• Luke Rowe loading up on water bottles during the 2015 Scheldeprijs semi-classic in Antwerp, Belgium (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Developing classics specialist Luke Rowe will make his Tour de France debut with Team Sky this week having been confirmed in the line-up that includes title hopeful Chris Froome and Australian Richie Porte.
By
Sophie Smith

30 Jun 2015 - 10:58 AM 

Rowe is the youngest rider in the nine-man team that was announced in London on Monday and speaking to Cycling Central with the pragmatic approach of a seasoned Tour racer the day of was evidently up to the task.

The 25-year-old, in an indication of his work ethic, was not excited or scared but relieved to be selected for the prestigious race in which Sky has set the benchmark in recent years winning consecutive titles.

“I put quite a lot of pressure on myself to make the team,” Rowe said. “From the start of the season I had two goals and only two goals; the first was the classics period and the second one was to get a spot in the Tour de France. As soon as Roubaix finished it was like a complete momentum shift looking towards the Tour – Romandie, altitude camp, Dauphine and all my eggs in one basket.”

Rowe has quietly worked away at selection, which he partly attributes to Rod Ellingworth, the Sky coach who travelled specifically to Australia in February for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and oversaw Rowe and team-mates on six and seven hour training rides around the inaugural one-day event.

“There’s a few people who have got me in this position and I think one of them is Rod. He has committed a lot of time to me and he’s even come down to Wales to look at training and stuff like that,” Rowe said. “The time that he has invested has really made a difference, so I owe a lot of how the season has gone, and my selection for the Tour to him actually.”

Sky set for Tour de France high mountains
Team Sky has delivered a climbers's team for the Tour de France, with Australian Richie Porte again acting as wingman for team leader Chris Froome as he attempts to win the race for the second time.

Irishman and likely road captain Nicolas Roche, Brits Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh, Czech Leopold Konig and Dutchman Wout Poels round out the young squad that will support 2013 champion Froome at the 102nd edition of the Tour.

Rowe trained at altitude with seven of the nine riders selected, excluding Porte and Konig, prior to the Criterium du Dauphine in which he, despite having to abandon through illness, notably undertook the role as captain in the race Froome won.

His role in Sky’s core spring classics group has also contributed to an easy rapport with team-mates that may prove advantageous, especially within the first 10 days of the Tour that have widely been tipped as treacherous.

“You become a close group of friends,” he said. “I’m not saying that because it sounds nice and it’s the right thing to say, it is the truth. We’re a bunch of mates going to do a bike race, which helps. When the times get tough and shit hits the fan it’s good to have mates that you trust and that you’re really prepared to put it on the line for. G (Geraint Thomas) and Pete (Kennaugh) are ushers at my wedding, for example, at the end of the year – that’s how close knit a group we are.

“I think communication within the race is very important as well. If you look at that group of nine – five Brits, an Irishman, an Aussie and the other two speak perfect English - everyone is on the same wavelength.”

Rowe won’t have time to ease into the race that features cobbles and the promise of crosswinds within the opening week where he, after top 10 finishes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Paris-Roubaix this year, will be put to work.

Froome abandoned the Tour last year, succumbing to injuries sustained from previous days, after a rain-soaked cobbled sector in the fifth stage to Arenberg. Rival sports directors later speculated if the terrain was a weakness for the team that has on paper the names to dismiss such notions in July.

“You look at the nine riders and we’ve got every base covered,” Rowe said. “We’ve got so many top climbers and then you’ve got the likes of myself, Stannard, Geraint and even Pete can do that type of thing when he needs to. For that Roubaix stage (stage four that includes cobble portions of Paris-Roubaix), for example, you’ve got Geraint and Ian who have both won classics, myself who was at the sharp end of a few classics, so I think hopefully we should be able to go into days like that and not be on the defensive. We don’t want to go into the first nine days just happy to sit back and relax. We want to see every day as an opportunity not just to stay on the same time but actually gain time. I think that’s the way we’ve got to tackle it.

“A lot of people say it’s a race of two halves, which is the way I see it,” he continued.

“That’s the first half and a lot of responsibility will fall on me and Stannard to do that job and keep Chris safe. After you’ve got through all of that, hopefully, the race kind of starts. As you go into the mountains you’ve obviously got some more suited riders and they’ll have their time to step up then, but my job isn’t over. I’ve still got another 10 days to carry on and do everything I can and contribute to every day and every stage to the best of my ability.”

The Tour will be Rowe’s career third three-week race following two starts at the Vuelta a Espana, including 2014 where he aided Froome to second overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Team Sky is set to embark on a recon of the 28km stage nine team time trial on Wednesday before travelling to the Netherlands prior to the 4 July Grand Depart.