Team Sky include Russell Downing in Giro d'Italia squad

Russell Downing
Downing enjoyed overall victory in the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium in 2010

Britain's Russell Downing will make his Grand Tour debut after being named in Team Sky's squad for the Giro d'Italia.

The 32-year-old joined up with the team last season after winning the Tour of Ireland in 2009.

"I can't wait to test myself against the best in the business in the sprints and hopefully a few of the punchier stages might suit me," he said.

Fellow Briton Peter Kennaugh, 21, is also in the nine-man squad, which will be led by Sweden's Thomas Lofkvist.

The race begins with a team time trial into Turin on 7 May and finishes in Milan on 29 May.

Lofkvist, who was Team Sky's highest-ranked rider in the 2010 Tour de France general classification, is a previous holder of the maglia rosa - the Giro's pink leader's jersey.

Michael Barry, Kjell Carlstrom, Dario Cioni, Lars-Petter Nordhaug and Morris Possoni will support the 27-year-old Lofkvist in the mountains.

Italian Davide Appollonio will join Downing, who won the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium last year, and Kennaugh, in contesting the sprint stages.

Kennaugh, who began the Vuelta a Espana last year before Team Sky quit after the death of soigneur Txema Gonzalez from a bacterial infection, hopes to have an impact in his second Grand Tour.

"Riding in Grand Tours is what you grow up dreaming about as a young rider," he said.

"I think the Giro's route will suit me well. There will be plenty of chances to get into breaks and the sprints will suit us as a team.

"I'm really excited about the challenge ahead and I can't wait to get racing."

Team Sky's sports director Sean Yates said: "We've picked a good group of riders here, with a nice blend of youth and experience, and we know they will get stuck in and fight for each other."

Defending champion Ivan Basso will miss the event to focus on the Tour de France, but Alberto Contador and Denis Menchov, winners in 2008 and 2009 respectively, are on the start list.

Isle of Man rider Mark Cavendish, who has collected five stage wins in previous Giros, has been named in the HTC-Highroad squad.