No Tour de France for Nicolas Roche

For the first time since 2008, Nicolas Roche will not be in the Tour de France as Team Sky overlooked the Irishman for this year’s race which gets underway on Sunday week.
No Tour de France for Nicolas Roche

And there was more bad news for followers of Irish cycling as his team-mate Philip Deignan also missed out while four-time national road race champion Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data) didn’t make the cut either.

It means that only GC hopeful Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and stage hunter Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) will fly the flag this year.

“Every Tour is different, so that means choosing the team we believe is best equipped to deal with the many different challenges of this race,” said Team Sky boss Brailsford.

“We have selected a talented group of riders with Chris (Froome) as the leader once again. I know they will do everything they can to help him try to win yellow.”

Roche hadn’t ruled out the possibility of doing all three Grand Tours this year for what would have been a first for him but team management have opted for other riders with less experience.

He rode the Giro d’Italia last month but when their man for GC, Mikel Landa, fell out of contention they switched the focus to chasing stage wins and they got one through Mikel Nieve on stage 13.

Both those riders are included in the line-up, as are defending champion Froome and Geraint Thomas, while Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Vasil Kiryienka, Wout Poels and Sergio Henao also got the nod.

“The Tour de France will always be the pinnacle of our sport,” said Froome, who is aiming to be Britain’s first back-to-back Tour champion.

“I feel in good shape coming into the race this year and am fortunate to have a strong team around me — both on and off the bike.

“Every rider obviously starts every new Tour equal and what has gone before counts for nothing. This year I am hungrier than ever for success.”

Deignan had hoped for a first Tour start but he will probably go to the Vuelta now instead, with Roche likely to join him there.

It will be disappointing for both to absorb that news but perhaps unsurprising in some ways; Roche has already raced a lot this year after a winter blighted by illness while opting for Deignan would have been something of a gamble, given his inexperience.

Brammeier will also have to pin his hopes on a Vuelta start as he failed to make his team’s 13-rider long list.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mullen is the red-hot favourite to win back-to-back elite and U23 time-trial gold medals when the Irish national championships get underway in Kilcullen this evening.

The Cannondale rider is in great shape at the moment and buoyed by a strong showing at the ZLM Toer last week he’ll go to Kildare full of confidence.

The out-and-back 40km course will be to his liking as well with nothing major in the way of climbs but if he’s not on a good day there are a few who can take him down.

Roche (Team Sky) may have missed out on the tour Tut is a superb tester and can churn out massive power.

He is almost certain to medal, the only uncertainty is around what colour.

Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman) surprised a lot of people last year with his silver medal and he will aim to go one better this time around.

A few more names who should challenge for medals in the elite are Marcus Christie and Bryan McCrystal (both ASEA-Wheelworx) and Ian Richardson (UCD-Fitzcycles.ie) but we reckon the best they can hope for is bronze.

In the U23 race, it’s the same story with Dunbar and Mullen the hottest of favourites but don’t expect the flying Mark Downey (VC Toucy), Sean Hahessy (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) or Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins) to go down without a battle.

The women’s race will be another cracker with Eileen Burns (Ballymena Road Club) and Eve McCrystal (ASEA-Wheelworx) the two outstanding favourites.

The latter was runner-up to Siobhan Horgan (Aquablue) 12 months ago while Burns was 5th, but has improved enormously in the interim.

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