Team Sky will make its debut at the Tour de Langkawi this week, selecting an experienced team capable of challenging for the overall victory with Colombian Sebastian Henao who will lead the GC aspirations of the team. Chris 'CJ' Sutton will be the designated sprinter for the UCI 2.HC race which offers several opportunities for the fast men.
Although it hasn't raced in Langkawi since its inception in 2010, Team Sky's squad for the eight stage race includes several riders and staff familiar with the event.
"For a couple of years, we've been considering taking part in Le Tour de Langkawi and finally, this time around, we've made it a reality", said Team Sky's head directeur sportif Nicolas Portal. "Personally, this race is close to my heart since it was my first one as a professional with Ag2r in 2002. A few of us in the staff also have found memories of racing in Malaysia so we put on a good word to our coaches to decide on the race program."
Portal isn't the only directeur sportif to have a connection to the race. Markus Ljunqvist, who will also DS at the race, won the queen stage to Genting Highlands in 1999.
Phil Deignan is also returning to the race although his objective is to deliver Henao to the best overall position possible as he explained rather than focus on the overall.
"I've come to race in Malaysia a few times and I last rode Langkawi with Cervélo in 2009", Deignan said. "I finished 11th that year but this time, I'm not going to target GC. I'll be a support rider for our Colombian climber."
21-year-old Henao, who is in his second season with Sky, impressed the team in his debut grand tour last year by finishing 22nd overall at the Giro d'Italia. Langkawi will provide the Colombian will further opportunity to develop the characteristics needed to challenge for GC Portal explained.
"Sebastian is not such an explosive climber as his cousin Sergio", Portal said. "But he's very strong in long climbs. He rode fantastically uphill in our pre-season training camp so we wanted to give him a chance to express himself and race with the responsibilities of the team leadership. Genting Highlands suits him perfectly. Le Tour de Langkawi can be the stepping stone of his career."
The Tour de Langkawi starts on March 8 with a 101.1km opening stage from Langkawi to Langkawi. The queen stage of the race to Getting Highlands take place on March 14 with the race to conclude the following day in Kuala Lumpur.
Team Sky for the 2015 Le Tour de Langkawi: Sebastian Henao, Danny Pate, Chris Sutton, Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle and Ian Boswell.