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Froome backed by balanced Team Sky on Tour de France

Sky Procycling's Chris Froome of Britain cycles during the tenth stage of the Tour of Spain "La Vuelta" cycling race in Salamanca August 29,
Sky Procycling's Chris Froome of Britain cycles during the tenth stage of the Tour of Spain "La Vuelta" cycling race in Salamanca August 29,

PARIS (Reuters) - Chris Froome will be backed by a balanced Team Sky as the Briton challenges for a maiden Tour de France title, the British outfit said on Thursday.

Froome, the overwhelming favorite to succeed team mate and compatriot Bradley Wiggins as Tour winner, will rely on Australian Richie Porte, who has proven this season that he could even be an overall contender should anything happen to his team leader.

Wiggins was ruled out of selection for health reasons last month.

"Richie's results this year have been fantastic," Team Sky coach Tim Kerrison told reporters earlier this week.

"He's a very very good stage racer and a strong GC (general classification) contender."

Froome, who is expected to have the upper hand in the time trials in the race which stars in Corsica on June 29, should be able to rely on a few big engines to set the tempo in the mountains.

His allies include team pursuit Olympic champions Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas of Britain.

"Making the final selection of riders has been especially tough this year but we believe that we've found the right combination for the Tour de France," team principal Dave Brailsford said in a statement.

"The Tour de France has been the main goal for Chris this season and he goes into the race in great shape. With four stage-race wins this year Chris has not only grown as a rider but also importantly as a leader.

"Around him are eight quality riders who have each earned their place in the team. They will add the climbing ability and the engines to provide the perfect support for Chris, especially in the crucial mountain stages."

Team Sky: Chris Froome (Britain), Richie Porte (Australia), Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Norway), Peter Kennaugh (Britain), Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus), David Lopez (Spain), Kanstantin Siutsou (Belarus), Ian Stannard (Britain), Geraint Thomas (Britain)

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Justin Palmer)

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