Team Sky announce Giro d'Italia team to support Chris Froome

Poels, Henao and Elissonde named in strong line-up

Team Sky have named the squad that will support Chris Froome at the 2018 Giro d’Italia, with Wout Poels, Kenny Elissonde and Sergio Henao all included in a strong line-up.

Froome is riding the Giro despite returning an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol during his victory at last year’s Vuelta a España. The Briton is free to compete until the case is resolved.

The eight-man Sky team for the Giro is completed by David de la Cruz, Salvatore Puccio, Vasil Kiryienka and Christian Knees. It will be Froome’s first participation in the Giro since he was excluded for taking a tow from a motorbike during the 2010 edition of the race.

In the intervening period, Froome has won the Tour de France on four occasions, but was persuaded to add the Giro to his race programme in 2018. Giro organiser RCS Sport has denied reports that it had paid Froome an appearance fee of €1.4 million.

"I’ve had a different start to the season as I’ve obviously been aiming to try and reach my peak quite a bit earlier than usual. But the target of going for a third consecutive Grand Tour has given me new motivation," Froome said in a statement released by Sky on Friday morning. "Of course, there is an element of risk involved in targeting the Giro before the Tour, but I think I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t give this race a go."

News of Froome’s adverse analytical finding for salbutamol was leaked in December, and the Team Sky rider declined to withhold himself from racing pending the resolution of the case. He returned to action at the Ruta del Sol in February and raced Tirreno-Adriatico in March before placing 4th overall at this month’s Tour of the Alps.

In Sky’s press release on Friday morning, Froome acknowledged the “wider issues” around his season without specifying what they are.

"I also recognise the wider issues and as I have said before I am doing everything I can, together with the team, to help resolve them as quickly as possible," Froome said. "In the meantime I am focused on racing. I would love to win the maglia rosa, but I am under no illusions whatsoever about how hard the race will be."

Giro record

Team Sky’s Giro record is underwhelming and the team’s best result at the Giro came when Rigoberto Uran placed second overall in 2013, though their race was more notable for the abandon of a subdued Bradley Wiggins in the second week.

Richie Porte arrived at the 2015 race with considerable ambition and rode strongly in the first week, but his challenge began to unravel when he was docked two minutes for accepting a wheel change from Simon Clarke in week two. He was later forced out of the race due to the injuries sustained in a crash.

Last year, Sky’s leaders Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas both saw their GC hopes ruined when they went down in the mass crash at the foot of the Blockhaus on stage 9.

"We have been on the podium before but have never won the maglia rosa which is a great ambition for us," said Sky manager Dave Brailsford.

"Chris is also going for a third consecutive Grand Tour. Everyone in cycling knows just how tough that is. We have a strong, talented and versatile team supporting him. Every rider will have an important contribution to make."

Elissonde earned his spot after being Froome’s most impressive mountain domestique at the Tour of the Alps. Henao placed 9th on his Giro debut in 2012 and arrives after a solid week at the Ardennes Classics.

Wout Poels’ spring was compromised by the broken collarbone he sustained at Paris-Nice, but the Dutchman returned to racing at Amstel Gold Race and showed enough to earn selection.

The Giro gets underway with a 9.7km time trial in Jerusalem on May 4 and finishes in Rome on May 27 after a tough final week in the Alps. Froome will face stiff competition from defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Tour of the Alps winner Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Italian champion Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates).

Team Sky for the Giro d’Italia: Chris Froome, David de la Cruz, Kenny Elissonde, Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Wout Poels and Salvatore Puccio.

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