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Froome leads Sky in Tour as Wiggins misses out

LONDON (Reuters) - Defending champion Chris Froome will lead Team Sky's challenge for a third consecutive Tour de France crown but 2012 winner and fellow Briton Bradley Wiggins will not be part of the nine-man team named on Friday.

Wiggins had been widely tipped to miss selection in the squad and all but confirmed the decision after winning the British time-trial title on Thursday.

The 34-year-old Wiggins was, however, included in Team England's track cycling team for the July 23-Aug 3 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as the quadruple Olympic champion eyes the 2016 Rio Games.

Froome's main support on the Tour will be Australia's Richie Porte, while the road captain in the Manchester-based team will be Bernhard Eisel from Austria.

"Team Sky returns to the Tour de France with the reigning champion and we are looking to win the yellow jersey for the third time in three years and a second consecutive time for Chris Froome," Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in a statement."

"Defending champion Chris Froome is an exceptional talent, a brilliant stage racer, and he'll lead the team.

"It has been a golden decade for cycling. Bradley Wiggins lies at the heart of a lot of that success, and although he has not been selected for this race he is still a key member of Team Sky and a great champion."

The Tour begins in Leeds on July 5 and reaches France on July 8.

Only two British riders were included in the squad, the lowest tally since Sky began to race in 2010.

Froome's preparations have not been as smooth as last year as he crashed while leading the Criterium du Dauphine, the final warm-up race before the Tour, and was comprehensively beaten by main rival Alberto Contador of Spain.

Lieutenant Porte has also had a miserable season as he withdrew from the Giro d'Italia, where he was supposed to lead Team Sky. He was back just in time to help Froome on the Dauphine, finishing 22nd overall earlier this month.

Team Sky: Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Bernhard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Danny Pate, Xabier Zandio.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Additional reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John O'Brien)

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