Team Sky has confirmed their seven-rider line-up for this year's Paris-Nice (March 4-11), with defending champion Sergio Henao and Wout Poels spearheading the squad's aspirations for the overall victory.
Sky has a successful association with the prestigious early-season French stage race, having provided the winner five times in the last six editions in the shape of Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Henao.
Both Poels and Henao have tasted success this season so far, with Henao successfully defending his Colombian road race national title and finishing fourth overall in the Colombia Oro y Paz. Poels narrowly missed out on overall victory in the Ruta del Sol, finishing second overall after claiming a stage win. It will be the first time that the Dutchman has ridden Paris-Nice.
“They will be joint leaders and I think we have a good chance," said Team Sky sports director Gabriel Rasch. "Wout is hungry for some results for himself and obviously Sergio won it last year."
Rasch explained that a change in UCI rules in terms of team sizes means they had to focus their resources more.
"Going from eight-man teams to seven, I think it’s good to have more options. We had a debate about how many flat guys to take and this is what we came down to,” said Rasch.
Although the team is keeping its eye on the mountains and the stage four time trial, Rasch singled out stage two to have the potential to shape the race early on.
“The second stage is flat, heading south all day, so depending on the wind it could be a wild day, like last year," explained Rasch.
“The guys will get their first taste of the climbs on stage three and then there’s a hilly time trial on stage four. Stage five has a pretty hard final lap around Sisteron, with narrow short climbs, and the last three stages, six, seven and eight, are all tough. The last day is pretty similar to previous years too - short, but hard around Nice and Monaco.”
In addition to Henao and Poels, Sky's Paris-Nice line-up consists of Ian Stannard, David de la Cruz, Diego Rosa, Sebastian Henao and Dylan Van Baarle.
Henao and Poels will have a hard fight for overall honours, with key rivals including Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic), Esteban Chaves, Simon Yates (both Mitchelton-Scott), and Ion and Gorka Izagirre (both Bahrain-Merida).
Henao won the 2017 edition of the race with a slim margin of just two seconds over runner-up Alberto Contador (Trek-Seagfredo). Dan Martin was third at 30 seconds.
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