Team Sky has announced that young Manxman Pete Kennaugh will replace Serge Pauwels in their Giro d’Italia squad for the race, which starts on Saturday.
“I was planning to do the Tour of Romandie last week but they took me out initially and told me I wasn’t riding until the Tour of Picardy [on Friday 13 May],” Kennaugh told Cycling Weekly. “I found out two weeks ago. I’m mega excited and quite nervous too.”
Kennaugh focused on the Track World Championships early in the year, and has only raced the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and the Three Days of De Panne so far this season.
“My form’s been good considering I did the track Worlds,” he said. “I’m not going to do a GC ride or win sprint finishes, but I’ll a good job for the team and get in breakaways. It’s about getting race days done for me. Doing the Giro will give me a good platform for the second half of the season. Its exactly what I need.”
The last-minute change has not been received well by Serge Pauwels, who vented his frustration in Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
“I started the season knowing that I should prepare for the Giro, which I did,” the Belgian said. “I copied my preparation from 2009, when I rode a good Giro. And I got to my ideal weight. Unfortunately I have now been told that I have to give up my place.”
“The Tour is not an option,” he continued. “Competition within the team is too great. I hope that I can be at the Vuelta. Or am I on a dead track at Sky? I’m dissatisfied and my contract expires. But I don’t want to burn my bridges. I hope to make something of my season.”
Kennaugh was keen to distance himself from the team management’s decision: “I can see why he might be unhappy but it’s up to the senior management and nothing to do with me. I’m just happy to take the opportunity. I hope serge is OK with it and he has a good season – it’s certainly nothing between us.”
The change makes Kennaugh the fifth British rider in the race, as he joins David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Russell Downing, Adam Blythe on the startline.
It will be the young riders first full grand tour – he was selected to ride the 2010 Vuelta, but Sky left the race after stage seven following the sudden death of one of their soigneurs, Txema Gonzalez.
Kennaugh finished third in the 2009 Baby Giro, winning a stage in the process, and has long been considered a highly promising grand tour rider.
Sky’s lineup now includes Pete Kennaugh, Dario Cioni, Morris Possoni, Davide Appollonio, Thomas Lövkvist, Michael Barry, Kjell Carlstrom, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Russell Downing.