Team Sky today announced their team for the Giro d'Italia which starts in Naples a week this Saturday (4 May). As expected, Sir Bradley Wiggins is team leader and he will be backed by a line-up of riders with solid Grand Tour and, in particular, Giro experience, backed up with a smattering of youth in the shape of 23-year-old Italian rider Salvatore Puccio who makes his Grand Tour debut in his home race.
As the team was announced, Wiggins reaffimed his desire to add the maglia rosa for winning the Giro to the yellow jersey he won at last year's Tour de France, and said he believed he had been given a team to help him achieve that ambition.
“Alongside the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, the Giro d’Italia is one of the biggest bike races in the world and one I’d love to win. I’ve watched the Giro since I was a kid and have seen my idols win it, which makes it even more special. It has always been a race that I’ve wanted to ride well in and I just can’t wait to get started.
“I believe the Giro team this year is just as strong as the Tour de France team last year and the results prove that everyone is ready to go.”
Here's the Team Sky 2013 Giro d'Italia line-up:
Sir Bradley Wiggins – He follows his success at the 2012 Tour de France by mounting a challenge on the next Grand Tour, supported by one of Team Sky’s strongest line-ups to date.
Dario Cataldo – A strong addition to Team Sky this season, he finished 12th in the last two editions of the Giro and, after winning an epic mountain-top finish at the Vuelta a Espana last season, his Grand Tour credentials are undeniable.
Sergio Henao – Made an impression on his Giro debut in 2012, routinely riding at the head of the race on his way to ninth position overall. The Colombian has enjoyed a superb start to the season and will be a crucial asset in the mountains.
Christian Knees – The former German national champion brings power and Grand Tour experience. One of three riders from the Tour-winning team, where he played a key role riding hard on the front and keeping Wiggins out of trouble on the road.
Danny Pate – Reads a race like few others and his knowledge and selfless work ethic make the American an integral part of the nine-man unit. Pate rode alongside Wiggins as he chalked up a string of stage-race victories in 2012.
Salvatore Puccio – Makes his Grand Tour debut at the Giro. The young Italian will tackle the biggest challenge of his career to date. Despite being just 23, he has already contested all five of cycling’s monument classics.
Kanstantsin Siutsou – Brings both power and climbing prowess to the team. A former stage winner back in 2009, ‘Kosta’ makes his Grand Tour return after suffering a broken leg at the Tour de France last year.
Rigoberto Urán – Team Sky’s highest-placed Giro finisher to date, riding to seventh overall and the young rider’s jersey last year. He has formed an exciting climbing partnership with compatriot Henao and will support Wiggins in the mountains.
- Xabier Zandio – The Spanish domestique is another rider who brings incredible Grand Tour know-how in addition to a laid back, calming and cheerful demeanour.
Commenting on the team in a Team Sky press announcement, Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said, “We’ve had a good run into the Giro, have a strong squad and the preparation has gone well. The final touches have been put in place after the Giro del Trentino and we’re all set to go.
“It’s well-documented that the Giro has been a season goal for Bradley. With that in mind we want to get the best performance possible and try to win the race. If you work back from there you need support in the mountains and a strong nucleus of the team who can work hard.
“We’ve got quality climbing support and some really big engines too. There’s also the team time trial to think about and we’ve got a very strong squad.”
Indeed, Sky's Giro line-up not only points up once again the team's strength in depth but also gives a strong clue as to who will be riding in support of Chris Froome at the Tour de France in July. Only three of those on the team sheet for this race rode in last year's Tour de France - Wiggins, Christian Knees, and Kanstantsin Siutsou - who suffered a broken leg in a serious crash during one of the early stages.
Of the remaining members of the 2012 Tour team still with Sky, Froome, Richie Porte, Edvald Boassen Hagen, and Bernard Eisel aren't lining up with Wiggins this time so it's probably a fair bet that they will be with Chris Froome for the Tour. Geraint Thomas is another name that is likely to be pencilled in already - he's got a solid record at the Tour and last year he rode the Giro along with fellow Brits Ian Stannard, Ben Swift and Peter Kennaugh, none of whom feature this time.
Sir Bradley will be the only Brit in this year's Giro team which comprises two Colombians - Henao and Uran; two Italians - Cataldo and Puccio; one German - Christian Knees; one Balarusian - Siutsou; one Spaniard - Zandio; and one American - Pate. It's a team that looks set-up to support Wiggins in the mountains.
While Sir Bradley's earliest memories of the Giro may have been gained from the TV, Dario Cataldo's memories fo the race were formed first hand and naturally Sky left it to him to sum up what the Giro means to Italians and Italian pro cyclists in particular.
“The Giro d’Italia is the biggest and most popular race in Italy. Even people who don’t follow cycling that much in Italy follow the Giro. There are some really incredible places to ride in Italy and that is one of the things that makes the race so beautiful.
“When I was six or seven years old I went to watch the Giro at the side of the road. I got some bottles from the riders and then when I started cycling I always went to watch the race to feel what real cycling is like. This year is even more special for me as I will go to the Giro with the national flag on my skinsuit as time trial champion. To be riding in a big team like this with a big goal will make it a really emotional race."
It's a race that will certainly be of particular importance to Sky the broadcaster which has a sizeable Italian operation - enter Milan by train and you will pass the company's massive Italian headquarters - a skyscraper with an enormous Sky logo atop it. Making sure that logo dominates the peloton and the podium will be the task facing Wiggins and his teammates in the coming weeks and their progress will be partiuclarly keenly followed in that Milanese tower.
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