Star-studded Dutch team Jumbo-Visma, whose riders have finished second in the last two editions of the Tour de France, on Tuesday announced a powerful core of riders for this year’s race.
They said they had already decided on six members of its eight-man squad for the race in July.
Primoz Roglic, who finished less than a minute behind Tadej Pogacar in 2020 after being overtaken by his fellow Slovenian in a time trial on the penultimate day, and Dane Jonas Vingegaard, a distant second to Pogacar last year, are joint leaders.
They are backed by a powerful quartet: Belgian Wout van Aert, a cyclo-cross world champion and winner of four one-day classics over the last season, Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, US climber Sepp Kuss and new Australian signing Rohan Dennis, a former world time trial champion.
Jumbo said they will announce the other two riders in May.
The Tour starts in Copenhagen on July 1.
It spends three days in Denmark before transferring to Dunkirk in France and heading east, often over cobblestones, and hitting the Vosges mountains on stage seven.
“First, we have to get through the hectic opening week without any injuries,” said sport director Merijn Zeeman, still smarting from last year when Roglic suffered a crash on stage three that later forced him out of the race.
“In 2021, we had the best Tour in our history with four stage wins and a second place overall.
“We will do everything to be at our best in July but we know the competition is strong. Tadej Pogacar is again the favourite and we are one of the challengers.
“The Tour is the biggest race in the world and the hardest to win but we find it a fabulous challenge,” he added.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, also a Tour runnerup in the 2018, will ride in the Giro d’Italia, a race he won in 2017, in May along with Norwegian Tobias Foss.
Zeeman said Jumbo would delay a decision on their Vuelta team, which starts on August 19, until after the Tour.
He added Jumbo would pick a squad to shine in the opening team trial which is in Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Zeeman said Jumbo were also targeting the biggest classics.
“We want to compete for victory in the monuments,” he said.
Van Aert will lead a strong entry in the opening monument of the season, the Milan-San Remo which he won in 2020.