SIR BRADLEY WIGGINS will defend his Tour of Britain title after being named as the leader of Team Sky's squad for the race, which begins in Liverpool on Sunday.

Wiggins will be joined by fellow Britons Ian Stannard and Ben Swift, with Bernhard Eisel, David Lopez and Sebastian Henao completing Sky's six-man line-up for the eight-stage event.

Cotswold fans will be able to get up close and personal to Wiggins and co as Stage Four which takes the cyclists from Worcester to Bristol on Wednesday, September 10 will be passing through Cheltenham, Leckhampton, Birdlip, Painswick, Stroud, Nailsworth and Dursley.

"The Tour of Britain is a special race for me so to be returning as defending champion is a real honour," said Wiggins.

"It's always been a tough race but the support we receive from the fans is incredible, and it's our home tour so I've always enjoyed racing it."

Earlier this summer it had been unclear if Wiggins would take part as he eyed the Vuelta a Espana as a warm-up for the world championship time trial, but once Chris Froome confirmed he would race in Spain on his return from injury, Wiggins had to change plans.

However, defending the title in his home race is not a bad alternative.

"From the start of the year it's always been a goal of mine to race to the Tour of Britain," he said. "The race is growing in stature year on year and it's our chance to go there with a strong team and race in front of home fans to thank them for their support over the season."

Wiggins will be the favourite to take the crown again, although he could face strong competition from Tinkoff-Saxo's Irishman Nicolas Roche – a rider who has been strongly linked with a move to Team Sky in time for next season.

After the start in Liverpool, the week-long race will head south through Wales towards Devon for the traditional run over Dartmoor in stage five, and then moves east along the south coast before heading into London for the final stage on Sunday, September 14.