Red Bull unveils star-packed lineup led by Roglic ahead of Tour de France

Primoz Roglic wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey (C) celebrates winning June's Criterium du Dauphine with his team-mates (Thomas SAMSON)
Primoz Roglic wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey (C) celebrates winning June's Criterium du Dauphine with his team-mates (Thomas SAMSON)

Red Bull on Wednesday unveiled its eight-rider cycling team to debut in this week's Tour de France, marking the energy drink maker's latest expansion of its sports empire.

Earlier this year, Red Bull bought a controlling stake in the German Bora-Hansgrohe cycling team.

The three-week Tour de France starts in Florence on Saturday and is expected to be a four-way struggle spearheaded by bitter rivals Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia and Dane Jonas Vingegaard.

Slovenia's veteran all-rounder Primoz Roglic and Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel are also among the big favourites.

The new Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe team will compete in dark-blue jerseys prominently featuring the drink maker's logo and ride "super aero" bikes in white.

They will be led by Roglic, who has previously won the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana and also claimed his second Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month.

Roglic reaffirmed his ambitions for the Tour, as wearing the yellow jersey was "the goal, the challenge" everybody on the team was working for.

"We have to go for it," the 34-year-old former ski jumper added.

Red Bull's entry as a new sponsor "is a game changer... for the whole (sport of) cycling", said Roglic, whose new contract is said to be worth six million euros ($6.4 million) a year.

The star-packed Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe roster for the world's biggest cycling race also includes Australian former Giro winner Jai Hindley and Russian Aleksandr Vlasov.

Hindley told AFP he was confident the "really well-rounded team" was ready to take on the Tour, with the first day already being "decisive -- not in terms of winning the race, but for losing it".

"You get a good idea on what teams are riding well together, who's there in good form, who's not on day one.

"You prepare for war every day for three weeks. It's really physical, it's mentally draining. It's some of the hardest shit you can do to your body in terms of the sporting world," Hindley said.

Asked about how he will spend the next few days before the race kicks off in Italy, Hindley said he plans to "just eat a lot of food, go to bed early, and split his legs a bit".

At Wednsday's launch in the Austrian city of Salzburg, team manager Ralph Denk said Red Bull's arrival in cycling was "really huge".

"We have a clear plan to become the most attractive brand in cycling," said Denk, adding that this would include finding "icon riders" and focussing on the development of young talents.

In 2025, a new under-23 programme will seek to bridge the gap between the juniors and the team.

Red Bull has invested heavily in sports to give its brand global exposure -- it owns two Formula 1 teams and football clubs, and has also branched out into extreme sports.