Dan Martin leads 'super strong' UAE Team Emirates line-up at 2019 Tour de France
Irish rider joined by Alexander Kristoff, Fabio Aru, Rui Costa, Vegard Stake Laengen, Sven Erik Bystrom, Sergio Henao and Belgian Jasper Philipsen
Dan Martin has described the UAE Team Emirates line-up for the 2019 Tour de France as "super strong" as the Irish rider looks to build on last year's top-10 finish.
The second grand tour of the 2019 UCI World Tour season begins on July 6 and concludes on July 28 after 21 stages and 6,155 kilometres.
Martin, who placed eighth in the general classifications in 2018, won Stage 6 and was named the tour's most combative rider, is again part the UAE Team Emirates' charge.
He is joined by fellow Tour de France stage winner Alexander Kristoff, who won the famous final stage in Paris last year.
Fabio Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner, and former world champion Rui Costa are also included.
The four riders will be supported by Norwegian national champion Vegard Stake Laengen, his compatriot Sven Erik Bystrom, Colombian Sergio Henao and Belgian Jasper Philipsen, who will make his Tour de France debut.
“I’m really excited to get racing again at the Tour," said Martin, who is set to compete in his fifth successive Tour de France.
"I feel good in training and the (Criterium) Dauphine went really well, even if we didn’t see the same aggressive racing in the mountains that we normally do.
"I’ve come out of the Dauphine well and I like the look of the course this year, plus we have a super strong team with a lot of different options and cards to play. I’m just looking forward to getting started now.”
Kristoff enters the Tour de France having won the Tour of Norway at the start of June, and the 31-year-old Norwegian is aiming to emulate his form of last year.
“I’ll be going to this Tour with the objective of trying to win a stage, as well as reliving the emotions of last year," Kristoff said."This season my form has been better than the past few years, but the level of all the top riders is so high that simply being in good condition is not enough, you also need enormous determination and a little luck.”
Aru's return is a significant boost for the team and the Italian rider himself, with injuries limiting his impact since arriving from Astana in 2018. He was most recently ruled out for three months after requiring surgery on a leg injury at the end of March, which ruled him out of the Giro d'Italia.
While keeping his expectations relatively low, Aru is happy to be back racing competitively and is keen to test his fitness.
“After months of absence from racing, I recently rediscovered that spark and feel ready to test my condition," he said. "The feedback on my recovery is encouraging, I feel good and it has led to my selection for the Tour de France.
"I will not be in France to worry about the general classification, but the (Tour de France) will be an exciting new chapter as I look to reignite my season. I expect that my performance will improve step by step, and I will fight to be competitive and help the overall objectives of the team, aiming for a stage win if the conditions are right.”
The opening stage of the 2019 Tour de France - known as the Grand Depart - will for the second time in the race's history take place in Belgium.
This year's 194.5km opening stage will start and finish in Brussels, and will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first Tour de France victory.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of when the yellow jersey - awarded to the general classification leader - was first introduced.
Updated: June 30, 2019 12:22 PM