FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Team Sky’s grand tour teams are taking shape in the early days of the 2017 season. Chris Froome will lead cycling’s juggernaut team in the Tour de France in search of a fourth title and Geraint Thomas will have his first chance to win the Giro d’Italia.
Thomas, who transferred from a classics rider to stage racer over the last two years, looks set to co-lead the Italian grand tour with Spaniard Mikel Landa.
“He needs big goals this year and he wants to target a grand tour,” general manager Dave Brailsford said of Thomas at the team’s camp earlier this month. “This is a big season for Geraint. He won Paris-Nice last year, but it didn’t go as well as he wanted in the Tour de France.”
Sky hopes a double-barrel approach to the Giro will finally pay off with a victory. It has won the Tour four times, but has been unsuccessful in the Giro. It tried with Rigoberto Urán, Bradley Wiggins, Richie Porte, and last year, Mikel Landa. The closest it came was in 2013, when Colombian Rigoberto Urán finished second.
Landa placed third overall in 2015 with Astana. As Sky’s captain, he was forced to abandon midway through last year’s race with stomach problems.
Brailsford explained that Thomas and Landa can work together and they will both have their targets in the Giro.
Froome is one of two grand tour stars, along with with Alberto Contador of Trek – Segafredo, who will skip the 100th edition of the Giro. The aim is to achieve four and perhaps five titles.
“[I have] no number in mind,” Froome said in a January interview. “But I dream to be up there with Merckx and Indurain with five Tour de France victories.”
With the leaders sorted in the first grand tours of the year, Sky must now settle on the helpers to place in its Giro and Tour lineups.
Mikel Nieve saved the Sky ship last May after Landa quit the Giro. The team switched to a stage-win focus and the Spaniard succeeded in Cividale del Friuli. He also won the mountains classification.
Sky this year will have Nieve support Froome in the Tour and in the Vuelta a España later in the summer.
Thomas and Landa will likely have mountain support from new Italian climber Diego Rosa, Sebastian Henao, Philip Deignan, David López, and, assuming he is back up to speed, Beñat Intxausti.
Italian Elia Viviani, who won an Olympic gold medal in the omnium, will target Milano-Sanremo and then stages in the Giro. Already, he won a stage for Sky in the 2015 Giro.
American Ian Boswell may work his way into the team’s long list for the Tour. Last year, the 25-year-old rode the Giro and supported Froome to second overall in the Vuelta.
Froome’s main mountain goat should be Wout Poels again. The Dutchman won the Volta a Valenciana last year and shepherded Froome to victories in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour.
Sky should also rely on new French climber Kenny Elissonde, Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Luke Rowe, and Ian Stannard. It is unclear if Landa and Thomas will race the Tour after the Giro or rebuild for the Vuelta.
With the controversies of last summer still brewing, Sky will welcome a return to racing and to the grand tour playground.