Tour de France champion Chris Froome heads to the Tour of Oman, with Bradley Wiggins riding in the Ruta del Sol

It seems incredible now, but this time last year Chris Froome had not take a stage race victory. The 2013 edition of the Tour of Oman was his first, and he returns to the Middle East race on February 18 to not only defend his title, but as reigning Tour de France champion.

Froome will be supported by a strong cast from Team Sky’s roster, several of whom will already feature on the squad’s long list for the 2014 Tour de France.

Mikel Nieve made the switch to the British-based outfit from the now defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi team over the winter and will provide mountains firepower and support for Froome alongside Sergio Henao, David Lopez, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Dario Cataldo and Danny Pate.

Sprinter Ben Swift will join the team directly from the Mallorca Challenge, where he achieved two podium places and looks to be back in good shape after a niggling shoulder injury.

Last year, Froome finished the Tour of Oman 27 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 39 seconds ahead of third-placed Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

The Tour of Oman commences on February 18 and runs until February 23.

Bradley Wiggins, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana Deià-Lluc 2014

Bradley Wiggins, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana Deià-Lluc 2014

Meanwhile, 2012 Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will take part in his first stage race of the season at the Ruta del Sol running over February 19-23.

Wiggins is joined by a mixture from Sky’s classics and Grand Tour units: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Philip Deignan, Peter Kennaugh, Vasil Kiryienka, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas.

Wiggins’ first big target of the season is Paris-Roubaix (April 13), followed by the Tour of California (May 11-18). Porte will be using the event as a warm-up for his assault on the Giro d’Italia in May.