Sky Alumni – The 21 men who left

Team Sky have made seven new signings for 2013, which will bring the number of riders who have ridden for the team up to an impressive 48. But of those men, 21 have left the team. Who are these guys? Why did they leave? Read on…

2010 was the Year of Sky’s inception, and their worst by far. The roster, in hindsight, does have a kind of hatchet job feel to it, with Brailsford admitting it would take a couple of years to get who they actually wanted. Thus, it’s not  a surprise many riders left.

2010

Sylvain Calzati (FRA)

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Pre-Sky: Calzati had done the French thing of touring the French teams, having been at AG2R for the majority of his career before a move to Agritubel. His best year had been 2006, when he had won a stage of the Tour de France.

Sky: He joined the Sky fanfare but was essentially one of the worst performers. Whilst he had managed 8 top ten results in 2009, in 2010 he racked up zero, and didn’t even ride that many days either. It was little suprise when Sky let him go at the end of the year.

Post-Sky: Calzati made the move to Bretagne-Schuller, where he raced until June, before retiring, again with out a top ten that year. He’ll still be able to announce himself as a Tour de France stage winner though.

Nicolas Portal (FRA)

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Pre-Sky: He served long terms at AG2R and Caisse d’Epargne, with his last win coming in 2007, although that was a team time trial. His last individual win was in 2004, although that was a stage of the Dauphine. In 2009, however, Portal suffered from a cariac arrhythmia, which led to him missing the majority of 2009 before signing for Sky.

Sky: Portal was a solid domestique for Sky, and didn’t build on his single race victory, or get close to emulating it.

Post-Sky: With his heart problems effectively forcing retirement, Portal stayed with team sky as a sports director, and has had two successful years directing the riders to race victories around the globe.

Davide Vigano (ITA)

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Pre-Sky:  Vigano had spent the majority of his years at Quick Step, helping to lead out Tom Boonen and pulling Paolo Bettini up hills. He had left for the appalling kit of Fuji-Servetto in 2009, but we’ll use a picture of him at Quick Step so his grandchildren aren’t embarrassed for life.

Sky: Having taken part in Sky’s opening race, the Tour down Under, Vigano then seemed to fizzle out as a contender for race places, following the other two riders who left at the end of 2010 in that they seemed to be simply making up the numbers for the team. He did however score various top five placings in top level races, although never quite managed to get on the podium.

Post-Sky:  Moving to Leopard-Trek in 2011, Vigano was part of the team at the Giro that withdrew following the death of Wouter Weylandt, before completing the Vuelta . He has subsequently moved to Lampre, where he was blamed for causing the ‘Metz Massacre’ at the Tour de France by taking Alessandro Pettachi’s arm warmers, although he recovered to take top tens at the Vuelta.

2011

2011 was a bit more successful for Sky, with their first Tour stage wins, but they did get rid of an awful lot of talent at the end of the year, presumably to bring in the GC reinforcements for the Wiggins/Froome challenge.

Simon Gerrans (AUS)

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Pre-Sky: Gerrans had been a punchy aggressive breakaway specialist,  and had quietly managed to notch up stage wins in all three Grand Tours, with a Tour stage win up Prato Nevoso despite being dropped by his breakaway companions fairly regularly up the climb in 2007, followed by Giro and Vuelta wins after he made the move to the Cervelo Test team for 2009. With 6th in Liege, 7th in Amstel and 8th at Fleche, Gerrans, at 29, looked to be an emerging star.

Sky: So Sky had snapped him up for 2010, which as these things go, turned out to be a bit of a dud year for Gerrans following his best one ever. Not to worry though as Sky hadn’t been all that great either. He crashed out of the Tour and only hit the podium once, before failing to finish his home worlds in Melbourne. However, he was back with a bang in 2011, with 3rd in Amstel Gold and a win in the Tour of Denmark. Sky, for whatever reason, decided not to keep him however, and he was shipped out to another super team, this time his home GreenEdge creation.

Post-Sky: You get the impression Sky thought Gerrans was possibly on the slide, but as his arguably best year ever in 2012 showed, he wasn’t. With GreenEdge, who later became Orica-GreenEdge, Gerrans won the national championships, Milan-San Remo, and the GP de Quebec…all after taking the only race that mattered for GreenEdge, the Tour down Under. He was even talked about as a favourite for the Worlds, although confessed to having a bad day after the event.

Greg Henderson (NZL)

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Pre-Sky: Winner of the Worlds Scratch race in 2004, Henderson had moved from the track here he’d also had success at the Commonwealth games to the road, where he won various US events before breaking through with a win in the Vuelta in 2009, his final year with the evolving T-Mobile/HTC-Columbia set up he had joined in 2007.

