Bradley Wiggins' support squad for the Tour de France was today confirmed, with Team Sky relying largely on the riders which helped the Londoner scoop an unprecedented series of results this season.
Joining Wiggins, winner of the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races to establish himself as favourite for the yellow jersey, will be world champion Mark Cavendish, winner of 20 stages in the last four Tours.
Team Sky's selection, which includes a third Briton in Chris Froome, suggests Wiggins' bid to become the first British winner of the Tour takes priority over Cavendish's defence of the points classification's green jersey.
Also named in the nine-man squad for the 99th edition of cycling's most fabled race were Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen, winner of Team Sky's first Tour stages in 2011, Germany's Christian Knees, Australian duo Richie Porte and Michael Rogers, Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus and Austrian Bernhard Eisel.
Seven of the team set to begin the Tour on June 30 in Liege were in the eight-man squad as Wiggins won the Dauphine earlier this month.
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 beat defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to the maillot jaune in Paris on July 22.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: "Deciding our final nine was a very tough challenge because we are blessed with a great depth of talent in our squad.
"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 the 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."
Wiggins, who is embracing the tag of favourite, said: "I'm really proud to be part of such a strong unit going into the Tour de France.
"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."
Cavendish will be the first Briton to wear the world champion's rainbow jersey at the Tour in 46 years, but is poised to prioritise the Olympic Games road race, which takes place on July 28, and may even not complete the route to Paris.
The 27-year-old from the Isle of Man 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 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."
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