PARIS: Tadej Pogacar will begin his bid for a third straight Tour de France title later this week alongside four of the same team-mates who helped him to last year’s yellow jersey.

The Slovenian was unsurprisingly on Monday named in the UAE Team Emirates line-up for the race, which gets underway in Copenhagen on Friday.

Switzerland’s Marc Hirschi was a notable omission, but Polish climber Rafal Majka, Mikkel Bjerg, Brandon McNulty and Vegard Stake Laengen all made the cut.

New Zealander George Bennett and Spain’s Marc Soler, both signed in the off-season, are in the team, as is Italian sprinter Matteo Trentin.

“We’ve worked very hard all year as a team to prepare for this,” said the 23-year-old Pogacar. “So far this year has been positive for the team and we hope to continue this momentum.”

Pogacar is a strong favourite for the Tour after another impressive season which has seen him win the one-day Strade Bianche and two stage races.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Mark Cavendish and France’s Julian Alaphilippe have both missed out on a place in the the Quick-Step team announced Monday.

Double world road cycling champion Alaphilippe only returned to competition on Sunday, two months after suffering multiple fractures in a heavy fall on the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in Belgium.

Cavendish, 37, last year equalled Eddy Merckx’s Tour de France record of 34 stage wins, and had stormed to a second British road race title on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, 30, has worn the race leader’s yellow jersey in the last three editions.

But the Belgian team have opted for Dutch sprint specialist Fabio Jakobsen, who has 10 wins in 2022, and will be supported by Dane Michael Morkov.

“I am disappointed,” said Alaphilippe. “I have a natural affection for the race, from my days in the yellow jersey over the past three seasons, my stage victories and many other great memories with my team-mates.

“To miss another opportunity to wear my beautiful rainbow jersey in my home country is very sad for me.

“At the same time, I completely understand this, because I too don’t want to be at the start if I can’t be at my best level.”

Colombian Nairo Quintana, a two-time Tour runner-up and winner of the 2014 Giro d’Italia

and Vuelta a Espana in 2016, spearheads Arkea-Samsic’s assault on the 2022 title.

Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko, who finished seventh last year, will be the main man for Astana, who will also have four Italian riders on the start line in Denmark.

The Cofidis team announced two team leaders, France’s Guillaume Martin and Spaniard Ion Izagirre, as they search a stage win on the Tour for the first time since 2018.

Martin, 29, will compete in the race for the sixth time having finished eighth last year, while 33-year-old Izagirre targets a stage win six years after his success Morzine.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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