Sky: Henderson was subsequently signed up to Sky for 2010, and has the honour of taking their first ever win, the Cancer Classic Criterium of the Tour down Under. He was subsequently third in the Tour down Under itself, and took three wins across the year, including at the Tour of Britain and the Eneco Tour. 2011 saw an epic win at the Tour of California, where he sprinted for 400m, and at Paris Nice, before he decided to move on.

Post-Sky: For Lotto-Belisol was busy building the Andre Greipel train, and Henderson became a key component, leading out his man to wins at the Tour down Under and at the Tour de France.

Kurt Asle Arverson (NOR)

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Pre-Sky: A stalwart of the CSC team, Arverson had been U23 World champion as well, and like Gerrans had wrapped up stages at all three Grand Tours, even if the Vuelta one had been a TTT. in 2008, he had been 3rd in E3 and 10th in Milan San-Remo,  as well as having the pleasure of riding on the winning team of the Tour de France when Carlos Sastre won.

Sky: His 2010 with Sky was pretty abject by comparison to previous years in terms of results, but his work was highly valued, for instance in helping win the TTT of the Tour of Qatar, oddly the only TTT Sky have ever won. In 2011, He wasn’t even in the top 10 of his national championships, a race he had won five times, and so he retired.

Post-Sky: Retired, but didn’t leave Sky – Arverson remains as a coach at the team.

Steve Cummings (GBR)

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Pre-Sky: Best known for his time at Barolworld, Cummings did spend 2007 at Discovery Channel, but took his first win at Barolworld, technically a British team, in 2008 at the Giro Reggia Calabria. His earlier career had been on the track, particullarly in the team pursuit,  where he’d been world, commomwealth and national champion as well as gaining a silver at the Olympics in 2004.

Sky: Like most of Sky, 2010 was a year to forget, and it seemed they forgot Cummings as well, as we’ll see later. In 2011, he beat Alberto Contador up a mountain finish at the Tour of Algarve, and salvaged the teams poor record at their home race by finishing second at the Tour of Britain. However, Cummings claimed that certain riders got better treatment and were concentrated more on at Sky, and so upped sticks to become the first Brit to leave the team for 2012 despite being fourth at the Tour of Beijing and 9th at the Tour of Poland.

Post-Sky: Having joined BMC, Cummings was struck by the BMC bad luck bug, breaking his pelvis at the Tour of Algarve then returning to break his wrist in his comeback race at the Tour of the Basque country. He rode the Tour, but it was the Vuelta an in the late season that he showed his real worth, winning a stage of the spanish stage race before beating Giro Champion Hesjedal in a sprint to take a stage of the Tour of Beijing. An underestimated rider, Sky look a bit daft to have let the powerful climber go. Or maybe he only like red kits?

Russell Downing (GBR)

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Pre-Sky: The dominant force in British racing, Downing was so good he was winning races without a team. Having been in the pursuit teams when he was younger, and part of the failed Linda Mcartney set up, Downing and turned to dominating the national circuit, and showed his immense talent in 2009 when he beat off the combined forces of Columbia, Saxo Bank, Cervelo and Astana near single handedly to win the Tour of Ireland. Everyone called out for Downing to get  a place on Sky, and he was duly rewarded.

Sky: Downing didn’t ride a grand tour in 2010, but won a stage of the prestigous Criterium international and a stage and the overall of the Tour of Wallonie. 2011 saw him ride the Giro, but oddly not a whole lot else, and sadly, Sky didn’t keep the man who had been the embodiment of the British against all odds cyclist on the team in 2012. If only Sky had existed a few years earlier, then maybe we would have seen what Downing could really do on the continent.

Post-Sky: Downing returned to the national circuit with Endura, came 4th in the Tour of Britain and won a stage of the Tour of Norway as well as winning the Beaumont trophy and Lincoln GP in Britain. Still a class act.

Dario Cioni (ITA)

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Pre-Sky: A graduate of the Mapei academy having started his career as a mountain biker, Cioni had progressed through Fassa Bortolo, Liquigas and Predictor-Lotto, and had also seen controversy when he got an exemption for a haemocrit over 50%. A strong domestique, he has moved to ISD before he came to Sky in 2010.

Sky: Two years of strong domestique work basically.

Post-Sky: Now holds a public relations role with Sky.

