Tour de France: Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe may both compete

Luke Rowe (left) and Geraint Thomas (right)
Luke Rowe (left) and Geraint Thomas (right)

When Team Sky announced their selection for the Giro D'Italia at the start of May, much was made of the fact it was a completely "Brit-free zone."

It will be quite different when team principal Sir Dave Brailsford makes his final decision on the nine riders he will send to July's Tour de France, with a much stronger home contingent featuring at least one Englishman, and possibly two from Wales, a Manxman and two from Ireland.

Brailsford is waiting until the completion of both the Tour de Suisse and Tour of Slovenia on Sunday before finalising who will support Chris Froome's attempt to regain the title he won in 2013.

After Froome, Wales' Geraint Thomas is most likely the next rider guaranteed a spot in Utrecht on 4 July, and his performances in Switzerland this week only underlines his value to the team.

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas became the first British rider to win the formidable E3 Harelbeke race in Belgium

His improving ability on the climbs could also enhance the chances of Luke Rowe making one of the most competitive selections in world sport.

Brailsford, who is from north Wales, concedes only one or two places are up for grabs, and has also pointed to the form of climbers such as Philip Deignan and Wout Poels when suggesting he may not need to select as many mountain specialists as he might have thought earlier in the year.

With relatively little time trialling in this year's edition of Le Tour, overall victory will be won in the Pyrenees and the Alps, quite possibly around the 21 hairpins of the famous l'Alpe-d'Huez on the penultimate day.

It could, however, be lost on the coasts, cobbles and cross winds of the first week straddling northern France.

Rowe's rising stock

Who better to help keep Froome out of harm's way than a fellow Cardiff cyclist who finished in the top 10 of this year's Paris-Roubaix?

Rowe, 25, has had his best season so far, not just impressing with his strength during the spring classics, but also excelling in the buffeting winds of the Gulf where he was second in Qatar's young rider competition.

In 2014 he was part of Sky's Vuelta squad along with Froome and he played back up to the Kenyan-born rider in this year's Tour of Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine. Rowe's strength and determination could easily save the day in a crisis.

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Welsh cyclists Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas discuss the notoriously tough annual one-day race.

The other contenders

Like Froome and Thomas, Ritchie Porte is an obvious choice if he is fully recovered from his troubled Giro D'Italia.

Poels, Deignan and Leopold Konig look like the mountain brigade, probably with Nicolas Roche, who certainly expects to ride judging by recent comments from the son of former Tour winner Stephen.

The claims of Ian Stannard are similar to those of Rowe. They have ridden many of the same races this season and the Essex rider was fourth in Qatar before winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the spring.

But Stannard has previous Tour de France experience having been part of Sky's successful 2013 squad, and that is likely to go in his favour.

That could leave Rowe and Peter Kennaugh competing for the final spot in Brailsford's plans.

The Isle of Man rider is more of an all-rounder and is in form having won the opening stage of the Dauphine. However, he may also be leaving Team Sky at the end of the season.

Much could depend on whether the team's driving force wants more flatland diesel power, or more of an all-terrain vehicle.

Rowe himself is hopeful and, should he line up alongside long-time pal Thomas, it would be the first time ever that Wales could boast two riders in a Grand Tour.

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