20 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 9 - Sky

Now with official start numbers
The announcement of the Sky team came as not much of surprise Wiggins we already knew was not going to lining up in the defense of his title. Though there is some talk online about the exclusion of Bernie Eisel. Eisel's main role would be to protect a sprinter. They don't have an out and out sprinter in this Sky team though Boasson Hagen and Thomas could well do what they can to stop Peter Sagan hoovering up all the wins in the medium mountains should it come down to a sprint.

1 Chris Froome has hardly put a foot wrong all year accumulating the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tour of Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné titles along the way. he just missed out to Vincenzo Nibali in the Tirreno-Adriatico, but with the Italian starting the Tour du Polonge at the end of the Tour to get ready for the Vuelta they will not meet head to head again for now. This is the time that the questions of last year will be answered (at least in par). Can Froome win a Grand Tour in his own right. He was restrained in the 2011 Vuelta when his leader Wiggins was suffering before eventually getting the freedom to secure 2nd. Last year at times he looked stronger but raced to team orders to ensure that Wiggins won the Maillot Jaune in Paris. This time it is all about him and he has to show the same legs and in both those races, plus deal with the media attention and depending when he first wears yellow the strains of leadership.

 6 Richie Porte the Aussie won Paris-Nice this year and came second to Froome in the Critérium International and Critérium du Dauphiné. If he was riding for any other team people would probably be talking about him as a strong contender to win the Tour this year. This in a team with last year's first and second already on their roster! He will be stepping up from the role he played last year, which still saw him coming 34th, when he gave his all on the lower slopes of the last climb of the day until he had nothing left. His role this year is to marshal the other GC contenders and protect Froome should he need it when they attack. He'll be the one riding the Tempo when the main pack is down to 10 riders or so.

Norway's 2 Edvald Boasson Hagen comes to the Tour this year having defended his Tour of Norway Title, it is yet to be seen which if either of the national champions jersey's he may bring with him this year. He's worn one or the other ever since 2007. In 2011 he took his only two stage wins in the Tour. Last year he came close on three occasions but losing out to Peter Sagan on all three, and Fabian Cancellera and Andre Griepel on the two occasions he came home third. He'll be looking to get one over on the Slovakian this year no doubt when the road is a little more uphill than the natural sprinters like. He has never finished worse than 6th in the points classification in his previous participations. Update: Edvald will be wearing the Time Trail National Champion's Jersey

3 Peter Kennaugh will bring the participation of cyclists from the Isle of Man in the Tour to two for the first time in 100 editions. He will also undoubtedly be looking to add to the sole finish in a Grand Tour he achieved in the 2011 Giro.

Belarussian 4 Vasil Kiryienka is likely to become a familar face during the Tour any time the TV coverage goes to the front of the peleton. For much of this season he has been one of the engines that relentlessly drives the Sky machine onward. In his own right he came 6th in the  Critérium du Dauphiné last year and 3th in the World Time Trial Championships. In 2011 he won the Route de Sud and was second in the Critérium International. So he is someone who can win races, but he moved to Sky this year to help other achieve Grand Tours and that will be his task leading the peleton for hours to keep Froome in contention.

Spaniard  5 David López appeared in his first Grand Tour in the 2005 Vuelta, the following year he went on to the Giro and then the Tour. Though he failed to finish that Tour he had started all three Grand Tours in succession. He is another of those riders from the Basgue country who made his name with Euskaltel-Euskadi. In 2009 he won his only Grand Tour stage on stage 9 of the Vuelta. He was helping Richie Porte in Paris Nice and managed a 4th place just ahead of the Aussie in a group of 8 who gapped the rest. He went on to get second on the final stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a Catalunya. He will be one of the Sky riders looking after events in the mountains certainly one of the last 3 or 4 left supporting the leader.

Whilst he may be a Tour rookie 8 Ian Stannard has completed four of his five Grand Tour starts. As he showed when GB dominated the 2011 World Road Race championships he has a powerful engine. He along with Kiryienka is likely to take the majority of the strain on the flatter roads. He has been resplendent in the white national champions jersey. This years Milan-San Remo he set off in support of Geraint Thomas but after the Welshman crashed he went on the attack himself. Then chased down Peter Sagan of all people in the finish. But lost out in the sprint at the end and only came in 6th.

Welshman 9 Geraint Thomas came close to a stage win in his second Tour de France in 2010 when he was held off by Thor Hushovd. He missed out last year as he was preparing to the London Olympics in the velodrome where he helped defend his gold in the Team Pursuit.In 2011 he came in 31st in the year that Bradley Wiggins crashed out in the first week. Gee was third in the Tour Down Under and 15th in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Too fine results which indicate that he might well be able to improve on that 2011 finishing position. In 2010 he wore the Tour's jersey for best Young Rider from stage 3-6.

7 Kanstantsin Siutsou is the second Belarussian on the Sky team he is back after breaking his leg in a crash on stage 3 last year. In 2008 he was 16th in the Tour on the second of his four appearances so far. He has already ridden this year's Giro were Sky won the Team Time Trial, maybe a precursor of stage four this year. He has been both his national time trial and road race champion but here for Sky he is just another servant. Update another skinsuit needed for the Belarussian TT Champion.

Yet again Sky have had a formidable season geared around getting their man for the Tour into the right place at the right time. They have shown the strength through their team in race after race and Froome looked strong at the end of the cold and wet Critérium du Dauphiné. Once again they have one of the best number twos in the peleton so even if misfortune befalls Froome there is a second card to be played in Richie Porte.

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