Danny Pate is among eight Sky riders tapped to help Bradley Wiggins in his quest for the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia next month.
The veteran American will join a stellar lineup as Sky and Wiggins take aim at the Giro, the season’s first grand tour, which starts May 4 in Naples.
Wiggins said the team is just as strong as the one he enjoyed en route to winning the Tour de France last year.
“I believe the Giro team this year is just as strong as the Tour de France team last year and the results prove that everyone is ready to go,” Wiggins said in a team press release. “I’ve watched the Giro since I was a kid and have seen my idols win it, which makes it even more special. It has always been a race that I’ve wanted to ride well in and I just can’t wait to get started.”
The selection is a coup for the 34-year-old Pate, who missed out on last year’s Tour squad, racing the Vuelta a España instead. Pate has twice ridden the Giro, both with Garmin. The first came in 2008, when the American squad won the opening team time trial to claim the pink jersey and again in 2009, riding to third in the 18th stage out of a breakaway.
Here’s how Sky described Pate’s attributes: “Reads a race like few others and his knowledge and selfless work ethic make the American an integral part of the nine-man unit. Pate rode alongside Wiggins as he chalked up a string of stage-race victories in 2012.”
Sky will take a team loaded with climbers to Italy, but will rely on Pate, Christian Knees, and grand tour rookie Salvatore Puccio to help in the transition stages.
Supporting Wiggins in the mountains will be Colombian sensations Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao as well as Dario Cataldo, Xabier Zandio, and Kanstantsin Siutsou, who returned from injury to win a stage at the Giro del Trentino last week.
With no sprinters or GC co-captains, the team is thinking only about one thing. Urán told VeloNews the Giro will be all about pushing Wiggins into pink.
“I’ve had some luck at the Giro, but me and the entire team will be riding for Wiggins,” Urán said, referring to his career-best seventh overall last year. “Everyone is motivated to help Bradley. We will be going for the win, of course.”
Wiggins has been discreet so far through the opening months of the 2013 season. In sharp contrast to his near-perfect 2012 run into the Tour de France, when he won Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné, Wiggins is winless so far this year.
While fifth at both the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino, his two warm-up races for the Giro, it’s hard to read too much into those results. Wiggins spent nearly three weeks training at altitude on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and has been working on his explosiveness in the mountains to prepare especially for the Giro.
“We’re working more on the explosivity in the climbs. I don’t like it. It’s the worst part of training. We do a lot of that at altitude; we’ve been two weeks at altitude doing that,” Wiggins said during the Catalunya tour. “Sometimes the stuff you don’t enjoy doing, it’s the stuff that works. If you only do what you like doing, you have the Bradley Wiggins of 2010.”
Sky boss Dave Brailsford said the Giro squad is deep and balanced to support Wiggins across all terrain.
“We’ve got quality climbing support and some really big engines, too. There’s also the team time trial to think about and we’ve got a very strong squad,” he said in a Sky release. “It’s well-documented that the Giro has been a season goal for Bradley. With that in mind, we want to get the best performance possible and try to win the race. If you work back from there you need support in the mountains and a strong nucleus of the team who can work hard.”
Sky for 98th Giro d’Italia:
Bradley Wiggins (GBR)
Dario Cataldo (ITA)
Sergio Henao (COL)
Christian Knees (GER)
Danny Pate (USA)
Salvatore Puccio (ITA)
Kanstantsin Siutsou (BLR)
Rigoberto Urán (COL)
Xabier Zandio (SPA)