By Jonny Long
Thibaut Pinot will return to racing at the Tour of Slovakia for the first time since abandoning the Tour de France in tears, having been closing in on his first ever Grand Tour victory.
The Frenchman will lead the line for Groupama-FDJ at the five-day stage race, while Arnaud Démare and Stefan Küng are also expected to feature for the French team.
Pinot resumed training mid-August after taking three weeks off the bike following his Tour de France exit on stage 19. He had torn his quadricep two days earlier, battling through the pain until he could no longer manage it, climbing off before the stage was halted due to landslides and a freak hailstorm. The Frenchman said afterwards that he was convinced he could win the Tour, sitting just 20 seconds behind Egan Bernal (Ineos) heading into the final two days in the mountains.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step, who offered France their other great Tour hope in Julian Alaphilippe this year, are expected to take a strong line-up to Slovakia, including Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert and Elia Viviani, who will be assisted by his talented lead-out man Michael Mørkøv.
Emanuel Buchmann is likely to ride for Bora-Hansgrohe, following the 26-year-old's fourth placed Tour finish.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) will provide Viviani with competition in the sprints, while Sam Brand is currently the only Brit expected to feature, riding for Novo Nordisk.
Lars Boom features for Roompot-Charles, in what will be one of the last races for the Dutch squad before the team folds at the end of the season.
The Tour of Slovakia begins on Tuesday September 17 with a hilly circuit of the eastern town of Bardejov, where the individual time trial also takes place the following day.
The race then makes its way westwards, the final day reserved for the sprinters who will complete three laps of the finish town of Senica.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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