Team Sky’s fate is in Sir Dave Brailsford’s mad hands
That image above depicts one of Sir Dave Brailsford’s very many crazy hand gestures. These days Sir Dave’s about 50 per cent the boss of a cycling team and 50 per cent mime.
“Mime is money” according to Billy Crystal’s character in Spinal Tap – and that’s just as well because Brailsford currently needs to unearth £34m or more.
Late last year, Sky (the broadcasting company) announced that they didn’t want to sponsor Team Sky (the lads on bikes) any more. It was nothing to do with the blurry medicine, they said. They’d simply achieved all that they wanted to achieve, so bye, good luck.
Many people were delighted at this news, in large part because the team had at one point last season won four Grand Tours on the bounce, and that’s slightly more boring than impressive when the team in question benefits from a budget that’s significantly larger than any of its rivals.
Sir Dave’s not cowed by these sorts of things though. Sir Dave’s the kind of mad bastard who screams the word ‘challenge’ with a huge grin plastered across his face. Sir Dave loves a challenge, whether it’s working out how to win a Grand Tour or working out how to drum up tens of millions of pounds of sponsorship money.
There have been a couple of rumours. One involved the improbably named Colombian firm, Ecopetrol. The latest one involves taxphobic Brexiter Sir Jim Ratcliffe – Britain’s richest man – who recently moved to Monaco where a whole bunch of Team Sky’s riders also live. (Good roads, you see. Or something.)
Quite understandably, Brailsford’s plan is to try and get someone to cover the whole of the team’s whopping budget. Personally, I was rather hoping that he’d muster maybe half that amount and the team could continue but without the luxury of having former world champions on bottle-carrying duty.
Anyway, watch this space. Or better yet watch a more reliably updated space. They reckon they’re going to announce something before the Giro d’Italia in May.
The season is, technically, underway. There have been a couple of stage races that are nominally part of the WorldTour (no space) but being as the UCI have expanded the calendar, each now seems fractionally less important than it was and I can’t even be bothered copying the results from Wikipedia for you.
There has also been a one-day race of semi-importance: Omloop het Nieuwsblad, the first big cobbled appointment of the year. (See here for my list of fully-important races.)
This year’s Omloop was most notable for the fact that the breakaway from the women’s race caught the men’s race, even though they’d started ten minutes later. The women’s race was ‘neutralised’ for a bit to resolve this, which seems wholly unsatisfactory.
Zdenek Stybar won the men’s race, which is part of the WorldTour (no space). Chantal Blaak won the women’s race, which isn’t part of the Women’s WorldTour (just the one space).
The Women’s WorldTour starts with Strade Bianche – the Italian race with the white gravel roads – on Saturday. The first big race from this site’s perspective will be Milan-San Remo on March 23.