Sky To Leave Professional Cycling – The End Of An Era?


– Today, the future of
Team Sky was cast in doubt. Broadcaster Sky, the team’s
main sponsor since its inception in 2010, will end their
sponsorship by the end of 2019. Is this the end of an era? We’re gonna look back at the
story of the team so far. Team Sky became a reality in 2009, ready to launch the following year. At the helm, British cycling
performance director, Dave Brailsford, the man
behind Great Britain’s rise to the top of the track cycling world. Their goal? To win the Tour de France with a British rider within five years. A lofty ambition, one that
few thought was achievable, and with good reason. The best British finisher in the Tour had been Robert Miller in 1984. But then, the very same
year that the sponsor were put in place,
Bradley Wiggins emulated that result, later promoted to third after disqualification of Lance Armstrong. Wiggins was top of Brailsford’s hit list. The problem? He was still under contract
with Team Garmin Slipstream. Lengthy and sometimes
messy negotiations ensued, but by December, Sky Pro
Cycling had their man. On the fifth of January,
the team was presented to the world at the
Millbank Tower in London. At that launch, Wiggins,
Edvald Boasson Hagen, Thomas Lovkvist, Simon Gerrans, and the relatively unknown Chris Froome, were presented to the media, and so too was the
concept of marginal gains. The thin blue line tracing
down the team’s jersey representing the small margins
between winning and losing. Part of those marginal
gains, and also presented at the launch, was their team bus, like nothing that previously been seen in the world of professional cycling. It was state-of-the-art, aimed at improving the comfort
and recovery of the riders, later dubbed the Death
Star by Dave Miller. The picture that was
painted was very clear. Sky Pro Cycling would not be constrained by the traditions of cycling. They were here to do things
better and differently. And that didn’t go down too
well with traditionalists within the sport who
felt that the insinuation was that tried and tested
methods were wrong. And to be fair, initially, it didn’t look as though Sky’s theories were any better. The core principles that
brought enormous success in the verge row didn’t appear
to be transferring too well to the less quantifiable
world of road racing. I mean, it wasn’t a
bad start by any means. They had an early stage winner in the Tour Down Under with
Chris Sutton, followed up by with Juan Antonio Fletcher, plus a stint in the pink jersey after
winning the opening time trial for Bradley Wiggins at the Giro d’Italia. By the Tour de France, which
was basically their raise on Detra, was a disaster. Wiggins struggled,
clearly not in the shape that he had been in the previous year and it caused tensions within the team. I remember one of the
stage in the last week, I asked Serge Pahwels
how it was in Team Sky and I will never forget his reply. ‘If they could reinvent water,
they would,’ is what he said. 2011 did look better. Wiggins convincingly won
the Criterium du Dauphine and the national championships,
but then disaster struck in the first week of the
tour where he crashed, a broken collarbone
forcing him to abandon. Questions were being
asked then as to whether or not they’d win the Tour at all, let alone within five
years with a British rider. But in 2012, everything seemed to click. Tim Kerrison, who has got a background in coaching world class swimmers, has spent a year following the team simply to learn about the nuances of cycling, what training methods were
right and what were wrong. With Kerrison calling the training shots, it seemed as though Wiggins
couldn’t put a foot wrong. He won Pyranees, the Tour of Romandie, and the Criterum du Dauphine
just before the Tour. The script effectively had been written and not even a controversial tie by Chris Froome could
get in the way of Wiggins becoming the first Brit to
winning the Tour de France over three minutes ahead of his teammates. Then, just days later, he’d
win an Olympic gold medal in the time trial in London. That summer of 2012 was peak
euphoria for Sky Pro Cycling. They achieved their goal and as a result, cycling in Britain was booming. They put cycling on the map in a way that had never been seen before. That could easily have been
as good as it got for Sky, especially with Wiggins unable to reach those heady heights
again the following year. But with the emergence of Chris Froome as a Grand Tour contender, Brailsford has his team
switch their focus to him, and the rest is history. 2013 was the start of the Froome era. With the team built entirely around him, he won the 2013 Tour de France seemingly with ease over four minutes
ahead of Nairo Quintana and he would repeat that
success in 2015, 2016, and 2017, a year in which he also
won the Vuelta a Espana and then a few months
