Zak Dempster to race in Tour de France

TALENTED TRIO: Zak Dempster, Brenton Jones and Caleb Ewan after the finale to this year's Mitchleton Wines-backed Bay criterium series. Picture CycleSport Victoria.

TALENTED TRIO: Zak Dempster, Brenton Jones and Caleb Ewan after the finale to this year's Mitchleton Wines-backed Bay criterium series. Picture CycleSport Victoria.

BENDIGO'S Zak Dempster is in this year's Tour de France cycling classic.

Dempster has earned selection in NetApp-Endura's team of nine to contest the great race from July 5 to 27.

The 26-year-old is the first Bendigo cyclist to race in the world's biggest road tour.

"At times I didn't think I'd get this chance in my career and now it's time to make the most of it," Dempster tweeted.

All nine riders in the NetApp-Endura will be making their Tour de France debut.

Although its their first attempt in the world's biggest tour, all nine have raced in the Tour of Italy or Tour of Spain.

Dempster is the only Australian in the German-based NetApp-Endura team to race in the Tour.

A field of 22 teams for the Tour de France includes Australia's Orica GreenEdge, and the BMC team led by Australia's only Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans.

NetApp-Endura team manager Ralph Denk said the first half of this road season was the most successful in team history.

A major goal is for Leo Koenig to figure in the Tour de France top 15.

The climbing ability of David de La Cruz, Bartosz Huzarski, Tiago Machado and Jose Mendes will be a key.

"We intend to join in the battle for a stage win," Denk declared on the team's website.

Dempster, Jan Barta, as well as German veterans Andreas Schillinger and Paul Voss are rated among the team's best chances for a stage victory.

Dempster has achieved a stage victory in the Tour of Japan, and Czech Tour.

This year's road campaign for Dempster and his team-mates has included the Tour of Slovenia, Tour of California and many more.

He started 2014 in fine style by being runner-up in the Mitchelton Wines-backed Bay criterium series raced in Geelong, Portarlington and Williamstown.

Raised in Castlemaine, Dempster was a top-class performer on road and track.

He stunned rivals at the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo.

Dempster powered around the Tom Flood Sports Centre track to win the individual pursuit and scratch, and was runner-up in the points race.

He teamed with Mitchell Docker to win the McCaig-Daikin Airconditioning-backed Bendigo International Madison track classic in 2006.

Dempster won the Melbourne to Warrnambool road race in 2008. A year earlier his coach Tim Decker had won the great race.

Dempster is a three-time monthly winner in the Bendigo Advertiser Sports Star of the Year award.

Now in its 50th year, Sports Star is proudly supported by Prime 7 and Bendigo Bank, and is the longest running award of its type in the country.

Since the heady days of his madison victory in 2006, Dempster has had,many road racing stints across Europe.

The Tour de France starts in Leeds on July 5 and finishes on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 27.

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