Wiggins’ confident ahead of Tour

Sky's Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, reacts after winning the 64th Dauphine cycling race, at the finish line of  the last stage Morzine-Chatel, in Chatel, French Alps, Sunday, June 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Sky's Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, reacts after winning the 64th Dauphine cycling race, at the finish line of the last stage Morzine-Chatel, in Chatel, French Alps, Sunday, June 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

BRADLEY Wiggins has the full support of Team Sky as he bids to become the first British winner of the Tour de France.

Team Sky have named a nine-man Tour team, featuring three Britons, built around the Chorley-based rider Wiggins’ bid to finish with the yellow jersey in Paris on July 22.

Joining Wiggins, world champion Cavendish and Chris Froome in the squad for the 99th edition of cycling’s most fabled race are Australians Richie Porte, Michael Rogers, Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus, Germany’s Christian Knees and Bernhard Eisel of Austria.

The selection potentially leaves prolific winner Cavendish exposed in the defence of his points classification green jersey as Team Sky seek overall success with Wiggins.

Three-time Olympic track champion Wiggins is embracing the tag of favourite, with defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) his main rival.

“I’m really proud to be part of such a strong unit going into the Tour de France,” said Wiggins, who will be riding in his sixth Tour and finished fourth in 2009.

“The team’s preparation has been perfectly managed and our form this season gives us a great chance of being successful.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and I’ll do everything I can to win the Tour de France.

“Hopefully we can do the business for ourselves and our fans, and become the most successful British-based cycling team ever.”

Seven of the team set to begin the Tour on June 30 in Liege were in the eight-man squad earlier this month as Wiggins won the Criterium Dauphine, completing an unprecedented series of stage race triumphs following success in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie.

American Danny Pate is the unfortunate party, omitted to allow Cavendish to have the support of Eisel, who acts as his ever-present bodyguard.

The line-up was as anticipated, with Wiggins having spent much of his time in Tenerife and Majorca this season honing preparations with a select group as he aims to wear the maillot jaune on the Champs Elysees.

Cavendish has won the last three stages to finish on the Paris’ most famous boulevard, but with the London 2012 Olympic Games road race taking place six days after the conclusion of the Tour, he may yet opt to stop before the peloton reaches the French capital.

The 27-year-old is happy to play second fiddle to Wiggins, although the Manxman has shown he is capable of winning stages in all manner of ways with 20 victories in the last four Tours.

Cavendish said: “It’s a dream to ride for a team that holds so much British interest and has a chance to win the yellow jersey.

“I know the push for the GC (general classification) podium will make it more difficult for me to repeat the success I’ve enjoyed the last few years.

“But I’ll compete and - as always - I’ll dedicate myself to making it a successful Tour for Team Sky and, let’s hope, for Britain.”

Cavendish will be the first Briton to wear the world road race champion’s rainbow jersey at the Tour in 46 years. Chris Boardman wore the rainbow jersey in the 1995 prologue as time-trial world champion, but crashed out.

Team Sky’s squad is full of talent, including Vuelta a Espana runner-up Froome and Boasson Hagen, winner of Team Sky’s first Tour stages in 2011, but all are set to sacrifice individual glory to aim for success with Wiggins.

Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “We believe we have picked a strong and balanced team though, and one which can cater for any eventuality.

“Our priority this year is the general classification with Bradley but that doesn’t mean we’ll neglect the sprint stages, or Mark’s bid for green jersey.

“Chris, Mick, and Richie are among our strongest climbers and will all be there to support Bradley in the mountains, but then we’ve got riders like Christian and Kosta (Siutsou) who have strong engines on the flats, and versatile riders like Edvald and Bernhard who can support Mark in the sprints.

“This squad is truly world class with a proven pedigree of success. They have trained, raced and lived together since the start of the season and that has moulded them into a well-oiled, focused and close-knit team.

“They are all full of confidence after their recent run of results and it’s going to be exciting to see how the race transpires.”