later, the Giro d’Italia. So by the end of May
this year, Chris Froome and Team Sky won all three
Grand Tours in a row. Well, that wasn’t without its controversy. More coming off from that later on. The icing on the cake, though, for the team had to have been
this year’s Tour de France win for Geraint Thomas. His win there marked their
sixth and seventh years at the Tour de France and
their eighth Grand Tour. Thomas is man who carved
out his cycling career through the British Cycling Track Program under the watchful eye
of coach Rod Ellingworth. Thomas is the poster
boy for British cycling and his success a testament to the effectiveness of their methods. So what are their methods? Well it’s easy to forget
now, but many of the things that we currently take for granted as being normal for professional cyclers were most certainly not
the norm before Team Sky. They call it marginal gains,
all those little actions that could add up to bridge
the gap from the capabilities of clean bike riders to a
level previously only seen by riders that had admitted to doping. At least that was the way
it was originally described. Team Sky left no stone unturned in their quest to create
the perfect athlete and the perfect environment for them. Their training camps, for
example, were on another level. In their second year and ever since then, they rented out an
entire hotel in Mallorca for the winter and allowed
riders to drop in as and when it suited their individual and bespoke training programs. There, the riders would
have absolutely everything they could possibly need from a team chef that took over the hotel
kitchen to physios, coaches, doctors, nutritionists,
mechanics, and even psychologists. But it would even be a place for planning the following season with Brailsford notoriously sharing stock performance meetings could last until the early hours of the morning. Then, there was the aforementioned
state-of-the-art team bus with a designated seat
for each rider, storage, USB charging ports, reclining chairs. I mean, the thing even
had a magic glass door. It was outside of this
incredible vehicle, also, that turbo trainers first
became a common sight at pro bike races outside of time trials as Sky introduces strict warm up and cool down protocols for all races. Just another marginal gain
introduced by Tim Kerrison. When people first saw that,
they scoffed, but there is not a team out there now that hasn’t
copied Sky in this regard. In fact, you will see it even replicated at the lower levels of the sport. They even carried nine mattresses
to races for the riders, ensuring every team member
would get a good night’s sleep at the races, also
helped by custom pillows and air conditioning units brought to their French hotel rooms each July. They then took rider
accommodation to another level by introducing RVs for their star riders, although the UCI did put a stop
to that one pretty quickly. Brailsford still does have his own though. Their style of racing,
while that hasn’t been to everyone’s taste, but there’s no doubt that it has been effective. They put a stranglehold on the mountains by signaling a high tempo
to discourage attacks. And if there is one,
they don’t often react, knowing that the likelihood is that it will be unsustainable. They have focused on
efficiency and control racing. It’s not always pretty or romantic, but it brings the results in. Sky have made the seemingly
unpredictable world of stage racing quantifiable just as British cycling did on the track. That said, you need the
best riders in the world to produce that sustainable power, and for that, you need a big budget. In 2010, the team made headlines for its apparently huge budget which subsequent accounts have revealed to be 14.6 million pounds, which was huge, possibly only rivaled by
the likes of Team Coticchia. The budgets were likely due to the way in which the team behind
the team personalized and revolutionized the
world of cycling teams to the public eye as well
as glamorizing cycling to sponsorship partners. Although not without literally blocking a few fans along the way with shields around the team bus, for instance. Besides that oversight, though, as the team’s results improved, the sponsorship money increased
and so did the signings. This correlates to the
first notably large jump in budget for the team. The 2012 season saw an increase of 28% from the previous year, up from
16.6 million pounds to 21.4. The budget did take a slight
dip from 2014 into 2015, but according to the inner ring site, this didn’t affect the
operation of the team, because the economical climate at the time and contracts in euros instead of pounds would make the budget stretch further. That outward trajectory
of budgets, though, return in 2016 when the increase was 27%, taking the team to over 31 million pounds which is also 42 million dollars. Winning 39 races that year, though, including the Tour de France,
