Rogers debuts in Tour Down Under, Wiggins begins his season in Qatar

Michael Rogers, Team Sky’s most high-profile signing for 2011, will make his debut for the British ProTeam outfit on his native Australian soil in less than three weeks’ time as part of a strong line-up for the Santos Tour Down Under, which begins in Adelaide on 18th January. The news comes as Team Sky reveals its squads for the opening two months of the new season.

Joining the former HTC-Columbia rider for the six-stage race in and around South Australia’s capital will be his compatriots Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman and CJ Sutton, as well as the New Zealander Greg Henderson and Britain’s Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas, with Sean Yates acting as Sports Director.

Henderson took third overall in the 2010 edition of the race behind HTC-Columbia’s André Greipel, winning the event for the second time, and Caisse d’Epargne’s Luis Leon Sanchez, with the Kiwi picking up two second-place stage finishes, including a Team Sky one-two with Sutton who won the final stage.

While sprinters have dominated the top spot of the podium in recent years, two of the Team Sky riders have won the race before – Gerrans in 2006, when he was riding for AG2R-Prévoyance, and Rogers in 2002, in the colours of the Australian Institute of Sport. Rogers has much more recent form in terms of winning shorter multi-stage races, taking overall victories this year in the Tour of California and the Vuelta a Andalucia.

Team Sky’s two new British signings, Jeremy Hunt, previously with Cervelo-TestTeam and Alex Dowsett, who joins from the Trek-Livestrong under-23 squad, will line up alongside Bradley Wiggins, Russ Downing, Ian Stannard, Juan Antonio Flecha, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Lars-Petter Nordhaug for the Tour of Qatar, which runs from 6-11 February.

Last year’s race helped confirm Team Sky’s arrival on the scene, with Edvald Boasson Hagen briefly wearing the race leader’s jersey after he and his colleagues put in a storming team time trial on the opening stage, although the Norwegian will have to wait until mid-February to get his season under way when he features in the team’s squad for the Tour of Oman.

That race provided one of the 2010 season’s talking points when Boasson Hagen, winner of two stages, lost the leader’s jersey after a badly-timed toilet stop, although he did go on to win the points and young rider’s jerseys before his season was disrupted by a tendon injury.

Looking further ahead, 26 February sees Juan Antonio Flecha seek to defend his title in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which the Argentina-born Spaniard won this year, with most of the riders in that race taking part in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne the following day, including Ian Stannard who this year battled to a fantastic third place in appalling conditions.

The full squads for races up until the end of February are:

Santos Tour Down Under
18-23 January

Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman, Greg Henderson, Michael Rogers, Chris Sutton, Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas (DS - Sean Yates).

Tour of Qatar

6 - 11 February

Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Russell Downing, Alex Dowsett, Juan Antonio Flecha, Jeremy Hunt, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins (1st DS - Steven de Jongh, 2nd DS - Servais Knaven).

Tour of the Mediterranean

9 - 13 February

Davide Appollonio, John-Lee Augustyn, Michael Barry, Kjell Carlstrom, Steve Cummings, Serge Pauwels, Morris Possoni and Xabier Zandio (1st DS - Sean Yates, 2nd DS - Nicolas Portal).

Tour of Oman

15 - 20 February

Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Russell Downing, Juan Antonio Flecha, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton (DS - Servais Knaven).

Volta ao Algarve

16 - 20 February

John-Lee Augustyn, Michael Barry, Kjell Carlstrom, Dario Cioni, Steve Cummings, Simon Gerrans, Greg Henderson and Serge Pauwels (1st DS - Sean Yates, 2nd DS - Rod Ellingworth then Bobby Julich).

Vuelta a Andalucia

20 - 24 February

Davide Appollonio, Alex Dowsett, Peter Kennaugh, Thomas Lofkvist, Michael Rogers, Rigoberto Uran and Xabier Zandio (1st DS - Marcus Ljungqvist, 2nd DS - Nicolas Portal).

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite

26 February

Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Michael Barry, Russell Downing, Juan Antonio Flecha, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt and Ian Stannard (1st DS - Steven de Jongh, 2nd DS - Servais Knaven).


27 February

Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Juan Antonio Flecha, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mathew Hayman, Greg Henderson, Jeremy Hunt, Ian Stannard, Chris Sutton and Geraint Thomas (1st DS - Steven de Jongh, 2nd DS - Servais Knaven).

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.