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Boasson Hagan leads Sky at Tour Down Under
13:06 AEST Wed Dec 12 2012

Norwegian star Edvald Boasson Hagen will headline the powerful Sky Pro Cycling outfit but teammate Geraint Thomas could be a dark horse for overall victory at the Tour Down Under in South Australia next month.

Boasson Hagen, a two-time Tour de France stage winner, is expected to contend for stage victories along with Sky's other fast finisher, Australian Chris Sutton.

After defending his Olympic teams pursuit gold medal in London this year, Welshman Thomas will want to get the 2013 road season off to a strong start.

The SA race suits his style, especially with another tough climb included on stage two, adding to the Old Willunga hilltop finish on stage five.

Sky said the squad announced on Wednesday for the Tour Down Under was chosen with an eye on next year's spring classics in Europe, where Thomas and Boasson Hagen should again be contenders.

"Edvald Boasson Hagen returns to Australia looking to improve on seventh place in 2012 and, alongside former stage winner Chris Sutton, will head up the team's sprint ambitions," Sky said.

"Experienced hand (Australia's) Mathew Hayman will be an assured presence in the role of road captain next to Bernhard Eisel.

"The race holds special memories for the squad, with the opening criterium in 2010 providing Team Sky with their first-ever victory in their very first appearance."

But Sky will be a different team next year after losing sprint ace and former world champion Mark Cavendish to Omega Pharma-Quick Step and experienced Australian Michael Rogers to Danish outfit Saxo-Tinkoff.

Rogers was one of the key lieutenants at Sky for Bradley Wiggins who became the first Brit to win the Tour de France this year.

Wiggins is also a non-starter in Adelaide as he looks to build his season around the Tour of Italy in May rather than defending his Tour de France crown.

Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur said Boasson Hagen would come into the race after a strong 2012 which included victory in the Norway's national road championships and stage wins at the Volta ao Algarva, Tirreno-Adriatico and Criterium du Dauphine.

He was also second in the world road race championship, third overall in the Tour of Beijing and took out the sprinter's jersey in the Tour Down Under.

"He is certainly a rider to watch," Turtur said.

The Tour Down Under will be raced over six stages and 758 kilometres from January 22-27 with the field also taking part in the 51km Adelaide circuit race on January 20.

Sky Pro Cycling team: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Chris Sutton (Aus), Luke Rowe (GBR), Ian Stannard (GBR), Geraint Thomas (GBR).

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