Two British Tour de France debutants have been handed key roles in a Team Sky line-up designed to deliver another Briton to Paris in the yellow jersey a month from Sunday. Pete Kennaugh and Ian Stannard will make their first appearances in the race as part of a team built around Chris Froome, the overwhelming favourite to win the Tour and succeed Bradley Wiggins.
Four of the nine strong line up named by team principal Dave Brailsford are British and three of them are graduates of Britain’s cycling academy, the Welshman Geraint Thomas completing the trio. The Australian Richie Porte will be Froome’s right-hand man – providing the main support act as Froome did for Wiggins last year – and is earmarked to take on the lead should anything happen to Froome.
Four riders return from last year’s successful line up; Froome, Porte, the Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen and the Belorussian Kanstantsin Siutsou, who broke his leg in the early stages. There is no place for Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who finished runner up in the Giro d’Italia last month, or, most surprisingly, the experienced Bernhard Eisel, such an integral part of last year’s team.
Thomas and Kennaugh, regarded as respectively the next two big British hopes on the road in succession to Wiggins and Froome, were part of the world record breaking team pursuit quartet that won gold at the London Olympics. They returned to the road this season and have become an integral part of a Team Sky Tour squad that has, so far, enjoyed a rewarding season, culminating in an impressive domination of the Criterium du Dauphine that saw Froome claim a fourth victory of the campaign.
The 26-year-old Stannard, British road champion last year, has earned his chance thanks to his relentless riding and ability to maintain momentum regardless of the conditions. Kennaugh, at 24 the youngest in the team and four years younger than Froome, is seen as a potential future leader, but his role in his first Tour will be to help Froome once the hard climbing begins. Thomas, entering his fourth Tour and a rider whom Sky also see as a leader in waiting, will have a similar task.
“Most of us were at the Dauphine and I was hugely impressed there with the way the team came together in control of the leader’s jersey,” said Froome, who is spending a couple of days in light training in the hills around his home in Monaco before the race begins in Corsica a week on Saturday.
“Ian, Vasil [Kiryienka] and Kosta each possess huge engines that you can’t go into a Tour without. They will be controlling things on the front for long periods of the race and pacing me once the climbing begins. Geraint, David and Pete will then take up the reins. Those guys have really improved their climbing abilities and will be a massive help when the pace really ramps up in the mountains.
“In Richie we simply have one of the strongest climbers in the world. He is another who’s more than capable of winning a Grand Tour in his own right. Having him in our ranks gives us a number of different options to play.”