"This is a really exciting Tour for us - our first as Team INEOS."

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford is relishing the challenge of the upcoming Tour de France, with the team taking part in INEOS colours for the first time at the world's biggest bike race.

Speaking at the team's pre-race press conference he said: "We’re still in the infancy of this exciting new partnership with Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be heading into this Tour with them.

"Here we are, starting this edition of the Tour de France as Team INEOS, it’s an amazing feeling really - and it would be remiss of me not to thank Jim and his team.

"We want to help pay them back over this race."
Sir Dave Brailsford

Sir Dave Brailsford

We’ve got two great leaders and a team packed full of Tour experience, which is vitally important in this race.

Brailsford paid tribute to four-time race winner Chris Froome, who will sadly miss the 2019 edition due to injury. Yet despite such a significant absence the team head into the race feeling confident in co-leaders Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.

He added: "We’ve got a great team this year - of course we lost Chris, which was a big disappointment.

"But we’ve got two great leaders and a team packed full of Tour experience, which is vitally important in this race.

"With the group of guys we’ve got here, you couldn’t want for a better team. It’s an extremely exciting time for us and we’re all really looking forward to the race getting underway now."

"I feel in good shape," confirmed 2018 victor Thomas - who returns to racing action after crashing out of the recent Tour de Suisse.

"Of course the crash was a setback but I didn’t lose any training days and I’m feeling good on the eve of the race.

"There's no lasting damage at all. Obviously, it was disappointing to hit my head. That was the reason I couldn't carry on but I've still done some good training and I don't think it's affected me too much

"We’re excited heading into the race. It’s always a great occasion and we feel we’re ready for another strong three weeks."

Thomas feels the team are in a strong position, with Bernal also showing great form heading into July.

He explained: "Myself and Egan are co-leaders and we’re excited about the challenge that lies ahead of us.

"Egan is an honest and good guy, and as long as we communicate well and are open with each other, like Froomey and I were last year, then it can work just as well. Obviously it will be a huge advantage to have two of us there in the final stages.

"I don't know about being favourite. That's for everyone else to talk about. I can't bet on the races anyway, so the odds don't really matter to me. I feel in a good place and I'm looking forward to the race, and I just want to get going now."

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