Serge Pauwels (BEL)

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Pre-Sky: Rode for Chocolates Jacques before moving to Cervelo, where he was best known for being asked to leave a two man breakaway to help leader Carlos Sastre. He man who remained in the break subsequently won, and the unhappy Pauwels left the team.

Sky: he rode the Tour in 2010 as a domestique, then barely rode at all in 2011.

Post-Sky: Moved to Omega Pharma Quick Step, completing the Giro and the Vuelta. Never got close to that stage win Cervelo denied him.

John Lee-Augustyn (RSA)

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Pre-Sky: The young South African rode with Barolworld for three years, and was most famous for crossing the 2800m Col de Bonette in first place before managing to crash off the descent and skid down a scree face, having to leave his bike on the slopes and scrambling back up the side.

Sky: Augustyn has a health problem which has meant he is on an indefinite break from cycling, and this stuck in the second on his two years with Sky. The first, like many other riders, wasn’t all that great.

Post-Sky: His indefinite break continues, although he is now on Untesilnord-Named. He has become the forgotten talent of Sky in a way – he was hyped up rather alot, but now seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Morris Possoni (ITA)

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Pre-Sky: A Lampre rider for 3 years before moving to the HTC set up, Possoni helped them win the Giro TTT in 2009 before the call came from Sky.

Sky: Possoni seems to have been signed as a domestique for the Giro and Vuelta which he has completed for both the years he was with Sky, but his best results were at the tricky Tour of Austria, where he was 8th in 2010 before improving to 7th in 2011.

Post-Sky: He returned back to old haunting ground Lampre in 2012, and as with the entirety of Lampre in 2012, wasn’t all that great.

Kjell Calstrom (FIN)

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Pre-Sky: Liqugas was the Finns home for 6 years, where his best result was 2nd on a stage of the Tour de France, although stages of Paris-Nice and various strong placings in top races were also to his credit.

Sky: Sky employed Calstrom exclusively as a domestique, and so his race opportunities were limted – indeed, the only times he was on the podium was a 2nd at the Finnish National Champs in 2010 and a win in 2011.

Post-Sky: Calstrom retired in 2012 when he could not find a new team after Sky didn’t offer him a new contract.

 

2012

With a successful 2012 behind them, Sky set about cleaning out the sprint part of their team as they concentrated fully on Grand Tours. Classics men were also ejected, with the likes of Thomas and Stannard instead relied upon for 2013.

Mark Cavendish (GBR)

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Pre-Sky: A world madison champion who found his way onto Team Sparkesse, Cavendish broke through when he got his staggiare contract with T-Mobile and beat Tom Boonen, who had continually bested him at the Tour of Britain, in Schidelprijs. Whilst his debut Tour, which people see to forget, didn’t go very well, with only one top ten for the T-Mobile man, in 2008 the newly renamed Columbia outfit hauled Cavendish to 4 stage wins, followed by 6 in 2009, 5 in 2010 and another 5 in 2011, to add to his wins in the Giro and Vuelta. 2011 brought the green jersey and the rainbow jersey, and with HTC folding, Sky seemed to be the natural place for the newly crowned world champion to go.

Sky: Cavendish had trouble getting the leadout to work, which caused a few crashes in Qatar and Oman, and though he won Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, it was arguable that the rest of the season was his least successful. Cavendish failed to achieve essentially all of his goals: he had a complete off day at Milan San-Remo, so out went the dream of winning that in the rainbow jersey, he missed the Giro’s points jersey, which would have completed the set, by a single point, having been knocked off by Roberto Ferrari and beaten by Andrea Guardini, then missed out on the Tour Green jersey when the team turned its attentions to the GC before the GB team couldn’t pull back the break for him to win the Olympic road race. Still, 6 grand Tour stage wins was an excellent output, but Cavendish was disappointing that Wiggins and Froome had had their end of the bargain kept, but not him.

Post-Sky: So Cavendish will move to OPQS, where he might have to have a argument with Boonen over San Remo and maybe Ghent Whevelghem, but the Tour teams will be built around him now OPQS have seemingly given up trying to win the Tour.

Alex Dowsett (GBR)

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Pre-Sky: The European U23 TT champion at Trek-Livestrong, Dowsett won the majority of the U23/Junior categories in Britain, before turning professional with Sky in 2011 – all the more impressive given he is a haemophilliac.

Sky: Dowsett won the British national time trial championship for both of his years with Sky, as well as being 3rd in the Chrono des Nations. He was also an impressive 8th in the Worlds TT in 2012 and has a stage of the Tour if Britain to his name.

