Team Sky has announced its squad for the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Belfast a fortnight tomorrow, with the team including Irishman Philip Deignan, who begins a Grand Tour on his native island. It’s an attacking line-up that includes several Grand Tour stage winners, plus one looking to clinch his first, British sprinter Ben Swift.
Unlike last year when then Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins was looking to add the Giro d’Italia to his palmarès – he left the race early due to illness, but Sky would clinch second place on GC through Rigoberto Uran – there are no stated ambitions for the overall win.
Instead, it looks as though Sky will be targeting stage wins, and besides Deignan, winner of a Vuelta stage in 2009, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Dario Cataldo and Kanstantsin Siutsou all have experience of doing just that at this level.
They are joined by Swift, Peter Kennaugh, Sebasian Henao, Bernard Eisel, Sebastian Henao and Salvatore Puccio, who spent a day in the race leader’s maglia rosa last year after Sky won the Stage 2 team time trial on the island of Ischia.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, who recently stepped down from his role as performance director at British Cycling to focus on Team Sky, said: “The Giro d’Italia is a fantastic race and this year provides a great opportunity for the team to go out and really express themselves on the bike.
“We’ve brought together an exciting squad and we can’t wait, not only for the start in Northern Ireland, but to perform in front of our Italian fans.”
Deignan, who won that 2009 Vuelta stage in Avila in the colours of Cervélo TestTeam and finished the race in ninth place overall, joined Sky ahead of this season from United Healthcare, suffered a shoulder injury in February but is currently racing the Giro del Trentino in Italy.
He said: “As soon as I heard that the Giro d’Italia was starting in Northern Ireland it was a goal of mine to be there, and racing there with Team Sky is a real honour for me.
“We’re going with a good balance of youth and experience; we’re all looking forward to it. Growing up in County Donegal I never dreamt of riding a Grand Tour here in Ireland and this is my chance. I’m going to relish every minute of it racing in front of my friends and family.”
Here is the full squad, with rider descriptions from Team Sky:
Edvald Boasson Hagen – age 26 – Norway
Returning to the scene of his Grand Tour debut back in 2009, the multi-talented Norwegian excels both in the sprints and setting a tempo on the climbs. He is a former stage winner at the Giro d’Italia.
Dario Cataldo – age 29 – Italy
The former Italian TT champion will line up for an impressive seventh start at his home Grand Tour. Two 12th placed finishes at the Giro d’Italia demonstrate not only class but also consistency.
Philip Deignan – age 30 – Ireland
The Irishman recently returns from a broken collarbone, Deignan is a strong climber, not to mention a Grand Tour stage winner at the Vuelta a Espana.
Bernhard Eisel – age 33 – Austria
One of the most experienced and well-respected competitors in the peloton, the 33-year-old Austrian brings horsepower and speed, as well as knowledge gained from 14 previous Grand Tour outings.
Sebastian Henao – age 20 – Colombia
Making his Grand Tour debut in his first season as a professional, a string of assured climbing performances sees the Colombian rewarded with a start at the biggest race of his career.
Pete Kennaugh – age 24 – Great Britain
Following a strong 2013, the Manxman starts his third Giro d’Italia climbing strongly and fresh from recent victory at Settimana Coppi e Bartali.
Salvatore Puccio – age 24 – Italy
A year on from famously donning the Maglia Rosa leader’s jersey in his Grand Tour debut, the Italian returns to his home race a stronger and more well-rounded rider.
Kanstantsin Siutsou – age 31 – Belarus
Another former stage winner at the Giro d’Italia, the Belarusian tasted success one day after teammate Boasson Hagen back in 2009. A top-10 finisher in the event, ‘Kosta’ is a valuable asset in any three-week stage race.
Ben Swift – age 26 – Great Britain
Currently riding with good form including sprint victories and a podium at Milan-San Remo, the Brit will hope to put his fast finish to good use as he hones in on a landmark Grand Tour stage win.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.