In-form Irish rider Dan Martin has been selected for Garmin-Sharp’s nine-man squad for the 100th Tour de France, which starts in Corsica on Saturday (June 29).
Birmingham-born Martin, who will join cousin Nicolas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) on the start line, will ride alongside British Olympic captain and four-time stage winner David Millar and last year’s Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal.
Martin rode himself into contention for the American team after a great year, which has included victory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and topping the overall Volta a Catalunya classification alongside a top-ten Tour de Suisse finish.
And Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters, who deliberately opted to publish the American team’s squad just three days before the race starts, believes Martin is one of several riders capable of a high general classification finish at the Tour.
“We have a deep team with a lot of options as we head into the Centennial Tour de France,” he said.
“Our goal is to animate the race and with an aggressive strategy we will aim to place high in the general classification.
“We have a few guys capable of achieving that. We will protect our best GC options and see how the race shakes out.
“Our approach is a little unconventional, but we’ve managed to come up with surprises every year at the Tour and we’re hoping for the same as we head into Corsica.”
Millar, a multiple Grand Tour stage winner, was one of four Brits – alongside Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish – to win a Tour stage last year.
Now 36, he finished third in the national championships last weekend and will lend his experience to Hesjedal and Martin’s bid for success.
Canadian leader Hesjedal will be hoping to recapture the form which saw him win last year’s Giro, but after withdrawing early from his defence of that title and crashing at the Tour de Suisse he has just one top-ten finish to his name this year.
Flying the flag for Garmin-Sharp this year has instead been youngsters Andrew Talansky and Rohan Dennis, both of whom are selected to make their Tour de France debuts.
Rising American star Talansky, 24, took a stage win at the Paris-Nice this year on his way to topping the young rider classification and claiming second overall.
He also finished sixth at the Criterium International and 16th at the Tour de Romandie and will also be among Garmin-Sharp’s leading riders as he bids to repeat his top-ten finish at last year’s Vuelta.
Australian starlet Dennis, 23, has also been in good form and proved himself in the French mountains by claiming eighth at the Criterium du Dauphine, taking the white jersey in the process.
Experienced American rider Christian Vande Velde, twice a top-ten finisher at the Tour and part of Garmin-Sharp’s team time trial winners at this year’s Giro, also makes the line-up as does Tom Danielson who finished eighth in 2011.
Lithuanian sprinter Ramunas Navardausaks, a stage winner at the Giro, is also included for his second tour and the team is completed by a third debutant, New Zealand’s Jack Bauer, who joined Garmin-Sharp from the British squad, Endura Racing.
Tour de France 2013 – Garmin-Sharp
Christian Vande Velde