Sky’s Nathan Earle. A touchy-feely calendar.

Earle at Tour of California. photo Twisted Spke

Earle at Tour of California. photo Twisted Spke

Is Team Sky using the Brad Wiggins methodology for setting up race calendars for the team?

When you think Sky, you think top down, benevolent dictators, sports science, by the numbers, data driven, everything quantified. As in, we decided you’re doing these races in March and these races in July. Now get on the Death Star bus and find your assigned seat and eat the measured portion of recovery food we put in your designer trough.

You figure there’s a well-paid specialist with the title Sky Calendar Optimization Coordinator. Somebody who details the exact movements of each rider at any moment with a GPS that’s embedded in their skin. It’s entirely possible — even if muck-raking investigative journalist David Walsh missed that in his time with the team.

But maybe we’re wrong about Sky here at Twisted Spoke. In reading the latest interview with Neo-Pro Nathan Earle of Australian, he says that Sky is taking a more touchy-feely method. “The team doesn’t just say this is what we’re doing. They’re always asking riders how they feel, what they want to do, what is going to motivate them,” says Earle. “Their view is that there is no point having all of these world class riders if they’re not motivated or they’re not doing what they want to be doing.”

That reminds us of Bradley Wiggins’ personal thrills calendar he put together to keep himself motivated this season. One minute he was bulking up for a shot at the Hell of the North, Paris Roubaix (and placing an impressive 7th place) then he was off to the Tour of California stage race, crushing the time trial and winning the overall like it was the 2012 Tour de France all over again.

Sky let Wiggo be Wiggo and there’s an argument that this worked out just dandy for Sky. While Froome did manage second place in his Tour revenge Vuelta a Espana win, it was Wiggins who provided a good deal of the headlines — all the way to the Worlds where he beat Tony Martin to win the championship jersey.

Of course, there was also an eclectic element to Wiggins’ calendar selections in July and August — defined mostly by the races left over after Froome kicked him off the Tour and Vuelta roster. Nevertheless, Sky worked to accommodate Wiggins’ desire to do whatever race caught his fantasy in what was billed as a swan song, goodbye year.

Earle’s description petty much reads as a rationale for Wiggins’ calendar choices: “They want to make sure that everyone is happy and everyone is getting a good mix of stuff to keep the motivation up, and if the motivation is up then the results start coming.”

We will see how well that works this coming year for small fish workers like Nathan Earle and American Ian Boswell and a star like Richie Porte who had both his Giro d’Italia and Tour opportunities destroyed by illness and injury. Maybe even workhorse Geraint Thomas will have more freedom to pick and choice — he seems thrown into every race Sky does and fatigue has been setting in.

Wiggins is on his way out of Sky and back to the track. But perhaps he’s leaving a mark on the team in terms of accommodating personal choice.

 

 

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