Brailsford hails Tour de France star Geraint Thomas

British cycling chief Dave Brailsford believes track star and Tour de France hopeful Geraint Thomas is developing into a top road talent.

The 25-year-old Olympic and world team pursuit gold medallist isnamed in Team Sky's nine-man squad for the 2011 Tour.

Thomas, second in stage three of last year's Tour, won a first major pro title at the Tour of Bavaria in May.

The Welshman told his Twitter pageexternal-link: "I'm off for a lap of France with the lads in July. Should be a laugh!"

Team Sky manager and British cycling performance director Brailsford insists Thomas is at the forefront of an exciting time in British cycling.

Thomas joins fellow Brits Bradley Wiggins and debutant Ben Swift in Team Sky's line-up for his third Tour de France, which starts in the Vendee on 2 July.

Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha, Simon Gerrans, Christian Knees, Rigoberto Uran and Xabier Zandio make up the remainder of Team Sky's squad to tackle the 21-stage, 2,132 mile cycling showpiece.

"Geraint is making real, real progression," said Brailsford.

"There is a great blend of experience and youth in our squad.

"As well as riders like Bradley, Flecha, Simon, Christian and Xabier, who have ridden the Grand Tours on numerous occasions, the line-up also includes some of the peloton's brightest young talents in Edvald, Geraint, Rigoberto and Ben.

"It is a hugely exciting time for British cycling across the board and that is why we wanted to put a serious team together.

"We have the backbone made up of emerging British talent, who have come through a clean British cycling programme."

Thomas became the first Welshman to ride at the Tour de France in 40 years when he made his debut in 2007.

And he wore the white jersey for best young rider between stage three and stage six of the 2010 Tour de France before finishing 67th overall - almost two hours behind eventual winner Alberto Contador.