Nicolas Roche ready for tour of duty with Sky

Nicolas Roche has been named in Team Sky’s nine-man squad for the Tour de France, which starts in Utrecht in the Netherlands on Saturday.

Nicolas Roche ready for tour of duty with Sky

It brings to an end a nervous few days waiting for the Irishman, who was omitted from a shortlist erroneously produced by the team last week. There was bad news for his teammate and fellow countryman Philip Deignan, however, as he was overlooked for selection.

The team is: Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, Roche, Leonard König and Wout Poels.

The fact Deignan is not riding comes as a disappointment for him and Irish fans but is not an unexpected development. His presence at the National Road Race Championships in Omagh at the weekend, where he was forced to abandon with a mechanical early in the event, was a strong sign he would not be riding the Tour. In recent years Irish riders taking part in the Tour have not ridden the Irish championships because the title race is only six days before the start of the Tour.

Roche had spoken all season of riding the Tour de France but got a major scare last week when Team Sky published an 11-rider list presented as its Tour line-up on their website.

The team was quick to dismiss this development, saying its publication was a mistake and that the names on the list had no bearing on its Tour team, which would be nine-strong anyway. While neither Deignan’s nor Roche’s names were on the list, Roche was pictured with Chris Froome training on some of the climbs the Tour will take in as part of a reconnaissance outing.

Roche had to endure an anxious wait before he was named but he will be present and correct this weekend where his job for the next three weeks will be to protect the interests of team leader Froome.

Froome says he will use the heartache of crashing out of the Tour de France last year as motivation for another tilt at glory.

Froome, who won the event in 2013, said: “Last year’s disappointment is this year’s motivation for Team Sky.

“From the moment I crashed out in 2014, I’ve had the burning desire to get back to this year’s Tour in the best possible shape. I’m ready and I’m fortunate to have a strong team around me selected to meet the many different challenges of this year’s race – from the cobbles to the climbs.

“There’s a great spirit in the group and we’re ready to give our best for every kilometre of every day over the three weeks of the Tour. We’re counting down the days. We can’t wait to get started and we are up for the challenge ahead.”

The race is being billed as a four-way battle between Froome, Spain’s Alberto Contador, Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Colombian Nairo Quintana but Sky team principal Dave Brailsford is confident his man has got what it takes to reclaim the crown. He said: “He’s in good shape. He’s healthy, he’s fit, he’s hungry and everything has just fallen into place nicely for his assault on the Tour this year, so it’s exciting and we are ready to go.”

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