In an unprecedented move that once again calls into question the competitive balance between Team Sky and the rest of the WorldTour teams, the British squad has purchased a controlling interest in the Giro d’Italia.
Terms of the financial arrangement have yet to be announced, but it’s understood that Sky UK Limited has purchased a 51% ownership stake from Giro organizer RCS sports. This effectively gives the team of Chris Froome yet another unique advantage in his attempt to win both the Giro and a record-tying 5th Tour de France victory.
“Oh yeah, man, David Brailsford ain’t taking no chances in trying to get Froomey the win,” said former Sky mechanic and amateur provocateur Nigel Rummer. “Suppose Froome crashes on a snowy decent in the Dolomites? Sky just neutralizes the stage, penalizes all his rivals five minutes and gives Froome the victory. They control the race, literally. It’s brilliant.”
While the team has popularized the concept of marginal gains, it’s the massive gains that anger their competitors. Sky’s operating budget is two to three times the size of most of the World Tour squads — represents a unfair competitive advantage. Now, with the purchase of the Giro d’Italia, Sky will have the strongest team in the race and ownership of the race itself.
Many cycling observers were quick to condemn the latest action. “Why not just give them the maglia rosa right now? Why even bother with the race?” asks Belgian journalist Moots van der jokken. “Is this sporting, is this a level playing field? This is cycling at two budgets. It’s absurd, a travesty.”
However, a spokesman for Sky believes that buying the Giro d’Italia is just a natural extension of the team’s insistence of being the best. “We want the best riders, the best food, the best hotels and towels and leg rubs. Owning the Giro gives us the best shot at winning another grand tour,” said Peter Fibber, a performance metrics analyst at Sky. “I mean, this isn’t communism, right? If we have the money, we can buy anything we want. Everybody else should just stop whining.”
Mauro Vegni, the head of the Giro d’Italia, discounted the critics who claim that Sky has bought influence in the race. “I flatly deny this. Look, we took 10 million from Israel to give them the first three beautiful days of the Giro. So we take some more money from Sky. Money is good, we like money.”
Some experts worry that this is just the tip of the iceberg for Sky’s ambitions. “What’s to stop them from buying ASO and the Tour de France? They’ve been awful in Paris Roubaix and Flanders — what happens if they just buy those race and hand Ian Stannard two monuments? wonders Fabio Fakenelli, a former UCI commissaire. “Where does this greed end?”
And for those who wonder if this story is true, the answer is no. Just a bit of amusing fabrication from Twisted Spoke. But given the financial imbalances in pro cycling, admit that it’s almost believable.