Who are the sponsor? Sky are a TV broadcaster and media services provider under the umbrella News Corporation company.
2012 Ranking: 1st.
Past Stars: Mark Cavendish, Michael Rodgers, Lars Peter Nordhaug, Russell Downing
Selected Team Palmares: 1st, 2012 Tour de France, 2012 Tour of Romandie, 2011+2012 Dauphine Libere, 2012 Paris-Nice, Olympic Time Trial (all Bradley Wiggins), Stages, Tour de France, (2012 x6, Bradley Wiggins x2, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish x 3, 2011×2, Edvald Boassen Hagen x 2), Stage, Giro d’Italia 2010 (Bradley Wiggins) Stage, Vuelta a Espana 2011 (Chris Froome)
Brief Team History: Formed in 2010 as a team with the aim to win the Tour de France in 5 years with a British rider, the last part of which they quietly dropped before miraculously bringing it back in July 2012 (wonder why), they were scoffed at for such an outrageous statement, as well as their perceived arrogance and flashy kit which bombed somewhat in their first year, as star signing Bradley Wiggins, who they’d hauled away from Garmin ‘Wigan’ Transitions to join ‘Manchester United’ Sky could only manage 24th at the Tour despite being 4th the year before. However, they steadily improved, winning their first stages at the Tour in 2011 after Wiggins crashed out, before Froome emerged at the Vuelta to beat Wiggins to second on the podium, actually completing the course faster than winner Juan Jose Cobo but losing out thanks to bonus seconds they’d all known about when they race began.
Last year: They thus moved into 2012 with a raft of new signings, dubbed, ‘financial doping’ by other teams, and steamrollered every stage race they could get their hands on, placing two men on the top of the Tour podium as they completed their Tour winning goal with two years to spare and a back up rider on the 2nd step. The sour points where Mark Cavendish, who was obviously promised much but given little in return in his perhaps only career year in the rainbow jersey, and the whiff od scandal that was blown out of proportion as the team let go anyone who had doping connections in line with their new ‘zero tolerance’ policy in the fallout of the USADA affair.
Transfer dealings: Sky have obviously lost Mark Cavendish, but given their increased emphasis on Stage races and plans to win all three Grand Tours, this isn’t to be seen as such a big deal. They have lost a key rider in Michael Rodgers however, as well as good leaders in Bobby Julich and Steven de Jongh in the management department. They have recruited some scarily powerful climbers mind, with Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez and Dario Cataldo, plus stoked up their youth supplies with young riders poached from Bontrager-Livestrong. Add to that Jonathan Tiernan-Locke and they still have most bases covered, as long as they can develop and refine their signings accordingly, especially in the classics, where the loss of Juan Antonio Flecha and up and coming Lars Peter Nordhaug has left the British riders to take the strain.
Who are the star riders? It must be a lovely problem to have when you have the Tour de France defending champion, Bradley Wiggins, and the 2nd place finisher, Chris Froome, on the same team. Their supporting cast of characters included the powerful Edvald Boassen Hagen, who seems misused as a simple domestique at Sky given his potential to win so many races. Other super domestiques include Richie Porte, Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao, with Uran in particular looking like someone who could podium in a grand tour fairly quickly. For the classics, aside from the aforementioned Norwegian, Sky have a British core of Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift to help Bernard Eisel, who didn’t jump ship with Cav, and will be hoping to step up after 3 years of classics disappointment.
Fashion police: Quite possibly the biggest news story of January was the unveiling of Sky’s new kit, which is now made by Rapha after three years with Adidas. The eye wateringly high prices must be to do with quality, as it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff – it’s black with a blue band on the arm. Still, its sleek, sophisticated and will stand out when paired with the mirror image shorts, although they may regret the lack of a white back like last year if the sun comes out in July.
What are their targets? Stage races are Sky’s new hunting ground, first and foremost to defend the Tour de France with Froome. Or Wiggins. Or both. We don’t know at the minute because they keep sending verbal bards at one another and Brailsford seems keener to try and play it all down. Wiggins is also going to the Giro to win, which is odd as Uran is hoping to get on the podium there as well. No one seems to want to do the Vuelta. Elsewhere, Sky will want to see their classics squad deliver some better results then the previous few years, but it would perhaps be wise to let Boassen Hagen off his Wiggins leash if they want this.
What are they likely to achieve? Wiggins will have short odds on the Giro, although the list of talented riders signing on to ride it increases every week, which combined with the races inherent unpredictability and difficulty compared to the Tour, could make it tricky for him. At the very least, he should complete his set of grand Tour podiums however. He and Froome wont have to worry about who is going to lead at the Tour because they’re probably not going to win it anyway – Froome has the better chance given the route but its men like Contador, Rodriguez and a rejuvinated Schleck who will have the better chances. Boassen Hagen will keep ticking the victory clock along, and Ian Stannard will win something worthwhile to show what a beast he is.
Components: Sky continue to ride Pinarello Dogmas, with Shimano DI2 and pro components. The kit is now made and designed by Rapha.
The Big Question(s): Can Froome and Wiggins coexist at the same team, or are they setting themselves up for an implosion and acrimonious split for 2014?