the Criterium du Dauphine, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Pyranees, meant yet another increase in
title sponsorship for 2017. The sum? A walking 34 and
a half million pounds. An enormous budget, the
biggest ever seen in cycling, and money that is no doubt going to be hard to find elsewhere. The nine year journey so far has not been completely
plain sailing, though. Far from it. From their inception and rather
bullish recruitment process back in 2009, right through to winning this year’s Giro d’Italia, Team Sky have never been too far from
some sort of controversy. Controversy that began before even a single peddle had been turned in anger. The way they brashly went
about pulling Wiggins out of his existing contract
ruffled some feathers and he wasn’t the only one. Ben Swift had been in the same situation with the Russian squad Team Coticchia. Team Sky says that they’re still also, pretty clearly back in the day, a zero tolerance policy to doping. No one who had ever been convicted of a doping violation would
be employed by the team. Now with a statement like
that, you’ve got to back it up and it wasn’t long before
the press’s attention turned to doctor Geert Leinders, a man with a questionable past who has since been banned
for life from the sport. Leinders was let go in 2012 and the subsequent fallout
saw the exit of Sean Yates, Bobby Julich, and Steven
Duyung amongst others. And who remembers Jonathan Tiernan-Locke? Sky couldn’t have been quicker
in distancing themselves from him in 2013 as his
biological passport data threw out this new scandal for the British team. Sergio Henao was briefly sidelined for similar reasons a
couple of years later, although has since returned to the team. And then came the Jiffy
bag and TUE scandal. An anonymous tipoff to
the Daily Mail about a suspicious package that was supposedly for Bradley Wiggins delivered at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine had a TUE exposed by
Russian hackers Fancy Bears. But what was in the bag? Was it flumizole or marmalade sandwiches? I don’t think we are ever
going to really know. And then, just when you thought
any controversial behavior had run out of puff, Chris Froome returned an adverse analytical
finding for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelte de Espana. It was a case that
rumbled on beyond his win at the Giro this year and
although he was ultimately cleared by the UCI before the tour, it was more fuel to the
fire for anyone anti-Sky. So what happens now? Well, it’s pretty simple. Number one, they find a
very wealthy new backer and continue almost completely as normal. Number two, they find a backer but have a much reduced budget. Or number three, the team
doesn’t find new backers at all, and the likes of Chris
Froome, Gareth Thomas, and Egan Bernal will
have to find another team if anybody can afford them. So although it’s too early to tell, it could well be the end of an era. An era that has been as
precise as the team have been in their search for marginal gains, perfectly spanning an entire decade from the first day of 2010
to the last day of 2019. In that time, they’ve
won the tour six times. The Giro once, the Vuelta
once, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, __, Pyranees, ___, the Dauphine,
the list goes on and on. Have they changed cycling? Absolutely, the answer to that
question is a resounding yes. They’ve changed racing,
they’ve changed training, and above all, they’ve made cycling here in the UK mainstream and have
put thousands upon thousands of bums on bikes. Cycling is now, dare I
say it, a cool sport. It’s a popular sport. It’s a common sight seeing
not just a rider in Likra, but groups of cyclists out riding. People don’t do a double
take when somebody is sat in a cafe in Likra. They’ve appealed to and inspired
a generation of cyclists, some of whom will reach the pinnacle of the sport in the
not-too-distant future. So I, for one, think that
there are many reasons to applaud them and we at
GCN would actually like to say thank you to them for always welcoming
us whenever we’ve made a request to make a video. We wish you the best of
luck in finding a sponsor and of course for next season too. Now, you can, as ever,
let us know your thoughts on today’s news and of Team Sky themselves in the comment section down below. I’ve got no doubt there will
be some passionate debates. Now one of the videos
we’ve made with them was an insight into a day on
their Mullican training camp, so if you’d like to check out that, you can find it just down here.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. One of the side effects of being a cycling fan is teams coming and going. If they don't find deep pockets someone else would be foolish to not try to fill the void for the UK. Here in the US the post-Lance era has been pretty rocky I'd hate to see that travel across the pond.

