Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Sky is the Limit

by Callum Cross

Sky boss Dave Brailsford
(wiki commons)
This term, "the Sky is the limit", in cycling has now been coined in reference to anything that Team Sky want they get. They “want” the Tour de France, so they go out and get the best riders and give them lots of money to ride very hard on the front.

Now, this is a well proven tactic in stage races, more so this year that 2012. Ritchie Porte was given more responsibility early on this season, the team kept the same old method of riding hard to prevent attacks. Lately, however, this method has shown great weaknesses in the “one-day classics” races. These races cover more than 200kms in one day and tend to be very competitive. It is said that anyone who starts can win. However, Team Sky have tried their hardest to put a lid on that and use the same old methods. This has failed rather dramatically, most recently in Leige-Bastonge-Leige. The team were trying to control a 240km race from the beginning and their whole team ran out of energy and missed the key breaks on key climbs. So how about the rest of Team Sky’s Classics season?
Well in the early cobbled classics, great things were expected of them, with top riders like Great Britain’s Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas; however, with Thomas crashing out of 2/3 races and failing to make the lead group in the other cobbled race, very little came from the early classics. This left the Ardennes Triple, the three toughest one-day races in the world, with climbs hitting gradients of 33% and covering over 230kms, each spread over 10 days. Sky sent their best climbers and punchers; however, they were made to look like a dysfunctional wreck. With one podium and one top 10 in the 3 races (both by young Columbian Sergio Henao) this was a very disappointing classics season again (after a dismal 2012 as well).
This begs the question: why does Sky spend all of its money on one type of rider?
That is a hard question to answer but I think it can be split into two reasons. Firstly, Sky’s boss, Dave Brailsford, is meticulous and, as one-day races are so unpredictable, he would rather not get involved. Why waste resources on races you aren’t guaranteed victory in? After all, who wants to be second? My second reason is: money. Seeing as the big tours are where the most money is at, he has to win these races to help pay some of his expensive riders' wages. Despite BskyB’s huge amount of sponsorship money for the team, I’m sure that it couldn’t be enough by itself to secure some of those riders.
I suppose that last paragraph defends Sky and explains why they did so terribly this classics season but, in my opinion, there shouldn’t be excuses and Sky should adapt their style to be more adept at riding all races not just the controllable ones.

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