Team Sky set out with a very bold statement in their debut year, 2010, that their mission was to put a British rider in the Maillot Jaune on the Champs Élysées within 5 years. After their first Tour de France that year, it really looked like a hollow promise. The team was far too aggressive on the early climbing stages and ill-equipped to back up that bravado with any results. They obviously had a pool of talent but just looked like a newly promoted small town championship football team taking on the might of the Mancunians (sorry to my American readers for the English football analogy, but there’ll be some more later).
The next year Wiggins was looking much stronger and the team more cohesive, but a crash in the first week put paid to any GC hopes. EBH nabbed a great stage win and he and Thomas both showed great promise as puncheurs.
2012 could not have gone better for them. Their GC squad looked like (and drew unwelcome references to) the Postal Train of the previous decade. Wiggins won all his tour targets with consistent climbing and imperious TT performances. His colonels on the climbs, Froome, Porte and Rogers made it all look so easy. We did get to see the first signs of trouble between their top two GC men with Froome’s ‘Hinault’ moment and the WAGs’ (that’s wives and girlfriends for the non-Premiership followers) twitter fight.
This year has seen a reversal of fortunes for our two protagonists as Froome has flourished out of Wiggo’s shadow. There’s been some more handbag waving with Bradley’s flip-flopping statements about who would be leading the team for this year’s TdF. I’m sure it’s a huge relief for Froome that Wiggins won’t be there on Saturday
Porte has proven himself more than capable of winning big stage races with Paris-Nice this year, and Uran was superb in the Giro. Where I’m heading with this is that it’s hard to keep a team cohesive when there are so many stars and not enough water carriers. Cycling is an unusual sport in that, unlike football, the whole team works to get the win, but only one of them (or two as is often the case with Sky) gets to stand on the podium. The rumours suggest that Uran is being wooed away by other teams looking for a GC leader. If he goes would Henao follow? They’re both ideally suited to the steeper climbs of the Giro and Vuelta and even though Porte is supposedly being groomed for a Grand Tour, presumably that would be the Giro or Vuelta and he could be up against the arguably better climbing skills of his current Colombian teammates on whatever teams they end up on. With Sky’s British-based team and Commonwealth preferences for leadership, you can imagine Uran might think he’d rather get a real leadership role where he isn’t having to make up time lost nursing Wiggins up the hill.
With their meteoric rise, and dominating performances, the comparisons to Postal have been inevitable. Aside from the predictable doping rumours, people refer to the
Postal Sky Train style of racing. It’s certainly not as entertaining as a Voeckler breakaway or Contador dancing on the pedals up the Alpe, but it gets results like Georgie Graham’s boring, boring, boring Arsenal. Also like Postal, they’ve been pretty lacklustre in the Spring Classics. One day races really don’t seem to favour the Pain Train style. EBH hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of his talents so far. Poor guy, it doesn’t help him that a certain Mr. Sagan showed up on the scene!
They’ve completed their initial mission two years early, and while you’d think British cycling fans would be jubilant, there’s quite a bit of backlash about the team’s wealth, Murdoch money and, yep, you guessed it, overpriced Rapha kits. Combine that with the superstar roster twittering away at each other and it makes one think of Real Madrid or Man United. Ugh, now I hate them too!
What do you all think? Yes both of you! Are you Sky haters? Who will you be cheering for at Le Tour?
Certainly not Sky! Bring on the Americans! And Voeckler pulling faces. And as a German, kind of, the big monkey Greipel.
Degenkolb could snatch a sprint stage for Germany, too. Although the presence of Cav, Greipel and Sagan will make it tricky for him.
Froome certainly looks to be the odds-on favorite, and I am certainly no Sky hater (though I have enough of Rapha’s other over-priced kits that I will not be ordering from the team store), but I would love for someone to put a stick of dynamite in the race this year and find a way to blow up the Skytrain. My most likely contenders to do that – maybe not to win GC, but at least to ensure that this year doesn’t follow the 2012 model where it’s several isolated contenders vs. a 4-man sky team 4k to the end of a mountain finish:
1) Contador – how I’d love to see a return of the man who quite literally dances on his pedals up mountains. Was it just the juice, or does he still have it in him? He such a pretty rider, and such a contrast to the aesthetically challenged boys at Sky (sorry, Froome may be strong, but he looks like a goon on a bike).
2) Team Garmin. Well, half their team at least. Who knows what they might do. Probably a longshot for any GC hopes, but it looks like their plan is to play fast and loose and see what happens. They have the talent to make Sky work harder that they might be expecting to work. The right guys in the right breaks on the right stages could create some fun scenarios.
3) Thomas Voeckler and anyone else from Europcar. Fuck it. Just the grimace alone for three weeks is more exciting than Sky’s entire team. Add the second (currently unidentified) Europcar rider whose talent/personality is surely going to blow our minds for at least one memorable stage, and you’ve got a recipie for spicy cycling gumbo.
Methinks this will be a doozy of a Tour. I cannot wait.
I think you’re right. It will be a doozy. I think the Froome-Porte combo is pretty exciting in the mountains. Yes, Froome looks completely awkward, but that just makes him so hard for his opponents to read. Porte, on the other hand, never looks like he’s suffering. Having both of them to counter Bertie’s explosive bursts should make for some great climbing stages.
Even an off-form Bertie is going to be terrific in the Alpes. He’s got a strong lieutenant in Mick Rogers, too.
I think Schleck will be interesting to watch. I’m seeing him go all in to grab that double Alpe d’Huez stage with a break on the first ascent. I doubt he’ll pull it off, but I think he’s probably not thinking of GC, but will play a more Voeckler like role. All the better.
Garmin could definitely use the Ryder-Martin slingshot on a couple of stages, and they could end up with a couple of guys in the top ten. I don’t see them on the podium, though.
Unfortunately Gaudin didn’t make the cut this year. Roland will be good to watch, though.
Wonderful article, by the way, Mr. Kyte!
Good write-up, mate. I’m a Wiggo fan, first and foremost. I like his style, cockiness, and foul-mouthness. Secondly, the Sky Train is an amazing team. Insert any business reference you want to the teamwork that accrued in 2012. So, next in line is Froome—the quieter, riveter of climbing, and helluva fun to watch. I’ll be pulling for the same (less Wiggo). And still looking forward to Voekler facial impression and Mr. Shut-Up-Legs’ likely last Tour.
I’m with you, Stu. Partly for nationalistic reasons, but I’m also getting on the Froome Wagon because he’s still a bit of an establishment outsider. If he wins, he’ll be the first Grand Tour winner born in Africa. He looks all wrong, but can climb with the best of them, and he’s got a wicked TT to back it up.
Seriously bummed that Chris Horner isn’t racing this year. Between him and JV, post race analysis were always entertaining. Dudes I’d love to ride with and drink beers with.
Boedi, you need to get his shoes: http://www.gaerneshoes.com/product-p/chrono-carbon-usa.htm