British neo-pro Chris Lawless will makes his WorldTour debut in Australia after being named in a youthful Team Sky line-up for the curtain-raising Tour Down Under.
Sky have named three Brits in their seven-man line-up, with Lawless joined by Owain Doull and Jon Dibben for the six-day race, which starts on Tuesday January 16.
Lawless, who signed for Team Sky in September, is one of three young debutants in the line-up, with sprinter Kristoffer Halvorsen spearheading Sky’s sprinting charge and 20-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal eyeing the general classification.
And the Wigan-born rider is raring to go on the big stage, saying: “I’m really looking forward to starting the season at the Tour Down Under.
“Going over there with a young team should be pretty fun. It should be good seeing how we all bounce off each other and I’m sure we’ll all be really enthusiastic to get up there and get stuck in."
Salvatore Puccio and Lukasz Wisniowski complete the line-up, and directeur sportif Brett Lancaster expects the race to follow tradition with opportunities for the sprinters before the decisive GC stage on Willunga Hill. It was on the climb that Richie Porte all-but-sealed his 2017 Tour Down Under victory.
“It’s a really young and exciting team and we’re keen to see how these guys develop.
“Egan has already raced in a lot of big races. He’s no longer a neo-pro but he’s very young still. It’s going to be a really good chance to see where he is at, especially against the Australian riders who are in a home race and adapted already. We’ll see what happens come Willunga Hill and we’ll look to put him in a good position.
“It’s Willunga again where the race should be decided. Stage four has a good climb too but it’s similar to what we’ve seen in recent years. That Willunga day will be interesting for sure."
Bernal’s likely competition will come from BMC Racing, who in defending champion Porte, Rohan Dennis and veteran new signing Simon Gerrans boast the last three winners of the race.
Former Team Sky man Peter Kennaugh will ride for Bora-hansgrohe for the first time, as part of a strong squad built around world champion Peter Sagan.
There are currently no further Brits on the start list, but Team Dimension Data and Mitchelton-Scott are still to name their line-ups.
Team Sky line-up for 2018 Tour Down Under
Jon Dibben (GBR)
Owain Doull (GBR)
Chris Lawless (GBR)
Egan Bernal (COL)
Kristoffer Halvorsen (NOR)
Salvatore Puccio (ITA)
Lukasz Wisniowski (POL)