Tour de France: Sky pin their hopes on Chris Froome

Christopher Froome of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Spain's Alberto Contador, right, speed down manse pass in the last kilometers of the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 168 kilometers (105 miles) with start in in Vaison-la-Romaine and finish in Gap, France, Tuesday July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Christopher Froome of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Spain's Alberto Contador, right, speed down manse pass in the last kilometers of the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 168 kilometers (105 miles) with start in in Vaison-la-Romaine and finish in Gap, France, Tuesday July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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Chris Froome has won the battle, but will he win the war?

The defending Tour de France champion has been selected as Team Sky’s undisputed leader for the 101st edition of the race, which begins in Leeds on July 5, with his predecessor as champion Sir Bradley Wiggins omitted.

File photo dated 21/07/12 of Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins of Sky Pro Cycling celebrates retaining the yellow jersey and winning during Stage 19 between Bonneval and Chartres, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday June 27, 2014. Chris Froome begins the Tour de France in Leeds on July 5 seeking to defend his title with a third successive British win. Mark Cavendish will aim to finish the day in Harrogate in the yellow jersey for the first time.'See PA story CYCLING Tour Yellow. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

File photo dated 21/07/12 of Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins of Sky Pro Cycling celebrates retaining the yellow jersey and winning during Stage 19 between Bonneval and Chartres, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday June 27, 2014. Chris Froome begins the Tour de France in Leeds on July 5 seeking to defend his title with a third successive British win. Mark Cavendish will aim to finish the day in Harrogate in the yellow jersey for the first time.'See PA story CYCLING Tour Yellow. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford says he made the decision to give the squad - or Froome - the best chance of finishing the 3,664-kilometre race, including five summit finishes, in the yellow jersey in Paris on July 27.

Brailsford admitted leaving out Wiggins, the first British winner of the race in 2012, was “a very, very tough decision”, but that the team dynamic came first.

Froome and Wiggins have had a fractious relationship and although the latter promised to ride in his leader’s service, there must have been some doubt from within the group.

Brailsford told Sky Sports News: “In elite sport, selection of a team is one of the most difficult parts, there’s no doubt about it.

“On this occasion, Bradley will miss out. But it’s one race, there’s still the future and there’s a lot more racing in Bradley.

“Bradley’s been a great champion, is a great champion - he’s been fundamental to the growth of cycling in this country.

“But my job is to look at the best probabilities to try to win, to picture somebody on that podium with the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees and work back from there.

“You look at the riders you’ve got and think who’s the best placed to try and win, then you build a team based on evidence, based on logic - you try to take the emotion out of it.

“A star team will always beat a team of stars. I think that’s really important.”

Just two Britons have been selected in the British team - the Kenya-born Froome and Cardiff’s Geraint Thomas - with Peter Kennaugh missing out on selection after a season interrupted by illness.

Five Britons are poised to start the Tour in total - Froome, Thomas, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) and Alex Dowsett, if confirmed in Movistar’s nine-man squad - in Yorkshire.

Froome is joined by the seven riders who supported him in June’s Criterium du Dauphine in which he won the first two stages, but fell away to a 12th-placed finish after a heavy crash as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) tested his rival and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) stole an opportunist’s win.

Froome’s trusted lieutenant Richie Porte, Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Danny Pate and Xabier Zandio were at the Dauphine, while many of the seven also took part in altitude training and reconnaitred the Yorkshire stages and the cobbled fifth stage in northern France as Wiggins was exiled to the Tour of Switzerland.

Bernhard Eisel will be road captain in his 10th Tour and was missed last year, despite Froome’s individual dominance, for his tactical acumen.

Five of the squad competed in the event in 2013 - Kiryienka, Lopez, Porte, Thomas and Froome, who has won two events this season, the Tour of Oman and Tour de Romandie, in April.

The team appears well-balanced with Porte, Lopez, Zandio and Nieve to have key roles in the mountains, while Thomas, Kiryienka, Pate and Eisel are accomplished all-rounders.

Brailsford said: “Team Sky returns to the Tour de France with the reigning champion and we are looking to win the yellow jersey for the third time in three years and a second consecutive time for Chris Froome.

“We know how hard it is to win this race and that it takes a totally focused and carefully constructed team, with the right blend of riders, to give us the best chance of victory.

“Each rider has been selected to play a specific role which will involve total sacrifice and commitment to the team’s ambition of reaching the Champs-Elysees in yellow.”

Brailsford described Froome as “the best stage race rider in the world” but also singled out the key attributes among his supporting cast.

Labelling Porte as a future team leader, he said: “Richie will win a grand tour in his own right - who’s to say he can’t win this year’s Tour de France?

“If he hadn’t got ill earlier in the season he’d have led the team in the Giro (d’Italia).”

Thomas completed last year’s race despite a fractured pelvis and Brailsford said: “He’s a dream to have on the team, this guy is unbelievable - if you want commitment and suffering, this is your man.”

All eight members of the supporting cast will be key if Froome is to prevail in his mission next month.

Wiggins, meanwhile, will be gearing up for the Commonwealth Games track competition, which takes place as the Tour reaches its climax.