Team Sky will have the joint-largest squad in the WorldTour peloton for the 2018 season (along with Astana), having named 30 riders - complete with plenty of new faces - for the forthcoming campaign.
While established stars such as Chris Froome remain - targeting the Giro-Tour double, despite the salbutamol cloud currently hanging over him - there will also be a number of neo-pros in action and looking to prove their worth at the highest level.
Lawless, Tour de l’Avenir winner Egan Arley Bernal, former under-23 world champion Kristoffer Halvorsen and Baby Giro winner Pavel Sivakov are all aged 22 or under. And though fellow newcomers Jonathan Castroviejo and David de la Cruz add WorldTour experience to the squad, it is definitely a new look for 2018.
So who’s new at Team Sky for the year, where have they come from, and what should we be expecting from them? Let’s take a closer look.
Chris Lawless (age 22) - Great Britain
We featured Chris Lawless in our ‘next big thing’ series last year, and the Wigan-born rider promptly signed pro terms with Team Sky just months later.
The 22-year-old will be one of eight Brits in the Team Sky line-up for next season, having previously impressed with Team Wiggins, JLT-Condor and, last year, Axel Merckx’s talent factory at Axeon-Hagens Berman.
Lawless is the third Brit to join Team Sky on the back of riding in America with Merckx’s team, following in the wheels of current recruit Tao Geoghegan Hart and former Sky man Alex Dowsett, who rides for Katusha in 2018.
The former British criterium champion will start his season at the Tour Down Under and said: “I think the thing I’m most excited about for 2018 is pulling that kit on for the first time and racing in it.
“It’s my first ever pro team so it will be something special to do. I’m really excited for it and can’t wait to get to the first race of the year.
“I think as a British rider it does make it a bit more special to turn pro with a British team, and I think it makes it a bit easier as well.
"As a British rider it does make it a bit more special to turn pro with a British team"
“There have been times in the past for young British riders where they’ve had to go to an Italian speaking team and, as well as trying to learn all the stuff around moving up to the WorldTour, they’ve had to learn a new language as well.
“So hopefully it will be a bit easier for me to get a lot of experience from the first year because I’m not concentrating on learning another language as well, and trying to decipher what’s being said in team meetings."
On his ambitions for the future, the Tour de l’Avenir 2017 stage winner and current British under-23 road race champion added: “I want to improve in every area. I’m hoping to become a more all-round bike rider and Team Sky is going to be the best place for me to do that."
Egan Arley Bernal (20) - Colombia
Perhaps one of the most exciting talents in the WorldTour peloton for 2018, 20-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal has stepped up to cycling’s top tier after winning last season’s Tour de l’Avenir - seen as a breeding ground for future stars.
Bernal rode with Italian ProConti outfit Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia for the last two seasons and will start his Team Sky career by targeting the GC at the Tour Down Under – racing just days after turning 21.
Androni’s wildcard selections means Bernal has already tasted WorldTour action, finishing second behind Bob Jungels in the Tirreno-Adriatico youth classification last season before concluding the year with 13th place at Il Lombardia.
Bernal will be one of three Colombians on the Team Sky roster in 2018, alongside the Henao cousins Sergio and Sebastian.
And he admitted moving to Team Sky fulfils a career goal of his, saying: “I always dreamed of being with this team and I never thought the opportunity to join would come this fast.
“My first goal with Team Sky is to learn. I want to learn from my teammates and take advantage of the experience that there is in the team.
“For me it’s really good to be here and for the next two or three seasons I want to learn a lot, gain experience and learn to be better at the time trial.
"I always dreamed of being with this team and I never thought the opportunity to join would come this fast"
“I think it is the best team. We have a lot of big riders and it’s a good place to learn and get experience. It’s the team of my dreams."
Team Sky coach Xabi Artexte added: “He’s a young rider and his progress will continue as he gets physically stronger.
“He’ll have time to continue his development with the team and learn everything about how to be the best he can be at the top level. Egan is a very exciting rider."
Kristoffer Halvorsen (21) - Norway
Kristoffer Halvorsen was crowned world under-23 road race champion in Qatar in 2016 and after continuing to impress last season – winning three Tour de l’Avenir stages on his way to topping the points classification – will turn pro with Team Sky.
The 21-year-old Norwegian rode for Continental team Joker Icopal for the last two-and-a-half seasons, but got a taste of Team Sky life at a training camp in late 2016.
And the sprinter admitted joining Team Sky didn't take much of a second thought, once he was offered the chance to turn pro with the British team.
“In the end it was actually an easy choice, because it’s the best team in the world," he said. “After the World Championships in 2016 Gabba (Gabriel Rasch) asked me to come to training camp. After that, it was easy to choose Team Sky.
