Sky promises “weak team” for Vuelta a Espana.
Responding to critics who complained about the boring dominance of Team Sky in the Tour de France, the team promises to bring a second rate squad to the Spanish grand tour.
While Tour winner Chris Froome will attempt to win his second grand tour of the year, team manager David Brailsford says they will not stack the deck against the other contenders. Despite a 35 million euro budget that dwarfs the other teams, Sky will not use all those competitive advantages to instantly crush the hopes of all Froome’s rivals.
“We’re going to give the other teams a fighting chance this time,” said Brailsford. “No Poels, no Landa, no Nieve, no Thomas. We’ll scrape the bottom of the Sky barrel and see who is off-form or coming back from injury and put them with Chris. Our goal is to pretend we’re Cofidis or some grab-bag Continental team just happy to be in the race.”
In an attempt at introducing some parity to the Vuelta, Sky is considering all sorts of efforts to lower performance. Management is detaining things such as no fancy Sky bus, skipping post stage massages and just eating at whatever fast food restaurant they can find each day after the stage.
“We’re looking for those marginal losses where we can depress the athletic abilities of our riders and give some measure of inspiration to Chris’s rivals. We’re not just this massive budget behemoth that crushes everyone in sight and leaves them dead on the side of the road,” said Brailsford. “This is going to be a wide-open Vuelta.”
There may also be other factors driving this Sky-lite approach to the Spanish grand Tour. “We’ve won three tours with Chris and one with Brad. So it’s all getting a bit boring for us, too. So we’re looking to spice things up, give ourselves a new challenge,” said Brailsford. “I mean, what if we make it harder on ourselves?”
The team is also exploring several financial arrangements and incentives to encourage a more aggressive, equally matched battle. “We’re thinking about possible monetary grants to other squads to help them hire stronger riders,” said Sky team economist Malcolm Farthing. “It’s like when when rich countries loan third world countries money to develop their economy. If you think about it, a team like Caja Rural – Saguaros RGA or Fortune Vital Concept is the cycling version of Zimbabwe — very few resources.
The Sky Lending program may also include in-race cash incentives to inspire other riders to attack. “Really, it’s just an extension of the race primes. We’re Sky and with our impressive budget, it’s up to use to animate the race in any way we can,” said Farthing. “So what if we say, hey Thibaut Pinot or Bauke Mollema, we’ll give you 10,000 euro if you launch at attack on the penultimate climb. It’s an idea we’r considering.”
For his part, Sky captain Chris Froome is all for the new approach. “I won the tour jogging up Ventoux. Nobody attacked me the last two weeks of the Tour. I could have won by ten minutes if I wanted,” said Froome. “I feel sorry for the other teams, we’r intimidating. So let’s see what we can do to shake things up a bit.”
The new Sky program will be on display at the Vuelta a Espana. David Brailsford indicated that the team is already shuffling the roster in an attempt to water down the performance level. “I’m thinking about bring eight stagiares for Chris. We’re talking to the UCI about that. It might be possible and image that — we win the tour with Chris and eight nobodies.: