After announcing two weeks ago that Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome would lead Team Sky at the upcoming OVO Energy Tour of Britain, the team has revealed the other four riders who will make up the squad for the eight-day race.
Froome and Thomas will be joined by ever-faithful workhorse Ian Stannard, 2015 Tour of Britain runner-up Wout Poels, former time trial world champion Vasil Kiryienka, and the rider who finished second at this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Lukasz Wisniowski.
The strong squad will be the one to beat – particularly, collectively, on the stage 5 'uphill team time trial' from Cockermouth to Whinlatter Pass in the Lake District.
Poels was a member of Sky's successful Tour de France squad this year, helping Thomas to the overall win and Froome to third place. He'll be relied upon again should either of the two leaders find themselves in a winning position, although the Dutchman may find himself in a position to go for the overall win in Britain himself. He finished second overall in 2015, with a stage win at Hartside Fell on stage 5, and then taking a second stage win on the summit finish to Haytor, on Dartmoor, in 2016.
Stannard also has what it takes to compete for the overall, having finished third overall at the 2008 Tour of Britain, with a stage win of his own at Tatton Park in 2016. Wisniowski's second place at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks him out as a hard man who won't sniff at the weather conditions if Britain brings forth its worst, while Kiryienka rode at last year's Tour of Britain, when the Belarusian finished third on the individual time trial stage in Tendring, before going on to take third place with Sky in the World Championship team time trial in Bergen, Norway, and fifth place in the individual event, which he won in 2015.
While there's no individual time trial at this year's Tour of Britain, the team time trial on stage 5 could prove key to the final overall results.The race against the clock may only be 14km, but the final five kilometres up the western side of Whinlatter Pass averages four per cent, with sections reaching 10 per cent.
The climb is then tackled twice from its even steeper eastern side the next day on stage 6, which should reveal the likely winner of this year's race.
"As soon as I'd finished the Tour de France, I knew I wanted to ride the Tour of Britain and race on home roads," Thomas said on Team Sky's website. "It starts in Wales, which will be special, and then I get to go and race across the whole of the UK. I can't wait."
Froome is also looking forward to the race, which he last rode back in 2009.
"It's been a long time since I've raced the Tour of Britain," he said. "I'm really looking forward to riding. I always remember there being a great atmosphere, and the race has only got bigger over the years. I'm really looking forward to coming back."
The Tour of Britain starts in Pembrey Country Park in Wales on Sunday, August 2, and finishes in London on Sunday, August 9.
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