line-up to support Chris Froome in his bid for a fifth Tour de France title. Tour de France organisers ASO had tried to block Froome from riding but they dropped the motion when the 33-year-old was cleared in his nine-month-long salbutamol case on Monday.
As expected, Colombian climbing talent Egan Bernal will make his debut with Geraint Thomas, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe, Wout Poels and Gianni Moscon completing the line-up.
Froome risked heading into the Tour with a cloud hanging over his head, as the case examining the elevated levels of salbutamol found in an anti-doping test at last year’s Vuelta a Espana rumbled on with no end in sight. ASO’s attempt to try to block Froom’s participation – which Team Sky was appealing – appears to have forced the hand of the authorities and he was cleared of any wrongdoing on Monday.
The closure of the investigation means that Froome’s recent successes no longer have an asterisk against them, and he goes to the Tour having won the last three Grand Tours. He is aiming to join Eddy Merckx as the winner of four consecutive Grand Tours and as the winner of five Tours de France, as well as becoming the first rider in 20 years to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France back-to-back.
“The last 12 months have been the hardest but also the most incredible of my career. I’ve never started the Tour de France after riding the Giro d’Italia and it has meant a completely different approach to my season. But I learnt a lot from riding the Vuelta straight after the Tour de France last year which has given me confidence coming into this race,” Froome said in a team press release.
“I want to make history with a fifth Tour de France win and fourth consecutive Grand Tour. I am under no illusion about the challenge, but I am feeling ready and I couldn’t ask for a better team to support me. This is the biggest race in the year, in front of the most passionate cycling fans, and I can’t wait to get racing.”
Wout Poels is the only member of Team Sky’s Giro d’Italia line-up to follow Froome to the Tour de France. The Dutchman has been one of Froome’s key domestiques and finished 12th overall at the Giro. Thomas joins Poels as part of Froome’s mountain support network, though has expressed his desire to have a semi-protected status within the team. Thomas won the Criterium du Dauphine at the start of last month, despite crashing on the opening day, and claimed the British national time trial title last week.
The eight-man team will contain two debutants in Bernal and Moscon. Bernal is in his first season at WorldTour level and this will be his first-ever Grand Tour appearance. Moscon impressed in his first Grand Tour at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. He recently escaped punishment, due to a lack of evidence, after FDJ’s Sebastien Reichenbach claimed that he had deliberately pushed him off his bike at the 2017 Tre Valli Varesine.
Bernal has had a hugely impressive maiden year at Sky, finishing second at the Tour de Romandie and winning the Tour of California, and his presence at the Tour de France had been long anticipated.
Castroviejo and Kwiatkowski will ride in support of Froome in the medium mountain stages and the earlier sections of the major climbs while Rowe will play an important role in ensuring Froome makes it through the opening week unscathed.
The Tour de France begins on Saturday, July 7 in Noirmoutier-En-L'Ïle.
Team Sky for the Tour de France: Chris Froome, Egan Bernal, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Luke Rowe, Wout Poels, Geraint Thomas
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