Tour de France 2019 squads confirmed - Profiles of Irish and British riders
With Conor Dunne and Eddie Dunbar having competed in the Giro d'Italia an in-form Sam Bennett not selected by Bora-hansgrohe for this year's Tour de France, it's two familiar names that will be flying the flag for Ireland.
Here, Independent.ie Sport looks at those Irish and British riders who could be on the start line on July 6.
THE IRISH CONTINGENT
Team: UAE Team Emirates
Previous Appearances: 2012 (35th), 2013 (33rd), 2015 (39th), 2016 (ninth), 2017 (sixth), 2018 (eighth).
Stage wins: Two (2013 - stage nine, 2018 - stage six).
The nephew of 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche (and cousin of his son and fellow Irish rider Nicolas) has finished in the top 10 on the Tour in each of the last three editions - despite suffering two broken vertebrae on stage nine in 2017. And he has done it despite a lack of support first from a Quick-Step Floors team focused on the sprints and more lately a UAE Team Emirates squad that lacks the strength of the biggest squads. That has never seemed to bother Martin, but predicting just how far he can go remains a quandary.
Age: 34 (turning 35 on July 3)
Team: Team Sunweb
Previous Appearances: 2009 (22nd), 2010 (14th), 2011 (25th), 2012 (12th), 2013 (40th), 2014 (39th), 2015 (35th), 2017 (33rd)
Stage wins: None
Roche's best individual results in a Grand Tour have come in La Vuelta, where he was sixth in 2010 and fifth in 2013, but he has a wealth of experience in the Tour as he lines up for the eighth time. That has made him a valuable road captain for the likes of Alberto Contador and Richie Porte in recent editions. But just how that experience will be deployed this year remains to be seen with Team Sunweb's Tour plans having been thrown into disarray by the knee injury which has ruled out their general classification hopeful Tom Dumoulin.
THE BRITISH CONTINGENT
Chris Froome's crash means British representation at this year's Tour de France will be relatively small once the final line-ups are confirmed, but given the defending champion is among their number there is no shortage of class.
Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates will both have their eyes on the battle for yellow, where there is added home interest in the form of Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin - one of two riders from the Emerald Isle expected on the start-line.
Mark Cavendish has been ravaged by illness and injury for more than two years now, but he lives for July and will be hoping for a revival of fortunes on the roads of France.
Team: Team Ineos
Previous appearances: 2007 (140th), 2010 (67th), 2011 (31st), 2013 (140th), 2014 (22nd), 2015 (15th), 2016 (15th), 2017 (DNF - crashed stage nine), 2018 (first).
Stage wins: Three (2017 - stage one, 2018 - stages 11 and 12)
There could hardly have been a more popular winner of the Tour 12 months ago. As unexpected as it perhaps was, Geraint Thomas' triumph in 2018 was hugely welcome - both inside the peloton and outside. The affable rider has taken his knocks over the years but always bounced back and has been quick with a joke regardless of how many obstacles were thrown in his path. Last July was a richly-deserved reward for the former Olympic champion as he emulated Sir Bradley Wiggins as a master of both the track and the road. While British fans have often been slow to warm to Froome, Thomas is a firm favourite and - with Froome out of this year's race - he represents the best chance of continuing the nation's extraordinary run of success in the Tour.
Previous Appearances: 2015 (50th), 2016 (fourth), 2018 (29th)
Stage wins: None
The Yates twins have had a pattern of taking it in turns to star over their course of their careers to date, so maybe 2019 will belong to Adam. Simon bossed 2018, spending almost two weeks in the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia before winning La Vuelta in September with Adam's help. The year did not go so well for Adam, however, as he went to the Tour looking to build on his fourth place in 2016 only to suffer dehydration in the mountains and fade to a disappointing 29th overall by Paris. The Lancastrian showed encouraging form at the Criterium du Dauphine, wearing the yellow jersey late in the race and starting the final stage only eight seconds in arrears, only to be forced to withdraw with flu-like symptoms. That should prove a minor setback in preparations.
Previous appearances: 2014 (DNF - withdrew after stage 15), 2015 (50th), 2017 (seventh).
Stage wins: None.
Simon's inclusion in the Mitchelton-Scott squad comes as something of a surprise so soon after the conclusion of the Giro d'Italia, where he finished eighth, and suggests he will not defend his Vuelta crown later in the year. But it shows the team are all-in on getting Adam as high up the general classification as they can in France. The pair last rode in the same Tour in 2015 when they were still finding their feet in WorldTour racing, but the last time they rode in the same Grand Tour, Adam helped Simon to that Vuelta victory last year.
Team: Team Dimension Data
Previous appearances: 2007 (withdrew after stage eight), 2008 (withdrew after stage 14), 2009 (131st), 2010 (154th), 2011 (130th), 2012 (142nd), 2013 (148th), 2014 (DNF - abandoned after stage 1), 2015 (142nd), 2016 (DNF - abandoned after stage 16), 2017 (DNF - abandoned after stage four), 2018 (DNF - missed time cut on stage 11).
Stage wins: 30 (2008 - stages five, eight, 12 and 13; 2009 - stages two, three, 10, 11, 19 and 21; 2010 - stages five, six, 11, 18 and 20; 2011 - stages five, seven, 11, 15 and 21; 2012 - stages two, 18 and 20; 2013 - stages five and 13; 2015 - stage seven; 2016 - stages one, three, six and 14).
This year the Tour will go to special efforts to celebrate Eddy Merckx with a Grand Depart in Brussels and an opening stage that passes through his home town of Woluwe Saint-Pierre. It had once seemed certain that by now Mark Cavendish would have overhauled Merckx's record of 34 Tour stage wins, but instead the Manxman heads to France with many wondering if he can ever win another. He took his 30th in 2016 but has battled injury and illness ever since, leaving questions as to whether he can rediscover the sort of form needed to hold off a formidable pack of rivals. One thing Cavendish has never shied away from is a challenge, but this is his biggest yet.
Team: Team Ineos
Previous appearances: 2015 (136th), 2016 (151st), 2017 (167th), 2018 (128th)
Stage wins: None
Rowe has established himself as an indispensable member of Team Ineos' Tour de France line-up. After fighting back from a shattered leg which could have ended his career in order to start last year's race, he once again handled the critical role of road captain with aplomb, marshalling what was Team Sky's considerable resources with assurance to help Thomas to victory. After enjoying a Classics campaign which was highlighted by sixth place at Dwars door Vlaanderen in April, Rowe has focused on getting himself ready for another big three weeks in France.
Previous Appearances: 2015 (DNF - abandoned on stage 12)
Newly-minted British national time trial champion Alex Dowsett will start only his second Tour de France at the age of 30 as part of a Katusha-Alpecin squad aiming to help Russia's Ilnur Zakarin in the general classification battle. Dowsett's only previous appearance, for Movistar in 2015, did not prove a happy one as he crashed heavily on stage four and required several stitches in his elbow. Though he battled on for another week he eventually abandoned after being dropped on the climbs of stage 12.