Team Sky makes its Tour de France debut when the race kicks off with a prologue time trial in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on July 3.
Bradley Wiggins will lead the team, hoping to finish even better than last year’s fourth place.
He will be supported by eight other riders. CW understands that the riders have known who seven of the Tour de France team would be for at least a fortnight. The final places are set to be confirmed after the Tour of Switzerland, which finishes on Sunday.
Team Sky currently has riders in Switzerland and others at the Ster Elektrotoer, a short stage race in the Netherlands. Wiggins, Steve Cummings and several other squad members have been in France training in the mountains with race coach Rod Ellingworth. They are currently in the Pyrenees and are also due to check out the course for the final time trial at Bordeaux.
So, who does CW understand is in the nine-man Tour de France team? The team is solidly behind Wiggins but, with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Simon Gerrans, there are at least two riders capable of fighting for stage wins. And a third of the team is made up of British riders – Wiggins, Cummings and Thomas.
The seven we believe are certain of a place are:
Previous Tour experience: Wiggins was 123rd overall in his first Tour, in 2006. In 2007, he was fourth in the prologue in London but left the race when Cofidis withdrew in light of the positive dope test for their rider Cristian Moreni. Wiggins skipped the Tour in 2008 to concentrate on the Beijing Olympics. Riding for Garmin-Transitions last year, he finished fourth overall, 6-01 behind winner Alberto Contador.
Bradley Wiggins: Rider Profile>>
Edvald Boasson Hagen
Previous Tour experience: None. This will be his first Tour de France. Boasson Hagen rode the Giro d’Italia for Columbia last year and won a stage. This season got off to a great start with stage wins in Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico. However, a problem with his Achilles ruined his Classics campaign and he was on the sideline for a number of weeks. Returning with a flourish, he won the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in France, on a very tough circuit at Sallanches.
Edvald Boasson Hagen: Rider Profile>>
Previous Tour experience: This will be a first Tour de France for the rider from the Wirral. He has ridden the Giro d’Italia three times, in 2007, 2008 and this year, finishing all of them.
Steve Cummings: Rider Profile>>
Juan Antonio Flecha
Previous Tour experience: Won a stage in the Centenary Tour in 2003 – you may remember his ‘bow and arrow’ victory celebration. Vastly experienced – he also finished the Tour every year from 2004 to 2007. In 2008 he was outside the time cut in the mountains. Last year he reached Paris again.
Juan Antonio Flecha: Rider Profile>>
Previous Tour experience: First rode the Tour in 2005, finishing 126th. Finished again in 2006 and 2007. Finest moment came in 2008, when he won the Alpine stage at Prato Nevoso. Was surprisingly left out of the Cervélo team for last year’s race, despite winning a stage at the Giro – which fuelled speculation he’d already agreed to join Team Sky.
Simon Gerrans: Rider Profile>>
Previous Tour experience: This will be his fifth Tour, which is remarkable considering he missed last year’s race. Made he debut at the race with the Française des Jeux team at the age of 21 in 2005. In 2008 he was 38th overall.
Thomas Lofkvist: Rider Profile>>
Previous Tour experience: Welsh Olympic champion who was the youngest rider in the Tour in 2007 when he rode for Barloworld. He finished second last overall. Recently impressed at the Critérium du Dauphiné. This will be his second Tour.
PLUS TWO FROM:
Kurt-Asle Arvesen – The 35-year-old Norwegian is the favourite on this short list to claim one of the remaining places. We believe his place is all but confirmed. He rode the Tour in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2008 he won a stage at Foix. Fits into the category of super domestique.
Michael Barry – Canadian rouleur, 34, who has ridden the Vuelta four times and the Giro three but has never started the Tour. During the Giro, Barry was named in Floyd Landis’s wide-reaching allegations – which he flatly denied.
Sylvain Calzati – French rider – which may mean he gets the nod. Calzati won a stage of the 2006 Tour – on the day of the World Cup final.
Greg Henderson – Kiwi sprinter, 33. Rode the Giro d’Italia. Would give Team Sky an extra presence, alongside Boasson Hagen, in the bunch sprints. Won a stage of Ster Elektrotoer this week.
Serge Pauwels – Belgian all-rounder, 26. Won a Giro stage last year for Cervélo. Coming into form at the Tour of Switzerland.