April 23rd 2013.
Another Spring Classics season is over and while Fabian Cancellara reigned again in Roubaix and Flanders there were more left-field winners in terms of both teams and riders in San Remo and Liege. For Team Sky however it was business as usual which meant another big fail. While this has been the first year they have targeted these one day races seriously following from their great success in stage races last year it seems that they may never find the formula to get anything out of these unpredictable races. This may not prove to be a problem to them and their sponsors if they do well in any of the grand tours but there could be a terrible effect on the development of British cyclists.
At the start of the year many had tipped Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard to do well in the classics and things did start on a promising note. If it wasn’t for Stannard’s mechanical towards the end of Milan-San Remo he might have finished higher than his 6th place. After this though things didn’t go too well until Sergio Henao’s decent results at the two non-monument Ardennes Classics. However with so much planning going into the campaign this was nothing short of terrible.
Towards the end the classics campaign Bradley Wiggins showed his face at the Giro del Trentino and was joined by an impressive looking Vasil Kiryienka. When you think how well David Brailsford regards Kanstantsin Sivtsov, the undouted talents of the Columbians Henao and Uran, the great season which Richie Porte is having as well as the talented foreign domestics on their roster it’s hard to think where Skys home grown riders will fit into their grand tour plans.
The likes of Thomas as Stannard may now be thinking what they need to do to further their careers and could be considering joining Alex Dowsett, now at Movistar, on the continent. Perhaps the likes of the young sprinters Luke Rowe and Ben Swift should also be thinking what they can achieve at Sky after Mark Cavendish’s time last year when he won many of his victories without a dedicated sprint train.
The way Sky is set up might be a good thing for future UK GC riders but not so much for the roleur type.
So is it time for a new British World Tour team to be formed. It would be impossible from the start without a major sponsor. But with the popularity of cycling in the country on the rise there may be an appetite from the public to support a new team especially when some of the public refuse to be sky fanboys. For these reason any potential sponsor may feel there would be something to gain by coming into the sport.
Any potential new team would though have a problem competing with Sky to get the rising talents especially considering most cyclists come through the Great British development system, they would have to approach thing differently. If the new team focused on road racing rather than the track they could develop riders better. Racers could have a clear plan of what they want to do with their careers, I think Geraint Thomas has been affected by not knowing what he wants to do, going back to the track last summer ended in success but may have had a detrimental effect on his road racing.
The biggest issue surrounding the formation of a second British Pro Tour team is whether there are enough decent British riders to join it. Brian Smith had to let a few Brits leave when his Endura team joined up with the German Net-App squad during the close season. Will the riders not be good enough to compete at the very top level? The answer to this problem may again lie in Skys one track approach. At the moment they are signing up the best young foreign riders to join their train which controls the peleton in stage races. The type of British rider that would have joined Sky when they were created will now be looking elsewhere to race.
So maybe British cycling is ready for a new challenge and a new team is what’s needed to deal with it.