2014 Team Previews: Sky

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Who are the sponsor? Sky are a TV broadcaster and media services provider under the umbrella News Corporation company.

Nationality:  British.

2013 Ranking: 2nd.

Past Stars: Mark Cavendish, Michael Rodgers, Lars Peter Nordhaug, Russell Downing, Rigoberto Uran, Simon Gerrans, Thomas Lokvist.

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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 Froomex4, Mark Cavendish x 3, 2011×2, Edvald Boassen Hagen x 2), Stage, Giro d’Italia 2010 (Bradley Wiggins) Stage, Vuelta a Espana 2011, 1st, 2013 Tour de France, 1st, 2013 Dauphine, 1st, 2013 Tour of Romandie, 1st, Criterium International (all Chris Froome), 1st, Paris-Nice 2013 (Richie Porte)

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. Wiggins won the Tour in 2012, before setting his sights on, depending on who you believe the Giro, the Tour, or both, or even the Vuelta as well. Abandoned the Giro and was injured for the Tour leaving Froome a clear path to a second team win.

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Last year:  For Wiggins 2012, replace with Froome 2013 – the Kenyan-Brit repeated his predecessors technique of hoovering up stage races, winning the Tour of Oman, the Tour of Romandie and the Dauphine before landing the Centenary Tour as well as three stage wins, including the prestigous Mont Ventoux triumph. The only niggles in Froome’s year was a loss to Nibali at Tirreno Adriatico, the constant drone of doping and cheating allegations, not helped by taking a gel outside the feed zone on Alpe d’Huez, plus the disappointing British performance at the Worlds. Wiggins spent the year talking the talk but not walking the walk, abandoning the Giro to leave Rigoberto Uran to come 2nd in the race and win a stage. Won the Tour of Britain on a route made for him. The classics campaign failed horribly, with a much published training plan instead of the traditional warm up races didn’t pay off, and aside from Ian Stannard’s performance at Milan San Remo, there was little to write home about. It was all about the Grand Tours though, where Sky  won six stages across all three including the TTT in the Giro, and of course the Tour is the pinnacle that made the season again.

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Transfer dealings: No marquee riders to add, although the addition of Michael Nieve should add some more GC power. Phillip Deignan comes in in a similar role, as does Tasmanian Nathan Earle, plus brother of Henao Sebastian is added as another Colombian for the World Tour ranks, hoping to offset the loss of Rigoberto Uran to OPQS. Hayman is a loss for the classics squad, which looks weaker then it ever has.

Who are the star riders? A team in a unique position of having two Tour de France winners in the team in Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, a position last held by Astana in 2009. Knocking on the GC door hoping to take a Grand Tour of his own is Richie Porte, and the team have young Colombian Sergio Henao as another GC hope. Super domestiques abound in the form of Vasil Kiryenka and Kanstantin Sioutsou, and then the classics boys are led by the under appreciated (by the team) Edvald Boassen Hagen and Bernard Eisel, with a British contingent of Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe.

Fashion police: For a team that has essentially kept the same kit except for moving riders names to the sleeves and adding lots of 21st Century Fox logos as well as that of Jaguar, Sky’s kit has been generating plenty headlines, mainly due to their someone sado-machoisitc looking mesh skin suit, which has a very small ‘modesty panel’ which says alot about what exactly the monstrosity is. Being imitated alot now, which hopefully means they’ll change it to something more obvious next year. Reverse the black and white and it would be fantastic.

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What are their targets? Grand Tours are what Sky want, and like last year, they’re targeting two: the Giro with Porte and the Tour with Froome, especially as it starts in Britain. If the fields are as they are currently predicted, Froome should have the easier job here. Otherwise, its clean up the stage races and hope the Classics boys can actually deliver. Other then that, Wiggins is their floating wild card – he is supposedly aiming for the Tour of California in May, but an Hour record attempt and Paris Roubaix have been dreamt up as targets for him. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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What are they likely to achieve? The Giro will be tricky, although Porte should have an excellent chance of getting on the podium. If Froome doesn’t get on the Tour podium, it will be a big shock – only Contador and Nibali look like real challengers after all. Expect them to win the Dauphine and the like though, but the classics men will have to rely on luck, as aside from the increasingly up in the air Milan San Remo, which Froome is supposedly targeting, they don’t look like having the fire power to triumph. It would be nice to see Boassen Hagen used more as he was in 2008-9 though.

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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): Do Sky buses roll onto the Champs Elysees in threes? Just what are the classics team up to?

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