Giro d'Italia 2018: Chris Froome's Team Sky squad named

Team Sky's Chris Froome cycling in a line with his team-mates
Froome finished fourth overall in last week's Tour of the Alps, his last race before the Giro

Team Sky's four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is among four Britons named in the provisional start list for May's Giro d'Italia.

The 32-year-old is trying to become the third man to win three successive Grand Tours, after claiming the 2017 Tour and Vuelta a Espana titles.

Belgian Eddy Merckx won four on the trot in 1972-73, while France's Bernard Hinault claimed three in 1982-83.

The 101st edition of the Giro starts on Friday, 4 May in Jerusalem, Israel.

Froome is joined by three riders from his 2017 Tour-winning team - Belarus' Vasil Kiryienka, Germany's Christian Knees and Colombia's Sergio Henao.

Dutchman Wout Poels, Republic of Ireland's Philip Deignan, Spain's David de la Cruz and Salvatore Puccio of Italy make up the rest of Team Sky's eight rider line-up.

Organisers RCS Sport released the provisional start list on Tuesdayexternal-link and the 176 riders also include defending champion Tom Dumoulin, who will lead Team Sunweb, while Italy's Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), France's Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) are Froome's main rivals for the winner's pink jersey.

Britain's Simon Yates is the co-leader of the Mitchelton-Scott squad, along with Esteban Chaves of Colombia.

Yates has had an excellent start to the year with two stage wins and a second-place finish at the prestigious week-long Paris-Nice.

The 25-year-old finished seventh on his Tour de France debut last year and was sixth at the Vuelta in 2016.

Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) and Hugh Carthy (EF-Education First) are the other two Britons set to ride the Giro, which finishes in Rome on Sunday, 27 May.

Froome is riding the Giro for the first time since 2010, following back-to-back Grand Tour titles at the Tour in July and the Vuelta a Espana in September.

The Team Sky leader has to explain to cycling's world governing body, the UCI, how he returned double the allowed level of legal asthma drug salbutamol in his urine during his Vuelta win.

He announced his intention to ride the Giro in November before his adverse drugs test was made public. RCS was unaware of the issue and race director Mauro Vegni called on the UCI to "sort out" the case before the start of the Giro.

Vegni subsequently said Froome is "welcome" at the raceexternal-link and said he will "always" consider the Briton the winner should he claim overall victory, even if he is later suspended and stripped of the result.

Froome finished fourth in the Tour of the Alps on Friday, his last race before the Giro, with Pinot claiming overall victory.