Team Sky have confirmed the riders who will be supporting Chris Froome’s Tour de France defence when the race rolls out of Leeds on Saturday July 5 – with Sir Bradley Wiggins, as expected, missing out.
Four of the eight riders who rode alongside Froome as he blasted to the maillot jaune 12 months ago have been selected, alongside winter signing Mikel Nieve, veteran American Danny Pate and domestiques Bernie Eisel and Xabier Zandio.
Richie Porte, who was also part of Sky’s 2012-winning team, is included as are David Lopez and Vasil Kiryienka from last year’s squad.
British star, and 2012 Olympic team pursuit champions, Geraint Thomas returns, but there is no place for 2012 champion Wiggins, last night crowned British time trial champion, or for Yorkshireman Ben Swift.
Manxman Peter Kennaugh, who abandoned the Tour de Suisse, also misses out meaning there will be just two Brits in the line-up – the lowest tally since Team Sky’s debut in 2010.
Wiggins had hoped after his Tour of California win to be a part of the squad this year, after missing out last time through illness, but told reporters he would not be in the squad prior to June’s final pre-Tour races.
A heavy crash, while in the yellow jersey, at the Criterium du Dauphine hampered his final preparations slightly but Sir Dave Brailsford has backed him to defend his title.
Another rider to have suffered a disrupted season is Australian Porte, who had originally been set to lead Sky at the Giro d’Italia.
He has overcome his problems with illness however to reprise his role as Froome’s chief lieutenant and as they battle it out with strong teams from the likes of Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo and Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana.
Nieve, meanwhile, was 12th at last year’s Tour while riding for Euskaltel-Euskadi – finishing third atop Mont Ventoux in the process.
The Criterium du Dauphine stage eight winner will offer valuable support in the mountains as will David Lopez – the two having been part of both Froome’s winning squads in Oman and Romandie this season.
Welshman Geraint Thomas, who will lead his country in the Commonwealth Games following the Tour, is another strong climbing domestique.
Unfortunate to crash out of Paris-Nice while well-placed overall, Thomas – who completed last year’s Tour despite fracturing his pelvis on stage one – gave a stunning display of his climbing strength with some huge efforts for the team at the Dauphine.
The 28-year-old, who also enjoyed a strong Classics season, is one of the team’s form riders too having won at the 2.HC-classified Bayern-Rundfahrt.
Ian Stannard, who fractured a verterbra at Gent-Wevelgem, had already been ruled out of the Tour through injury however, while Edvald Boasson Hagen – who completed last year’s squad – also misses out.
Belarussian pair Kiryienka – a training partner of Froome’s, who missed the cut on stage nine of last year’s race is also a strong support rider for the mountains.
Veteran Zandio, who also rode the Criterium du Dauphine, is another key domestique while Eisel – the only rider not to have been at the Dauphine, will be road captain.
Pate completes the line-up having been a key part of Froome’s Dauphine team and also rode for Wiggins in California this season.
The 35-year-old’s selection means there is no place, for the second year running, for Christian Knees however, while Kanstantin Siutsou – Team Sky’s best-placed rider at the Route du Sud, also misses out having been in last year’s squad.
Colombian Sergio Henao, who suffered a fractured knee-cap in a training accident at the Tour de Suisse, also misses out.
Directeur sportif Sir Dave Brailsford said of Wiggins’ omission: “It was a very tough decision to leave out Sir Bradley Wiggins.
“Obviously he is a great champion. He has been fundamental to the growth of British Cycling. But I have to look at the facts of now.
“He will continue to be a great champion. We’d like to think there is a future for Bradley.”
Team Sky squad for the 2014 Tour de France
Chris Froome (GBR)
Richie Porte (AUS)
Mikel Nieve (ESP)
Geraint Thomas (GBR)
David Lopez (ESP)
Vasili Kiryienka (BLR)
Bernie Eisel (AUT)
Xabier Zandio (ESP)
Danny Pate (USA)