By Nigel Wynn
Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte will share leadership of Team Sky at the opening WorldTour race of the 2014 season, the Tour Down Under in Australia over January 21-26.
Thomas won a stage and led the 2013 race before relinquishing the lead on the penultimate day to eventual overall winner Tom Jelte Slagter (Blanco). Thomas finished third.
Porte has said that he is aiming for overall victory of the Giro d'Italia in May, and the Tour Down Under is an important first stage in his Giro build-up - as well as an important 'home' race for the Tasmanian.
"I want to go to Tour Down Under and perform," Porte said via a Team Sky statement. "As an Aussie it's the race to win.
"It used to be a sprinter's race but now there are some good climbs in there like Corkscrew and Willunga. I've spent a bit of time in Adelaide so I know the climbs pretty well. I think if I'm in good form and we have a strong team there - if not me then through Geraint Thomas - we also have a really good chance. He was brilliant there last season so it should be an interesting race."
Irishman Philip Deignan will make his competitive debut for Team Sky at the Tour Down Under, having signed to the squad for 2014 from American outfit UnitedHealthcare.
In addition to Deignan, Thomas and Porte, Sky will take along British riders Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, Australian Chris Sutton and Austrian Bernhard Eisel.
Santos Tour Down Under 2014: Stages
Stage one, Tuesday January 21, Nuriootpa to Angaston 135km
Stage two, Wednesday January 22, Prospect to Stirling, 150km
Stage three, Thursday January 23, Norwood to Campbelltown 145km
Stage four, Friday January 24, Unley to Victor Harbor 148.5km
Stage five, Saturday January 25, McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill 151.5km
Stage six, Sunday January 26, Adelaide to Adelaide 85.5km
Richie Porte aiming for Giro d'Italia win in 2014
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