Team Sky announce killer line-up for Tour de France
Dave Brailsford is certainly not short of options when it comes to picking his squad for the Tour de France, which kicks off in just over a week in Mont-Saint-Michel. He has a list of World and National champions, Grand Tour specialists, mountain goats and diesel engines to choose from, as well as the most successful GC rider of the Tour's recent history - a certain Christopher Froome.
After plenty of headaches we have no doubt, Brailsford and Team Sky announced the final nine-man team that will contest the world's biggest bike race yesterday. There were some fairly predictable big names included on the list, and a couple of surprises too.
Follow the leader
It doesn't take a genius to predict who is going to be taking the the leader's role for Sky. Chris Froom has won two Tour de France overall classifications already and he is hot favourite to do the same again this year. The Kenyan-born, former mountain biker is a divisive figure in the cycling world - especially outside of the UK - but love him or loathe him, there's one thing you cannot deny, the guy is going to take some beating.
Chris Froome is such a strong rider that there are very few in the Team Sky squad who would even consider challenging him for the title of leader. Geraint Thomas, the welshman who ably supported Froome in his successful bid to win last year's Tour, might one day aspire to knock Froomey off the pedestal, but for now will have to be content with deputy duties.
The only other Brits included in the squad are Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard - two hard-as-nails riders who love the grisly, tough conditions most often found in the Spring Classics. Rowe and Stannard will be on duty from the start of every day, ensuring Froome is kept safe and protected throughout the flatter stages, so he arrives in the mountains in the best possible shape.
Mountain goats and diesel engines
The Basque duo of Mikels (Nieve and Landa) are a couple of mountain goats who will add their considerable climbing prowess to Team Sky's firepower once the road does start to go up. You can expect to see one or the other sitting on the front of the lead group, laying down the hurt to other GC contenders and their teams well into the final kilometres of each serious climb.
Also well-known for being prominently placed on the front of the 'Sky Train' is Vasil Kiryienka, the time-trial specialist and current World Champion. 'Kiry' is known for having a big diesel engine that just goes and goes and goes. When Froome wants the race to be split apart, expect to see him call up his trusted Belarusian team-mate to do some serious damage.
A controversial inclusion in the squad is Sergio Henao, who is not long returned from a suspension after suspicious blood readings. The Colombian will be hoping to put those troubles behind him and dedicate himself to Froome and the squad.
Rounding out a truly impressive squad is Wout Poels. The Dutchman has had a brilliant year in Team Sky colours, after bringing home the teams first ever monument win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and will be a huge help in the mountains.
The 'tenth member' of the Team Sky squad is without doubt their unmistakable Pinarello Dogma bikes, which have carried them to victory in three of the last four Tours. You can shop Pinarellos in our online store, or come into the shop in Chester and check them out.
Image source: Flickr user "muffinn"
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