Team Sky has announced its line-up for the Giro d’Italia, with Pete Kennaugh, Dario Cataldo and Kanstantin Siutsou leading the team’s general classification challenge in the absence of Richie Porte, while Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift will chase stage victories.
Porte had originally been pencilled in to make a tilt at winning the maglia rosa but the Tasmanian was forced to alter his race programme after illness forced him to abandon Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya.
Cataldo has twice finished 12th overall at the Giro and lines up for his seventh appearance in the corsa rosa, Siutsou finished 9th overall in 2009 and Kennaugh underlined his potential in three-week races with a fine Tour in support of Chris Froome last year.
Dario Cioni will be the lead directeur sportif for Team Sky at the Giro d'Italia. He has done a lot of the reconnaissance of the race route and will call the shots from the lead team car.
"Last year we had Bradley Wiggins as a clear leader. This year we'll target stage victories and give a chance to riders like Pete Kennaugh to gain experience of focusing on the overall classification," Cioni explained to Cyclingnews before the start of stage three of the Giro del Trentino.
"Kanstantsin Siutsou and Dario Cataldo will have a chance to ride for themselves after working for other riders so often. We've also got Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift; there will be opportunities for them too.”
For Boasson Hagen, a regular in Sky’s Tour de France team, this will be his first Giro appearance since he made his grand tour debut there in 2009, and along with Swift, who finished third at Milan-San Remo, he will lead the team’s hunt for stage wins.
"We usually start with a race plan, a strategy, but this time there will be more daily objectives and that will influence how we race. We will have days when we target the stage victory and days we will protect our GC interests,” Cioni said.
Team Sky's first objective will be the opening team time trial in Belfast on Friday May 9. "We always ride to win the team time trial," Cioni pointed out. "Last year we had Bradley in the squad, who is a super crono man. We'll miss him but we've got a very balanced team and I think we can be a surprise in the results."
Cioni confirmed that, despite reports in the Italian media and pressure from Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport, there was never a chance that Wiggins would return to the Giro d'Italia in 2014.
"It was never going to happen," he said. "We've got 21st Century Fox as a sponsor and so the Tour of California is important for us. Brad has always had the Tour of California as a big goal for the season."
New arrival Philip Deignan, who won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2009, is also included in the Sky line-up. Deignan is making his fourth Giro appearance and while he ought to be to the fore later in the race, the Letterkenny man is looking forward to the opening three days, which take place on home roads in Ireland.
“As soon as I heard that the Giro d’Italia was starting in Northern Ireland it was a goal of mine to be there, and racing there with Team Sky is a real honour for me,” he said. “Growing up in County Donegal I never dreamt of riding a Grand Tour here in Ireland and this is my chance. I’m going to relish every minute of it racing in front of my friends and family.”
Salvatore Puccio, who wore the maglia rosa for a day following Sky’s team time trial win last year, also features, along with Bernhard Eisel, who lines up for his third Giro appearance, and youngster Sebastian Henao, who is making his grand tour debut.
Team Sky roster for the Giro d’Italia, May 9 – June 1: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Dario Cataldo, Philip Deignan, Bernhard Eisel, Sebastian Henao, Pete Kennaugh, Salvatore Puccio, Kanstantin Siutsou, Ben Swift.