By Nigel Wynn
This year's Giro d'Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal, has been named in Garmin-Barracuda's nine-man Tour de France roster.
The Canadian heads up a strong squad fielded by the American-based outfit that also includes British Grand Tour veteran David Millar.
Sprinter Tyler Farrar will be the team's option in bunch finishes against Britain's Mark Cavendish (Sky). Although Farrar's form thus far this season has been slightly lacking, the affable American will be hoping to race into condition to contest the Olympic Games road race in London a week after the Tour finishes.
Millar was recently named on the long-list for Britain's London 2012 Olympic Games team and will also use the Tour to regain form after missing part of the early season with a collarbone fracture.
British-born, Irish rider Daniel Martin makes his Tour de France debut and could be in the hunt for mountains stage wins. It has been mooted in some quarters that Martin could be a likely candidate for the Tour's King of the Mountains title.
Tour top-ten finishers Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson provide yet more firepower in the mountains to support Hesjedal with an eye on keeping high in the general classification themselves as 'plan B'. Millar and David Zabriskie should figure in the race's individual time trials.
2010 Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren and sprinter Robbie Hunter complete the line-up - both are good options in the race's opening stages in Belgium.
In years past, the Garmin/Slipstream team has often produced the surprise package of the race - not least Bradley Wiggins' strong ride in 2009 that saw him place fourth overall. However, with Hesjedal now a Grand Tour winner, the squad can no longer be considered the underdog and the Tour roster has a seasoned look about it.
It is unlikely that Hesjedal can repeat the form in such a short space of time that saw him win the Giro, so instead it is likely the squad will rally around whoever looks strongest as the race progresses - and keep an eye out for sprint, time trial and opportunistic stage wins as they arise.
"We have put together a well-balanced team with an emphasis on support for our leader, Ryder," said Garmin-Barracuda director of competition Allan Peiper.
"We have Christian and Tom, both excellent climbers who each have had great GC rides in the Tour and have shown their strength in recent racing. Dan Martin, making his Tour debut, rounds out the climbers of the team."
"The climbers will have the support of TT specialists David Millar and David Zabriskie along with Johan Vansummeren, who will also be able to help out sprinters Farrar and Hunter in the quest for stage wins."
The 2012 Tour de France starts in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday June 30 and finishes three weeks later in Paris on Sunday, July 22.
Garmin-Barracuda: 2012 Tour de France team
Tom Danielson (USA)
Tyler Farrar (USA)
Ryder Hesjedal (Can)
Robbie Hunter (RSA)
Dan Martin (Irl)
David Millar (GBr)
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
Johan Vansummeren (Bel)
David Zabriskie (USA)
Tour de France 2012 team tracker
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