Tour Guide Flashback – Team Sky Pages (2011)

RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.

In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Sky team from the 2011 Tour preview.

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Flashback: 2011 – Team Sky Pages

“Just be your best…” But also aim to improve!

>“Eddy is one of the most amazing athletes that I’ve ever come across,” said David Brailsford about Boasson Hagen minutes before the start of Sky’s first Tour de France last year. The team principal has worked with very gifted cyclists but his admiration of his young Norwegian recruit suggests that the Brit believes anything is possible from the 24-year-old. “He’s an interesting blend, a super nice kid with genuine family values. He’s kind and considerate. He’s quiet. He doesn’t flap or worry. Equally there’s a sternness inside of him. He’s driven. There’s a winner in there. Put him on a bike and he’s a real racer!”

Given this appraisal, you’d think Boasson Hagen had plenty of pressure in his Tour debut. He didn’t. It was Bradley Wiggins who had to carry all the stress, not necessarily from his team but from the insatiable British media, including the sponsor.

Brailsford hoped for a good showing in 2010 but it all came crumbling down after the first few mountains: the leader was Wiggins and he simply didn’t cope. He had his theories but he didn’t try to hide his frustration. “To be honest,” he said after stage 14, “I’m f***ed! I’ve got nothing. I just don’t have the form, it’s as simple as that. So I’m just battling on…

“I haven’t got it. I’m trying hard [but] I just feel consistently mediocre… It’s a huge learning curve and this is the first time I’ve tackled it full-on. Last year was a bit of a fluke.”

This is a team that does nothing by halves. It arrived on the scene full of hope, energy, ambition and a roster of superstars. But the first Tour passed by with a bit of a fizz. It started with a buzz and ‘Eddy’ picked up a pair of third places in sprints during the opening week, but that was as good as it got.

By the second rest day, Brailsford and co had already begun to think about how to improve for this year. One step was to enlist more support for Wiggins who, in 2009, became the best placed British rider ever at the Tour when he finished fourth. Rigoberto Uran, Xabier Zandio and Michael Rogers received the call-up. They are likely to be part of the selection in July.

When you consider their pedigree, mix it with the likes of Geraint Thomas – who was third in the cobbled stage last year and spent some time in the white jersey – you realise that Sky has a lot to offer. And this time a bit more pressure might be applied. Brailsford wants results, but not at any cost – he was adamant about this in Rotterdam. “[Eddy] has that brilliance and it’s a matter of building on it,” said the team boss last July. “He may well come back and win this race overall… we’ve just got to let him develop at his own pace and put no expectation on him. All we ask is, ‘Edvald, just be your best’.”

A year on, a few lessons learned, a bolstered roster, a route that includes a team time trial, and a few other elements, mean that the Tour in 2011 should be better for Sky than it was one year ago. Exactly how good is what we want to know.

by Rob Arnold

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Author: design@ride

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