Multiple Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador will be backed by versatility and experience as the Team Saxo-Tinkoff rider bids for victory on his return to the Tour de France.
Spaniard Contador, winner in 2007 and 2009, will return for the 100th edition of the Tour when it rolls out in Corsica on Saturday June 29 having missed last year’s race following a positive doping test.
Contador, 30, who also topped the general classification in 2010 before being stripped of his title, won last year’s Vuelta a Espana on his return to the sport and is among the favourites for the yellow jersey next month.
And directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit believes the team are well-equipped to challenge Team Sky’s Chris Froome and get the iconic Spaniard on top of the podium in Paris next month.
“We believe we have reached a very good squad, real all-round fighters with a lot of important experience from Grand Tours,” he said.
“We’re coming to the Tour to win the race with Alberto so of course we have tried to pick out the riders who best fit into our overall strategy.
“We have tried to identify and bring together all the skills we need on the team to give Alberto the best possible support and protection during the three weeks on both flat way and in hectic finals, on hills, in the mountains and in the team time trial.”
Contador will be supported in his charge by one of the men who helped Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) storm to the yellow jersey in last year’s Tour – Australian all-rounder Michael Rogers.
The New South Wales-born 33-year-old, who will be riding his ninth tour, was a key domestique for the British team last year, notably reeling in a long-range Cadel Evans attack on stage 11 and regularly setting the tempo in the mountains.
Since switching to Saxo-Tinkoff this year, the former three-time World Time Trial champion has continued his good form finishing second in the Tour of California and sixth in this month’s Criterium du Dauphine – ahead of tenth-placed Contador.
Portuguese domestique Sergio Paulinho was the only other Saxo-Tinkoff rider to finish the Dauphine and the one-time stage winner, who finished second in this year’s Glava Tour of Norway, has been selected for his fifth consecutive Tour.
Also providing strong support for Contador in the mountains are two of Saxo-Tinkoff’s new riders for this year, climbers Roman Kreuziger and Nicolas Roche.
Irishman Roche, 28, is selected having finished a career-best 12th in last year’s Tour for Ag2r-La Mondiale and with the experience of multiple top-ten Grand Tour stage finishes.
Alongside strength in the mountains, Saxo-Tinkoff will also fancy their chances in the team time trial with Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati, a former Giro d’Italia points winner, in their ranks.
Contador’s compatriot Benjamin Noval, a TTT winner in Lance Armstong’s US Postal Team in 2004 and 2005, is also selected as is fellow Spaniard and long-term domestique Jesus Hernandez.
Italian Matteo Tosatto, 39, a stage winner in 2006, completes the line-up with no Danes selected in the Danish team’s nine-man line-up.
Team manager Bjarne Riis admitted it was difficult to leave out his compatriots, including Nicki Sorensen, namesake Chris Anker and Michael Morkov who are all on the reserve list.
However, he echoed Mauduit’s belief that the team are well-equipped to claim victory at this year’s Tour.
“Personally it has been a very difficult decision not to have a Danish touch in the squad,” he said.
“But we have committed ourselves to point to the group that we believe we have the best composition in relation to achieving our overall goal to win.
“We have a strong group of climbers in the team, we have riders who must take care of Alberto on flat road and in the wind, and I’m sure that we shall perform a good team trial too.
“At the same time we can, with this crew, run both aggressive and put pressure on, or we can be more controlling depending on what we need.
“Ultimately, it is the versatility that is so important if you want to win the race.”
Tour de France 2013 – Team Saxo-Tinkoff