PARIS Alberto Contador will be supported by Michael Rogers, Roman Kreuziger and Nicolas Roche as he bids for a third Tour de France title in a Team Saxo-Tinkoff squad without a Danish rider, the team said on Wednesday.
"On a personal level it has been a tough decision for me to not have a Danish rider in the lineup," team owner Bjarne Riis of Denmark said in a team statement.
"But we have committed ourselves to go with the group we believe has the best composition to achieve our overall goal."
In that regard, Spaniard Contador, who missed last year's race because he was suspended for doping in the previous edition, will be very well supported.
Australian Rogers was Team Sky's road captain when Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour last year, while solid climbers Czech Kreuziger and Irishman Roche have put aside personal ambition to help Contador clinch a third Tour title.
Contador can also rely on long-term domestiques Jesus Hernandez, Benjamin Noval and Sergio Paulinho in a nine-man squad completed with Italians Matteo Tosatto and Daniele Bennati.
"I think we have found a great mix of in-form riders," said Riis. "We have a group of strong climbers in the team, we have riders designated to take care of Alberto on the flat roads and in the wind, and I'm sure we will perform well in the TTT (team time trial) as well."
"At the same time, this team will allow us to ride aggressively or take a more controlling approach in all terrains depending on our needs. At the end of the day, this versatility will be a key component in trying to win the race."
Riis left out Danes Nicki Sorensen, Chris Anker Sorensen and Michael Morkov, who are reserves for the race.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Fferris)