Richie Porte heads up Sky's Tour Down Under squad that includes Brits Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh

Tasmanian Richie Porte will head up Team Sky’s squad for the opening race of the 2015 WorldTour, the Tour Down Under over January 20-25.

Porte won the penultimate stage of last year’s Tour Down Under to Willunga Hill, finishing in fourth place overall and 10 seconds behind winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).

Porte will be supported by a Brit-heavy team which includes Commonwealth road race champion Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and British national champion Peter Kennaugh. Thomas finished last year’s race in eighth spot overall.

Completing the seven-man squad are Australian Chris Sutton and Italian Salvatore Puccio.

“I’ll never forget the atmosphere on Willunga Hill last year and the memories of winning that stage will stay with me forever,” said Porte. “This year we have a really strong team heading into the race and we can’t wait to getting started.”

Despite a solid start at the TdU last year, Porte suffered a disappointing season affected by illness. He found himself as Sky’s ‘plan B’ at the Tour de France in July after Chris Froome withdrew due to injury, but faded quickly and finished in 23rd spot overall over an hour down on winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“It hasn’t been a straightforward year,” Porte said of Team Sky’s 2014 season. “I guess it’s hard to measure luck, but we’ve had our fair share of bad. It just makes everyone doubly determined to have a great season [in 2015].”