“It’s really exciting. The team know Norwegians really well because there have been a lot of them here, so hopefully I can maybe do the same as them. That’s the goal."
Halvorsen will start his Team Sky career, like Lawless and Bernal, at the Tour Down Under, where he has already been given the opportunity to target stage wins.
"In the end it was actually an easy choice [to sign], because it’s the best team in the world"
But directeur sportif Rasch is keen to keep the pressure off his young countryman, stating: “He’s very reflective for a young guy. He wants to be a good cyclist and win races, and he knows what it takes to get there.
“Our job is to take care of him as much as possible. In the first year we need to not put too much pressure on him, be careful with him and give him good goals, like using his leadout.
“He has good guys here and he will have a lot of chances. It’s important for us that he understands that we don’t need him to win all the races. He needs to learn and do the big races, reflect on them and learn from them. We take it year by year."
Pavel Sivakov (20) - Russia
Another rider to impress at the Tour de l’Avenir last year, Pavel Sivakov won the final stage of the race to be crowned King of the Mountains and also won the under-23 Giro d’Italia in 2017.
The 20-year-old Russian makes the step up to WorldTour level having previously only ridden for the Russian national team.
But despite his nationality, it is growing up in the Pyrenees which has enabled Sivakov to show such talent as a climber and stage racer, according to Team Sky DS Nico Portal.
“I’ve known Pavel for a few years," Portal said. “He has a good pedigree as both his parents were cyclists. He grew up at the foot of the Pyrenees, which might help to explain why he’s such a good climber.
“He’s also a really strong time triallist. He was a very good junior rider and he has progressed to become one of the very best under-23 riders in the world.
“Pavel is a really nice guy. He’s passionate about our sport, he’s committed and he’s motivated to succeed. He has all the qualities needed to become one of the best in the world."
"I feel Team Sky is where I can make the most progress and become the best rider I can be"
Sivakov’s father, Alexei, spent six seasons with the French BigMat-Auber 93 team around the turn of the century and completed six Grand Tours in his career.
His mother, Aleksandra Koliaseva, meanwhile, is the former Russian road race champion and a two-time world team time trial gold medallist.
Now, Pavel Sivakov hopes the move to Team Sky will help him to fulfil his ambitions as a stage racer.
“I’ve ridden well in stage races and, to me, Team Sky are the best stage racing team in the world," he said. “I feel that Team Sky is where I can make the most progress and become the best rider I can be."
Leonardo Basso (24) - Italy
Leonardo Basso – no relation to Ivan, the recently-retired former Giro d’Italia champion – turned 24 on Christmas Day and will make his pro debut with Team Sky in 2018.
He rode for the Italian national team in 2017 and started the Tour of the Alps – won by Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas.
Basso does have previous experience with a WorldTour team, however, having ridden as a stagiaire for Trek Factory Racing in 2015.
During that short stint, he led the team at the 2.HC-classified Tour of Hainan and finished tenth, but did not sign pro terms with the squad afterwards.
Now, Basso believes Team Sky is the best place for him to learn the trade – highlighting the team’s focus on the finer details as a big draw.
“I want to learn about the job and what it means to be a pro bike rider," he said. “I want to learn as much as I can from my team-mates and increase my level day by day.
"It’s impressive to see the innovation and to now be a part of that"
“From watching the team you can see they have a clear focus, they pay attention to equipment and the details that go into cycling.
“It’s impressive to see the innovation and to now be a part of that."
Jonathan Castroviejo (30) - Spain
Jonathan Castroviejo is one of three riders joining Team Sky for 2018 from rival WorldTour squads and, at 30, the Spaniard is the oldest of the new signings.
The former Movistar rider has enjoyed particular success against the clock, winning his third national time trial title in 2017, and also being crowned European champion the previous year.
He has also finished on the World Championship podium, in 2016, and was fourth at the Olympic games in Rio earlier that year.
Castroviejo spent six seasons at Movistar in all and was previously with Euskaltel-Euskadi for two years, with the diminutive Spaniard starting – and finishing – seven Grand Tours along the way.
His eight pro wins have all come in time trials, while he has also led the Vuelta a Espana on three occasions.
"I have been part of Grand Tour winning teams in the past and I want to do that again in the future"
Most notably, however, he was part of Nairo Quintana’s two Grand Tour successes – the 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2016 Vuelta a Espana – and hopes play a similar role for Team Sky’s Grand Tour leaders.
“I have been part of Grand Tour winning teams in the past and I want to do that again in the future," he said. “I’m really happy to be taking this next step with Team Sky."
David de la Cruz (28) – Spain
Another Spaniard on board for Team Sky next year is former QuickStep man David de la Cruz – a Vuelta a Espana stage winner and top-ten finisher.