Post-Sky: He moves to Movistar, who he hopes will give him more opportunities to ride bigger races then Sky, perhaps even the Tour de France given the Team Time Trial. Probably a wise move – he wasn’t going anywhere with Sky to be honest.

Thomas Lofkvist (SWE)

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Pre-Sky: Hyped as a possible Tour winner after winning Circuit de le Sarth aged 20 and finishing 2nd in the Tour Avenir before debuting in the Tour at 21, Lofkvist’s time at FDJ seemed to stall as he ‘failed’ to live up to the expectations placed on him. In 2008 he left for Columbia, and seemed to be back on the right track, finishing 3rd in Tirreno Adriatico and 5th in the Tour de Suisse before wearing the Tour de France white jersey. The next year, he wore the Giros leaders jersey before Sky knocked at his door.

Sky: Unfortunately, Lofkvist was almost surplus to requirements immediately, as whilst he had been promised a leadership role at the Tour de France, Sky promptly signed Bradley Wiggins and made overtures about ‘co-leaders’ when everyone knew Lofkvist was being demoted.  Ironically, whilst Wiggins struggled round to 24th, Lofkvist was 16th in the Tour. He wasn’t picked for the Tour in 2011 though, finishing 20th in the uber hard Giro of that year, and again being demoted to domestique behind Wiggins and Froome at the Vuelta. He wasn’t selected for nay grand tours in 2012 though, so was on the way out.

Post-Sky: He’s off to the new IAM Cycling project in Switzerland with Heinrich Haussler and co, which is a step down seemingly.

Jeremy Hunt (GBR)

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Pre-Sky: Hunt rode for a variety of teams including Credit Agricole before moving to the successful but short lived Cervelo test team, where he continued his role leading out Thor Hushovd. He had however started his career at Banesto with Miguel Indurain, and had notched up a significant number of victories in doing so. His most impressive victory was the GP Ouest Plouay in 2002.

Sky: Brought into Sky for 2011, Hunt rode for them for two years as a domestique, but made strong classics performances with 3rd in Kuurne Brussels Kuurne and 10th in Ghent Whevelghem,

Post-Sky: Sky essentially forced him out to make room for other riders, and so Hunt retired at the age of 37 at the end of the 2011 season. He now helps coach Team GB.

Juan Antonio Flecha (SPA)

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Pre-Sky: Part of the Rabobank Spaniard clique, Flecha, who was born in Argentina, had won a Tour de France stage with Banesto, giving his ‘archer’ celebration given his name means ‘archer’. He was 2nd in the 2008 Paris Roubaix as well.

Sky: Became Sky’s go to man for high classics placings, winning Het Niewsblad in 2010 and managing 3rd at Paris-Roubaix the same year. He has been in the top ten of the race since then, and the podium of Het Niewsblad from 2010-12.

Post-Sky: Seemingly wanting to concentrate on their young Brits, Sky let Flecha go to Vacansoleil, and on doing so let one of the key parts of their initial identity go with it.

Davide Appollonio (ITA)

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Pre-Sky: Turned professional with Cervelo test team and impressed as a sprinter in 2010.

Sky: Almost beat Cavendish in the Giro in 2011, and won a stage in the Tour of Luxembourg the same year. Was never getting a look in once Cavendish arrived in 2012 though,  despite getting plenty of podiums.

Post-Sky: Oddly, for an Italian, he’s gone to a French team, AG2r, who have bought a raft of fastmen for 2013.

Lars Petter Nordhaug (NOR)

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Pre-Sky: Like Boassen Hagen, Nordhaug had been a powerhouse at Maxbo Bianchi for four years before he moved to Sky to turn professional.

Sky: A domestique for two years, 2012 saw Nordhaug emerge as a strong new face for the future. He won the GP Montreal and the Trofea Deia in Mallorca as well as a stage of the Tour of Denmark, as well as a 4th place in the Criterium international. Criminally, they let him go to Rabobank.

Post-Sky: Whislt Rabobank’s history is hazy past their year as a ‘white label’ team, Nordhaug should have little problems getting a contract if his 2012 is anything to go by.

Michael Barry (CAN)

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Pre-Sky: Rode for US Postal and took copious amounts of drugs according to his testimony. The went to T-Mobile in 2007 and talked about being clean and a ‘drug free sport.’ Hmm. Wrote a book about how no doping went on at US Postal.

Sky: Got to ride the Tour de France to much fanfare in 2010 despite 13 years as a professional. Everyone felt sorry that he’d never had the opportunity, and he was a clean rider after all…

Post-Sky: Retired after admitting drug use at US Postal. Maybe he’ll write some more books about hypocrisy.

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