Tour de France - Strong Sky support for Wiggins at Tour
Team Sky have confirmed their squad for the 99th Tour de France, with favourite Bradley Wiggins flanked by a strong supporting cast.
Wiggins will lead the team after his consecutive victories at Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné, and will be joined by Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Chris Froome, Christian Knees, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Siutsou.
The 2012 edition will be Wiggins’ sixth Tour appearance and he goes into the event in the form of his life having clinched podium places in every single stage race he has completed over the last 12 months.
World road race Champion Cavendish rides his first Tour de France for Team Sky and has the honour of being the first Briton in 46 years to wear the fabled rainbow jersey in cycling’s biggest bike race.
The Manxman is also looking to defend the points classification title he secured in last year’s event and is aiming to add to his remarkable tally of 20 Tour stage victories which have put him joint-sixth on the list of all-time stage winners.
Boasson Hagen will be Cavendish’s key lead out man and also offer support to Wiggins when the race hits the mountains.
If the opportunity arises, Boasson Hagen is highly capable of going for stage victories himself, as demonstrated in 2011 when he sprinted to victory in Lisieux and then produced a triumphant solo attack as the race dropped into Pinerolo.
2011 Vuelta a Espana runner-up Froome, Volta ao Algarve winner Porte and three-time world time trial champion Rogers will be Wiggins’ biggest allies on the most testing stages.
Knees and Siutsou will be his wingmen during the flatter sections of the race, while Eisel brings experience and his all-round capabilities to the squad.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “Deciding our final nine was a very tough challenge because we are blessed with a great depth of talent in our squad.
“We believe we have picked a strong and balanced team though, and one which can cater for any eventuality.
“Our priority this year is the General Classification with Bradley but that doesn’t mean we’ll neglect the sprint stages, or Mark’s bid for green jersey.
“Chris, Mick, and Richie are among our strongest climbers and will all be there to support Bradley in the mountains, but then we’ve got riders like Christian and Kosta who have strong engines on the flats, and versatile riders like Edvald and Bernhard who can support Mark in the sprints.
“This squad is truly world class with a proven pedigree of success. They have trained, raced and lived together since the start of the season and that has moulded them into a well-oiled, focused and close-knit team.
“They are all full of confidence after their recent run of results and it’s going to be exciting to see how the race transpires.”
Wiggins was full of praise for his team’s approach to the Tour, saying: “I’m really proud to be part of such a strong unit going into the Tour de France.
"The team’s preparation has been perfectly managed and our form this season gives us a great chance of being successful.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and I’ll do everything I can to win the Tour de France.
“Hopefully we can do the business for ourselves and our fans, and become the most successful British-based cycling team ever.”
Cavendish added: "It's a dream to ride for a team that holds so much British interest and has a chance to win the yellow jersey.
“I know the push for the GC podium will make it more difficult for me to repeat the success I've enjoyed the last few years.
“But I'll compete and, as always, I'll dedicate myself to making it a successful Tour for Team Sky and, let's hope, for Britain.”