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Who are the Irish hopes in this year’s Tour de France?

It’s that time of the year again.

THE TOUR DE France starts this Saturday in Utrecht in the Netherlands and in the field of 198 riders there are three Irish.

1. Dan Martin

Cycling - 2014 Giro D'Italia - Team Presentations - Belfast City Hall Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Team: Garmin-Cannondale

Age: 28

Biggest wins: Stage 9 Tour de France 2013, Liege Bastogne Liege 2013, Volta A Catalunya overall 2013 plus one stage, Irish national road race champion 2008.

What can he do: Dan is a precociosuly talented climber and one of the best ascenders in the world. Though he’s missed a lot of the year through injury he looked to be coming good at the Criterium du Dauphine last month, a vital tune-up race. He should be able to target a stage win on any of the 14 stages classed as being hilly and provided he stays healthy, he should mount a threat for the yellow jersey. A top 5 is possible.

Quirky fact: Dan’s mother is Stephen Roche’s sister, the one and only Irishman to win the Tour de France.

2. Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett Source: Ciaran Fallon/INPHO

Team: Bora-Argon 18

Age: 24

Biggest wins: Stage 5 Tour of Britain 2013, Stage 6 Tour of Qatar 2015, Stages 1 and 3 Bayern-Rundfahrt 2015, Clasica de Almeria 2014, Rund um Koln 2014.

What can he do: The Carrick on Suir is finally delivering on the promise he showed as a junior and winning big races against word class riders. He’s now regarded as one of the fastest sprinters in the peloton and on a flat stage he can contend with anyone. This year’s Tour leans towards the climbers but there are some days for Bennett, like stages two and seven, and if he makes it to the finish, the final stage into Paris is perfect for him also.

Quirky fact: Bennett was close to retiring from the sport less than two years ago and returning to college after a period of persistent injury and poor form.

3. Nicolas Roche

Spain Cycling Team Sky Media Day Source: AP/Press Association Images

Team: Team Sky

Age; 30

Biggest wins: Route due Sud overall 2014, stage 2 Vuelta A Espana 2013, 5th overall Vuelta A Espana 2013, 12th overall Tour de France 2012, stage 5 Tour of Beijing 2011.

What can he do: From being a protected rider from his time at Ag2r La Mondiale Nico is now a domestique, or someone who protects more established riders in Team Sky. That’s not to say his career has taken a dip, rather the opposite, in fact. He’s the Team Sky road captain for this years Tour and that means he’ll be the man calling the shots once the flag is dropped. Hell be the one ordering his teammates to the front should a chase be required, he’ll be the one dictating the pace on significant sections of each stage and if he’s going very well he’ll be the last man standing on the steepest climbs before Team Sky’s main man, Chris Froome, goes on the attack.

Quirky fact: He has the words ‘with or without you’ tattooed on his arm as he’s a big fan of U2 while he likes to listen to Tomorrowland 2012 before time-trials.

– First published 06.08

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About the author:

Brian Canty

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