In the wake of Team Sky’s disastrous spring classics campaign, critics were quick to blame Sky’s decision to train on the island of Tenerife instead of racing.
With zero success in the recent Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, several riders from Sky have now admitted the novel approach might have been a huge error.
“We chose the wrong island and we paid the price,” said Ian Stannard. “The stage race guys had Tenerife — that was their island. We should have trained on Gran Canaria and had our own island.”
In imitating the race-specific training of Sky’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, the classics squad was riding into new territory. They skipped the traditional races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatic in favor of focused work on the Spanish Island.
Geraint Thomas, who crashed out of contention in both Flanders and Roubaix, was disappointed with the choice of Tenerife. “Obviously, it wasn’t the right island for us. It just threw off our balance, geographically speaking, and we never quite got our bearings,” said Thomas. “It was very very frustrating.”
Tim Kerrison, the director of sports science at Sky, and the architect of the Tenerife plan, defended the island. “People can say what they like, I looked at the map and put my finger down on Tenerife. It worked for Brad and it would have worked for Geraint if he hadn’t crashed so much,” said Kerrison. “It was the right plan and the right island.”
Road captain Bernhard Eisel refused to be drawn into the arguments over which island was correct. “Look, Tenerife was cool and we did some fantastic training. My issue was the food at the hotel. Eddy and I both got sick so maybe it was the right island but wrong food.”
Veteran rider Matthew Hayman, who was out front in the early stages of Paris-Roubaix, was philosophical about the Tenerife debate. “Nobody died, okay? I wanted Santa Cruz De La Palma but I got voted down. Was it the wrong island? Yeah, maybe.”
In the end, perception might be strong than reality. “Everywhere we went on Tenerife, people were like, ‘Are you Bradley Wiggins, are you Froome? You guys won the Tour de France, right?’ It was a bit demoralizing because we couldn’t establish our own identity,” said Thomas. “We really needed our own island.”
However, team manager David Brailsford was quick to end any discussion of a second, classics-specific island. “The boys are frustrated, things didn’t go our way. But let’s not throw the island out with the bathwater,” said Brailsford. “We’re got plenty of resources at Sky but we have to be realistic. We’re not doing two islands.”