Sir Bradley Wiggins leads strong Team Sky squad for Tour of Britain

Defending champion joins fellow Brits Ben Swift and Ian Stannard in six-man team

Defending champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will be backed a strong team at the Tour of Britain after Team Sky confirmed their line-up for the race, which starts in Liverpool on Sunday September 7.

Wiggins, who won the gold jersey last year, returns to defend his title this time out as one of three Brits in Sky’s six-man squad.

Sir Bradley Wiggins will defend his Tour of Britain title after being named as leader of a strong six-man Team Sky squad. pic: ©Paul Hayes-Watkins

Ian Stannard – who impressed in the race last year as one of Wiggins’ chief domestiques, before claiming a top-ten spot – also returns this time out, while Ben Swift will be the team’s option for the flatter stages.

David Lopez, who finished fourth overall last year after a stunning ride in support of Wiggins on Haytor, will also be back on the Tour of Britain start line, as will road captain Bernie Eisel.

Colombian Sebastian Henao, in his debut year for Team Sky, completes the strong six-man line-up.

And 2012 Tour de France champion Wiggins is relishing his return to his ‘home’ race.

He said: “The Tour of Britain is a special race for me so to be returning as defending champion is a real honour.

“It’s always been a tough race but the support we receive from the fans is incredible, and it’s our home tour so I’ve always enjoyed racing it.

“From the start of the year it’s always been a goal of mine to race to the Tour of Britain. The race is growing in stature year on year and it’s our chance to go there with a strong team and race in front of home fans to thank them for their support over the season.”

Wiggins, who earlier this year won the Tour of California, also hopes the race – which is preceded by a Sky Ride in Liverpool – will help to continue the growth of British Cycling.

Ian Stannard and Bernard Eisel will also return to the race after riding last year’s edition, alongside David Lopez – who finished fourth last time out pic: ©Paul Hayes-Watkins

He said: “Cycling’s now more popular than ever before in the UK with over a million more people are getting out on their bikes.

“This is great for the sport we love and Sky and British Cycling have been at the heart of this transformation, so having a Sky Ride start on the same day as Stage One in Liverpool is brilliant.

“Hopefully it will inspire people to go on Sky Ride in the morning and then cheer us on in the afternoon.”

Stannard’s presence on the startline marks only his second stage race since suffering a bad crash during the Spring Classics, having completed the Eneco Tour last month.

Lopez and Eisel, meanwhile, ride on the back of the Tour de France, and are set to play important support roles as Wiggins’ look to defend his title against the likes of Nico Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Sky’s six riders will be among the teams presented at the race’s first ever rider presentation, which is set to take place at Liverpool One on Saturday September 6.

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