Mark Cavendish and Michal Kwiatkowski to share Tour leadership

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Mark Cavendish and Michal Kwiatkowski to share Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s Tour de France leadership

Omega Pharma-Quickstep name long-list as rivals Giant-Shimano prepare two-pronged sprint attack

Omega Pharma-Quickstep will build their Tour de France team around both Mark Cavendish and Michal Kwiatkowski, the Belgian super team has confirmed

A 13-man longlist has been unveiled by the team, who are currently defending Tony Martin’s yellow jersey at the Tour de Suisse, with an all-star cast set to make up the final nine-man line-up.

Omega Pharma-Quickstep will build their Tour de France team around both Mark Cavendish and Michal Kwiatkowski (pic: ©Sirotti)

Cavendish will be bidding to add to his 25 career Tour de France stage wins next month, starting with stage one from Leeds to Harrogate – where he could grab his first ever maillot jaune in his mother’s home town.

And among those still in contention for a Tour spot with the Belgian team are Cavendish’s chief lead-out men Mark Renshaw, Alessandro Petacchi and Gert Steegmans.

As well as bidding for stage success with Cavendish, however, the team are also hoping to support  Kwiatkowski’s GC bid.

The Polish champion, who enjoyed a strong start to the season, winning the Volta ao Algarve and Strade Bianche, but who found himself off the pace at the Criterium du Dauphine, spent several days in the white jersey of best young rider at last year’s Tour.

Kwiatkowski finished 11th overall and this time out he is hoping for even better, and compatriot Michal Golas, former Giro d’Italia runner-up Thomas de Gendt, 2013 Giro stage winner Matteo Trentin and Paris-Roubaix champion Niki Terpstra are all in contention for a place among his supporting cast.

Criterium du Dauphine stage winner Jan Bakelants, who won stage two of the Tour last year to spend two days in the yellow jersey while riding for Radioshack-Leopard, is also on the longlist, as is Slovakian Martin Velits and world time trial champion Martin.

Former world champion and Classics king Tom Boonen completes the list, but the team has already confirmed he is to be a reserve only.

Sport and development manager Rolf Adag said the team will assess their riders after the Tour de Suisse before announcing their nine-man selection on Monday.

Cavendish will face competition from both John Degenkolb, pictured, and Marcel Kittel after Giant-Shimano confirmed both will be on the Leeds start line (pic: Tim de Waele/OPQS)

He said: “We want to see how things will be there first, and be sure everybody is healthy and ready for the competition.

“All 13 names are important. Those guys showed to the team great commitment whether they will be in the final selection of nine or not. They are all ready and fit for the race.”

He added: “Everybody knows our main objectives will be the stage wins with Cavendish and a new experience in the Tour with Kwiatkowski to make another improvement, a new step in his career.

“We will build our team around those two guys to be a competitive and strong team in order to try and reach our goals.”

Kwiatkowski will face stiff competition overall, after Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) all honed their pre-Tour preparations with success in some form at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Cavendish’s main sprint rivals, meanwhile, will be Giant-Shimano duo Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, whose team have also confirmed they will be on the Tour start line in a squad geared towards sprint success.

Criterium du Dauphine stage winner Nikias Arndt is one of several key members of Kittel and Degenkolb’s sprinting arsenal on the Giant-Shimano long list.

Lead-out men Tom Veelers and Koen de Kort are also in contention for the final nine-man squad, but GC man Warren Barguil, who won two stages of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana as a neo-pro, will not be racing this year’s Tour.

Kittel said: “Coming into this race with two sprinters gives us options in the fast sprints as well as the power sprints. I am very excited to get the Tour started now.”

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