Team Sky Brits raring to go
Team Sky are set to arrive at the start line of the Tour de France with three Brits ready to make their mark on the race.
Last Updated: 30/06/11 7:40am
Team Sky are set to arrive at the start line of the Tour de France in Vendée with three British riders ready to make their mark on the world’s biggest race.
Newly-crowned British national champion Bradley Wiggins is joined in the nine-man line-up by compatriots Geraint Thomas and Tour debutant Ben Swift.
With three of the five Brits at this year’s event in their ranks, Team Sky will look to get their race off to a flying start in what is a traditionally a nervous first week.
With a team leader in Wiggins currently in the middle of a strong run of form, the riders will be hoping to stamp their authority on the race for the British team.
For Wiggins success at the Tour is expected after a surprise fourth position in 2009. Yet now equipped with the form to back up his promise, the rejuvenated 31-year-old is looking to make up for a 2010 event that fell short of expectations.
He said: "It's completely different. What a difference a year makes. I'm ready to go.
"That comes with the results and the self-belief now that I've pretty much done everything this year to get the best performance possible.
"A year ago there was a lot of doubt whether I'd actually done the work. I perhaps tried to convince myself that I had. This year with the team around me we've ticked all the boxes.
"I don't know what I'm capable of - I never thought I'd finish fourth in the Tour two years ago. I'm ready to go, I've won the Dauphiné - who knows? I could be first or last.
"What I do know is I'm going to get the best out of myself every day of the 21 days and get to Paris and we'll find out."
Wiggins will be joined at the Tour by in-form sprinter Swift. The Yorkshireman is highly motivated ahead of his first appearance at the three-week spectacle, a race every rider dreams of competing in.
2011 has seen the sprinter add consistency to his rapid finishing speed, racking up five victories in a number of high-profile races – form even Swift himself is finding hard to believe.
He said: "After each victory it's almost surprising. I wasn't expecting it at the start of the year and it's given me a lot of confidence.
"I've beaten a lot of the top guys now so I'm just looking forward to doing it on a bigger stage.
"To be given an opportunity to race against the guys at the highest level is going to be great.
"If I did get a stage win that would be fantastic. It's certainly going to be a new challenge. It's not going to be an easy one."
"There are quite a few stages that suit my style of riding. When it's a bit lumpier it should suit me a bit better. It might not happen, but if I get the opportunity I'll give it my all."
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The third of the Team Sky British trifecta is Thomas, who comes full circle after 12 months that have seen his stock rise exponentially.
The Welshman has progressed rapidly since his Tour debut in 2007, fulfilling his potential with victory at the British National Championships in 2010. Thomas made his mark on his return to the Tour days later with a second place on stage three which led to him wearing the best young rider's white jersey for much of the first week.
Speaking ahead of his third Tour, which begins on Saturday, Thomas said: "I'm seen more as one of the main guys in the team. I do feel more responsibility. It's something I've thrived on a bit."
"I've spent a lot more time with Brad this year and it helps a lot when you get to the races.
"Knowing each other a lot better helps us deal with situations better."