De La Cruz, 28, most recently impressed at last year’s Vuelta, where he was sat in the top ten for much of the race having finished second on stage three in Andorra, before being forced to abandon on the penultimate stage.
He also won stages at Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country, and claimed three stage victories in his three years at QuickStep in all.
Prior to joining QuickStep, De la Cruz spent two seasons with NetApp-Endura after a single year with Caja Rural in his home country, and he says the move to Team Sky is the natural next step for his career.
“I’m excited to be joining the team," he said. “I definitely feel that, at this point in my career, Team Sky is the best place for me to progress and to be the best rider I can be.
“I think the team understand my skills as a rider and what I can offer to the team, so I’m really happy to be joining Team Sky and I am looking forward to this new challenge."
"His progression has been fast and his talent has always been obvious"
De la Cruz was a relative latecomer to cycling and Team Sky coach Xabi Artexte says that makes his rise to the top even more exciting.
“His progression has been fast and his talent has always been obvious," Artexte said. “He is an excellent signing for us.
“His performances and results have been improving every year and there is definitely room for him to keep progressing with Team Sky."
Dylan van Baarle (25) - Netherlands
Dylan van Baarle came to prominence in 2014 when, in his first year as a WorldTour pro, he won the Tour of Britain.
That remains his only pro win to date, but the 25-year-old has continued to rise in stature after a solid four seasons with the various guises of Slipstream Sports.
He has ridden the Tour de France in each of the last three seasons, completing all of them, while also establishing himself as a Classics contender.
Sixth at the Tour of Flanders in 2016, he went even better in 2017 as he finished just one place off the podium - missing out in a sprint behind second-placed Greg van Avermaet and third-placed Niki Terpstra.
And the Dutchman admitted the Classics are a major target following his move to Team Sky – though he wants to prove his all-round capabilities too.
“I hope to get some good results next year in the Classics, but I think in small stage races I can also do a good GC performance," he said.
"I want to do even better in the next few years and target a podium in a big Classic like Flanders or Roubaix"
“I have a good TT so that’s also one of my goals for the next few years, to show that I’m not only a Classics rider, but I also want to develop myself in the one-week stage races. I think Team Sky is a great place to help me do that.
“Finishing in fourth place at Flanders has given me a lot of motivation. Not just being so close to the podium, but also because I finished sixth the year before I could see the improvement in myself, and that’s what I want to keep up.
“I want to do even better in the next few years and target a podium in a big Classic like Flanders or Roubaix. That is my main goal."
Team Sky squad for 2018 season - and where they came from
Leonardo Basso (ITA, 24) – signed as a neo-pro for 2018
Egan Bernal (COL, 20) – signed from Androni-Sidermec for 2018
Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP, 30) – signed from Movistar for 2018
David de la Cruz (ESP, 28) – signed from QuickStep Floors for 2018
Philip Deignan (IRL, 34) – signed from UnitedHealthCare in 2014
Jon Dibben (GBR, 23) – signed as a neo-pro in 2017
Owain Doull (GBR, 24) – signed as a neo-pro in 2017
Kenny Elissonde (FRA, 26) – signed from FDJ in 2016
Chris Froome (GBR, 32) – signed from Barloworld in 2010
Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR, 22) – signed as a neo-pro in 2017
Michal Golas (POL, 33) – signed from Etixx-QuickStep in 2016
Kristoffer Halvorsen (NOR, 21) – signed as a neo-pro for 2018
Sebastian Henao (COL, 24) – signed from Coldeportes-Claro in 2014
Sergio Henao (COL, 30) – signed from Gobernacion de Antioquia in 2012
Benat Intxausti (ESP, 31) – signed from Movistar in 2016
Vasil Kiryienka (BLR, 36) – signed from Movistar in 2013
Christian Knees (GER, 36) – signed from Milram in 2011
Michal Kwiatkowski (POL, 27) – signed from Etixx-QuickStep in 2016
Christopher Lawless (GBR, 22) – signed as a neo-pro for 2018
David Lopez (ESP, 36) – signed from Movistar in 2013
Gianni Moscon (ITA, 23) – signed as a neo-pro in 2016
Wout Poels (NED, 30) – signed from Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 2015
Salvatore Puccio (ITA, 28) – signed as a neo-pro in 2012
Diego Rosa (ITA, 28) – signed from Astana in 2017
Luke Rowe (GBR, 27) – signed as a neo-pro in 2012
Pavel Sivakov (RUS, 20) – signed as a neo-pro for 2018
Ian Stannard (GBR, 30) – signed from ISD Cycling Team in 2010
Geraint Thomas (GBR, 31) – signed from Barloworld in 2010
Dylan van Baarle (NED, 25) – signed from Cannondale-Drapac for 2018
Lukasz Wisniowski (POL, 26) – signed from Etixx-QuickStep in 2017