Former winners Simon Gerrans and Michael Rogers will lead Team Sky’s charge at the Tour Down Under in January.
Rogers, signed from HTC-Columbia last month, and Gerrans claimed overall victory in the Tour Down Under in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
The Australian duo will be joined by compatriots Matthew Hayman and Chris Sutton, with Kiwi Greg Henderson and Brits Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas completing the seven-man line-up for the traditional season curtain raiser.
Team Sky made their bow in last year’s race, with Henderson, who went on to finish third overall, and Sutton claiming a one-two in the Cancer Council Classic before Sutton bagged the sixth and final stage.
“It’s a well-organised race and a great season opener because it’s centralised, with the riders staying in the same hotel all week. It really does set you up nicely,” said team principal Dave Brailsford, whose role at Team Sky was called into question by Olympic track gold medallist Jamie Staff yesterday.
“We did well in it last year and we’re going to go there with high expectations this time around.
“We’ve got quite a few Aussies in the team and they’re very keen to perform in front of their home crowds. They don’t often get the opportunity to race down in the southern hemisphere so it’s a big thing for them and their motivations will be high.
“The other lads are going to get there in good time to get acclimatised to the heat so we’re going to try and hit it hard and race really well.”
The Tour Down Under is traditionally a sprinters affair, with Andre Greipel winning in 2010 and 2008 for HTC-Columbia.
The German has since signed for Omega Pharma-Lotto and will go head-to-head with old foe Mark Cavendish this time out, with Garmin-Cervelo’s Tyler Farrar also set to feature.
And Brailsford admits his squad will have their work cut if they are to topple the trio in Australia.
“The race will be based around sprinters – the world’s best will be there which is going to make it tough for everyone but we’ll be in the mix, looking to get the lead-out train working well again, and will give it everything,” added Brailsford.
Meanwhile, the UCI has finalised the 18 teams awarded ProTeam licenses for 2011.
AG2R, Garmin-Cervelo, Katusha, Lampre-ISD, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saxo Bank SunGard, Team Sky and RadioShack have all received the nod from cycling’s world governing body.
That means Spanish team Geox-TMC and French outfit Cofidis miss out and will be registered as Pro Continental teams, with the full second tier line-up to be announced on December 10.