Team Sky flash the cash and buy in some riding talent

A lot of cycling teams shop at Aldi or Lidl. They look to pick up high quality European riders at surprisingly affordable prices. Team Sky aren’t bargain hunters. They park their SUV in the mother and child spot at Waitrose and then buy whatever the hell they feel like, regardless of cost.

Who’s in?

The headline name is Nicolas Roche, the surprisingly French Irishman. Unlike many people, I’m not actually anti Team Sky and would in fact like it if they made it a bit easier for me to support them. As such, I’m pleased with their signing of Roche. I rather like him because he has a sense of humour and unusually modest ambitions for a professional sportsman.

A lot of news reports have highlighted how he could be a team leader. I’ve heard him say in interviews that a Tour de France win would be beyond him, but that he thinks he could make the top ten. This doesn’t seem a particularly Team Sky racing attitude and the real reason for his signing lies in something he said about joining his previous team:

“I always said one of the reasons I joined Saxo was because I wanted to one day ride for someone who was good enough to win the Tour.”

If Sky have signed a potential team leader, then it’s King Leopold (Leopold Konig). If Roche has two top ten finishes from 13 Grand Tours, Konig has two from two, including seventh in this year’s Tour de France while riding for NetApp-Endura. In the supermarket analogy, NetApp-Endura use the corner shop and got lucky the day they picked up Konig.

Konig can win mountain stages and came fifth in the final time trial in this year’s Tour. At 26, he is one of the most promising Grand Tour contenders around. A stronger team and another year of training could see him right up there in the Giro or Vuelta, although he’ll be a Froome workhorse if he gets to rideĀ  the Tour.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how Team Sky aren’t British, but there are faint signs that they’re at least still trying in the signing of Andy Fenn. Fenn has been at Omega Pharma-Quick Step until now and like most of that team, he’s a big guy suited to the brutal Belgian races of early spring. He might end up doing a bit of the donkey work on flat days in the Tour de France as well.

In a sense, Fenn is a replacement for Edvald Boasson Hagen who’s joining the African pro team, MTN-Qhubeka. However, there’s also the fact that the team’s British identity is likely to be further diminished by the pseudo-departure of that most British of riders, Bradley Wiggins. The beardy knight will ride the first half of the season for Sky before switching to a Sky development squad which will ride under a different name. This will allow him to do a fairly bare bones road programme to support his new primary focus, which is the track.

Anyone else?

Yes. They’ve also signed Wouter Poels and Lars Petter Nordhaug.

Poels is a really solid generic stage racer – the kind of guy who finishes 10th in the Tour of the Basque country. The Dutchman is talented and may progress further, but he’ll be a worker at Sky, not a leader.

Lars Petter Nordhaug – who seems to be one of those people who is always referred to by his full name – is perhaps best known for having already spent three years riding for Sky prior to having a couple of years at Belkin. Last time he was at the team, the Norwegian finished sixth in the Tour of the Basque country.