Giro d'Italia
Richie Porte is looking to earn the pink jersey at...

Sky assembles climbing squad to back Porte’s Giro bid

The squad will work for the Tasmanian starting this weekend as he attempts to win his first grand tour

Sky is packing some impressive firepower to back Richie Porte in a bid for the pink jersey at this month’s Giro d’Italia.

The Tasmanian has been on a tear this season, winning GC titles at Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino, and Sky is bringing a team built around his quest for the maglia rosa.

Sky brings sprinter Elia Viviani, but the remainder of the team will be at Porte’s disposal as he takes on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the season’s first grand tour, which clicks into gear Saturday with a team time trial.

“Team Sky has had a great start to the year and we are going into the first grand tour of the season with a strong team, led by Richie,” Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in a team release. “Richie is entering the race in good shape and with real focus and determination. He’s made a lot of small changes across a number of areas in his preparation and training this season after the illness that affected his performance in 2014. … This is one of the biggest and toughest races to win in the calendar but we go to the Giro confident about the challenge ahead.”

Although Sky has won two yellow jerseys at the Tour de France and has dominated one-week stage races across Europe the past few seasons, its run at the Giro has been bumpy at best. The team has never really focused on the Giro as an outright goal, except in 2013 when Bradley Wiggins’ bid to win pink went off the rails.

Last year, Porte was poised to take on leadership at the Giro, but he fell ill and did not race. After a rough-and-tumble 2014 season, Porte has hit the reset button coming into this year, with new motivation and a stronger work ethic. That’s paid off handsomely, and Porte’s delivered his best season so far as a professional.

“The Giro d’Italia has been my main goal of the season. I’ve worked very hard through the winter, and am entering the race strong, healthy and up for the challenge,” Porte said. “The competition will be tough, and obviously anything can happen in a grand tour, but we’ve got a great group of riders going into the race and we are ready for it.”

Viviani will give Sky a presence in the sprints, but the Italian will know the team won’t be working for him exclusively. Veteran Bernhard Eisel will double as road captain, and will help position Viviani in the final kilometers, but the remainder of the team will be focused on chaperoning Porte.

Porte can expect solid support in the mountains from such riders as Leopold Konig, Mikel Nieve, Kanstantsin Siutsou, and Vasil Kiryienka — the latter three are former Giro stage winners. Sebastian Henao, the young Colombian climber, and Salvatore Puccio round out the squad.