I went up to Dinan to have a look at the depart of the Tour de France stage as the race left Brittany for Lisieux in Normandy. Again, I got some great shots but have been battling with rural internet connection speeds and don’t have the photos online yet- to come. For the meantime I wanted to share my thoughts and observations from the stage start, which was more interesting than I expected.
Team Sky will aim to create the first British winner of the Tour de France, within five years.
The team will have 25 riders, a percentage of which will be British.
Bradley Wiggins’ performace at this year’s Tour de France marks him as the only contender currently capable of challenging for the overall win. He is a world-class time trialist, and has proved he can ride with the best climbers in the world- two areas where it is vital not to lose time if you are to have a chance of winning the Tour.
However, Wiggins has denied that he is joining Team Sky, via his twitter feed and in ITV4 interviews at the Tour de France. He has reiterated that he is contracted to Garmin Slipstream until the end of 2010.
For me, sprinting for stage victories distracts a team from the General Classification. Columbia HTC have won several stages with Mark Cavendish but are absent from the top spots this year. I believe Team Sky would avoid sprinting and be built solely around a GC contender.
Time trial specialists are great for a team- riders can keep themselves high on the GC, putting other teams under pressure. They are good for chasing down dangerous breakaways or even getting into breakaways themselves- forcing rival teams to chase. They are also essential for controlling the pace at crucial times of the race.
The best British rider for this is David Millar. Millar’s contract with Garmin is up at the end of the year and he would be available, but his stake in the team has been widely reported. Brailsford has spoken of his strong stance against doping, and his policy for the team is that no one with a previous doping violation will be hired, which would appear to rule out Millar.
However, Millar hasn’t completely ruled it out: “They’re going to be an amazing team, one of the best in the world, and it would be silly to say no,” he said about Team Sky, which will be established under the direction of British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford. But at the moment I’m contractually with my team and my heart is here for the immediate future.” The fact that his sister Fran is assisting Brailsford in the management of the team adds further fuel to the fire of speculation that he may join.
British climbers include Ben Swift, Steve Cummings and Geraint Thomas, all young and come from the British Cycling Academy system. Cummings and Thomas have experience of Grand Tours on the Barloworld team. Charly Wegelius, a veteran of Grand Tours with Liquigas and Silence-Lotto is another ‘climbing domestique’ who could bring experience but has fallen out with BC in the past.
Ian Stannard is a powerful rider that loves the breakaway, while promising youngsters Johnny Bellis and Peter Kennaugh, who achieved a podium place at the 2009 amateur Giro d’Italia are other prospects.
It would be interesting of domestic pros such as Tom Southam, British road race champion Kristian House, Jeremy Hunt, Dean and Russel Downing were included. But these guys are primarily circuit racers- would they survive a long stage race?
The rest of the team will comprise continental pros. Brailsford has hinted that he will sign big names, but who these will be are anybody’s guess.
More details of the team roster will become available on September 1st.