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Nieve and Deignan lead Team Sky at Tour de Slovénie

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Philip Deignan (Team Sky)

Philip Deignan (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Andrew Fenn (Team Sky)

Andrew Fenn (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Mikel Nieve (Team Sky)

Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Nathan Earle (Team Sky) with bandages from last week's Amstel Gold Race

Nathan Earle (Team Sky) with bandages from last week's Amstel Gold Race (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Sal Puccio (Team Sky)

Sal Puccio (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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CJ Sutton (Team Sky)

CJ Sutton (Team Sky) (Image credit: ASO)

Climbers Mikel Nieve and Phil Deigan will press their claims for a Tour de France berth at the Tour de Slovénie with Team Sky starting Thursday in Ljubljana. Team Sky makes its debut at the 2.1 race, which was won by Thiago Machado last year, where the two riders can make the case for their inclusion in the teams nine-rider roster for the French grand tour.

Deignan rode in support of Chris Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné as the 2013 Tour champion won the final two stages of the race and the overall for a second time in his career and will be hoping a good performance in Slovenia sees him make a debut at the Tour. The Irishman has ridden eight grand tours, most recently the 2014 Vuelta a España, with his best finish ninth overall at the 2009 Vuelta where he also won a stage. 

The Tour de Slovénie will be Nieve's first race after the Giro d'Italia in which he finished 17th overall. Nieve helped Froome to victory at the Ruta del Sol in February and was also by his side at the 2014 Vuelta when the Sky GC rider was second overall. Nieve rode the Tour last year, finishing 18th in his first season with Sky having made his debut at the French grand tour in 2013 with Euskaltel-Euskadi.

Nathan Earle will be called on for support in the mountains at the four stage race as he makes his return to racing after a short break following the Tour of Norway. Andrew Fenn and Chris Sutton join Earle from the Norway squad in Slovénie and will look for success in the sprints.

Completing the roster is 28-year-old Xabier Zandio, in his first race since the Tour of California, and Salvatore Puccio.

Team Sky for the 2015 Tour de Slovénie: Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle, Andrew Fenn, Mikel Nieve, Salvatore Puccio, Chris Sutton and Xabier Zandio.