Steve Cummings and Peter Kennaugh are part of the British-based Team Sky’s line-up for the Etoile de Bessèges stage race, starting today (Wednesday).

Cummings (pictured) is already on good form, having placed fourth at the French season-opening Grand Prix la Marseillaise on Sunday. The man from the Wirral contested the bunch finish at the end of the UCI 1.1-ranked event won by Frenchman Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun).

Manxman Kennaugh, 20, made his Team Sky debut in the race, and finished 85th. 

“It was really good to see Steve up there and the whole team was in the big group,” said Team Sky sports director Marcus Ljungqvist, making his debut behind the wheel of a Jaguar team car after retiring as a rider with Saxo Bank last year. “Everybody was looking good and we have a strong team for Bessèges.”

The two Brits are part of the same eight-man Sky line-up for Bessèges that rode the GP Marsellaise: Cummings, Kennaugh, John-Lee Augustyn (RSA), Michael Barry (Canada), Sylvain Calzati (France), Davide Vigano (Italy), Nicolas Portal (France) and Morris Possoni (Italy).

Ljungqvist has ridden Bessèges several times himself, so knows what is in store for his team. “Saturday looks pretty tough on paper. They have probably found all the climbs around and put then in one stage. That is going to be the hard one,” he said.

“Other stages may be windy, but I think we have a few guys here who can fight in the wind.”

“It was my first race being in the car. A couple of months ago I was still on the bike, so it was bit strange, but fun.”

Calzati has a good history at the race, having placed second overall in 2004 behind Laurent Brochard (Ag2r).

Bradley Wiggins had originally been named in Sky’s squad for the race, but will now make his debut for the team at the Tour of Qatar (February 7-12).

Lloyd gets a call up

British pro Daniel Lloyd has been named in Cervelo Test Team’s line-up for Bessèges, drafted in to replace Thor Hushovd. The Norwegian sprinter is delaying the start of his racing season due to illness. It’s Cervelo’s first outing of the 2010 season.

Etoile de Bessèges is a five-stage, UCI 2.1-ranked race held from Wednesday, February 3 to Sunday, February 7. Wednesday’s first stage is a 146km route from Aigues Mortes to Le Grau du Roi in the south of France. All of the race’s stages are relatively short.

Last year’s race was won by Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), who will wear the number one plate in this year’s event.

Etoile de Bessèges 2010: Stages

Wednesday February 3: Stage 1 – Aigues Mortes to Le Grau du Roi, 146km

Thursday February 4: Stage 2 – Nîmes to Saint Ambroix, 141km

Friday February 5: Stage 3 – Pont Saint Esprit to Bagnols sur Ceze, 148km

Saturday February 6: Stage 4 – Ales to Ales, 148km

Sunday February 7: Stage 5 – Gagnières to Bessèges, 145km

Total distance: 728km

Etoile de Bessèges 2010: Teams

Ag2r-La Mondiale

An Post-Sean Kelly

Astana

Bbox Bouygues Telecom

Bigmat-Auber 93

Bretagne-Schuller

Carmiooro NGC

Cervélo Test Team

Cofidis

Française des Jeux

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago

Roubaix-Lille Métropole

Saur-Sojasun

Skil-Shimano

Team Sky

Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator

Vacansoleil

Verandas Willems

Etoile de Bessèges: previous winners

2009 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom

2008 Iouri Trofimov (Rus) Bouygues Telecom

2007 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis

2006 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques

2005 Freddy Bichot (Fra) La Française des Jeux

2004 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance

2003 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio

2002 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco

2001 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar

Related links



Cummings fourth in GP Marseillaise



Wiggins set to make Team Sky debut at Tour of Qatar



Team Sky reveals early-season line-ups