  2. A Great video really good unbiased summary of the impact of Sky on the sport. As usual the knockers will applaud any demise, but you cannot really under estimate the impact they have had on cycling over the last decade. As you say all the teams and a considerable number of amateurs have taken on board Sky methods. My only real sadness is that if they do not find a sponsor the likes of Big G will not be able to fully reap the rewards that such a big budget team can give. Well done guys.

  3. Shout out to Dave B for all he's done for the sport in the UK. He's always happy to engage with fans. He's a big supporter of our local club and comes to events to spur people on.

  4. Nice Video, but for me it looks like they won a lot with TUEs. Normally i would think Asthma is a handicap but their TDF Winners all had Asthma and got TUE, Salbutamol…(not sure about Thomas).
    And also when Froome has a level higher than the TUE allows he stays in race and is oficially winner of the vuelta. He had an advantage at the day he was tested with such a high salbutamol level and therefore should be out of the race. Doesnt matter if he did it with purpose. Simply to have a fair race. SKY also didnt join MPCC – Movement for clean cycling. If they had, Wiggins, Froome and may be more would not have been allowed to race most of the time.
    But they made cycling great in britain and there should be another sponsor.

  5. It would be preferable for teams to have owners that have to sell the team (or their share of the team) as a going concern. It would give teams, both riders and staff, more stability. Sponsors having the ability to just end teams is very unstable.

  6. I always pulled for my country men while watching cycling, and I was also big on El Pistolero! But team Sky was a fantastic nemesis and rival. Sky looked out of this world and they got the results. The excitement and controversy they caused was great for cycling. I will miss the Death Star and the thier swagger! But their riders will seed the peloton and continue to rule the galaxy!

  7. Maybe Elon Musk will buy them… anyway, is the sponsorship drop in any way related to Brexit? According to economists, UK's economy will likely contract a lot, and they'll have even bigger costs when racing in Europe being based in the UK.

  8. id look forward to seeing Froome and Thomas really competing the tdf for opposing teams , and thankyou from me to team sky for helping to create a great team but bugger them for ruining my ability to watch sports for free on tv

  9. In sure they said it was a ten year project at its inception so I'm not surprised and they've got some great riders. I think they can win all the grand tours in 2019,⤴ GO TEAM SKY 🚵

  10. Nooooo! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be cycling now if it wasn't for team sky and that amazing year of 2012. Please please let's hope another backing can take on this team!

  11. have no idea how Wiggins won the TDF or even winning on on the track. He basically looks like a wet noodle (no offense) with zero muscle tone or posture. Compared to someone like Nino Schurter he looks like he wouldn't stand a chance (if they were even in the same sport to begin with).

  12. Brilliant update and delivery as usual from Dan ! Team Sky definitely changed the sport both professionally and in the mainstream…

  13. Football has no problem finding big sponsors, and cycling shouldn’t either. With the foremost advanced cycling squad on the planet, who would not want to put their brand across the chests of these young men?
    I can already see the campaigns “ Just like this squad, we take every concession to better serve you!”
    Great video as always.

  14. The French Eurosport reporters will now have to find someone else to wage a campagne of hate and insinuation. I doubt they will find a similar budget and Brailsford will not continue if he cannot keep most of the team together I. E. Cannot pay them. I think Brailsford revolutionized bike team management and this is not highlighted enough. Mimicking is the highest form of a compliment. They have been copied a lot ….

  15. I think that Team Sky have little chance of securing a sponser on par with team Sky. This is because I think the reason Sky dropped out is because the doping scandals surrounding the team were ruining their reputation. As a result I think it would be hard to get and ideal sponser like Virgin or Rolls Royce, something British with a lot of cash, therefore, this will either mark the end of Team Sky or the end of an era with a team with un-thinkable budgets and Team Sky domination. I wish all the best to Team Sky who are the reason I have been training 10 hours a week for the past year, i hope they will keep on inspiring my generation. Thankyou Team Sky, you've transformed the sport we know and love! 💙💙

  16. Come on, is pretty obvious… doping fire is getting hotter and hotter. After Froome's extremely weird forgiveness by UCI (maybe like Armstrong's?), what do they do? Ditch him? No… would be too obvious. Keep him and have a leader fight? No, he may inhale a bit more to keep up and this time will be even harder to cover. Keep him and increase his hush money? Expensive silence. Good pull out from Sky… time to be detatched from the team, before it starts leaking substances.

  17. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Froome made a “controversial attack” during Wiggins’ Tour win, more a short-lived micro surge. But I comprehend the need for hyperbole.

  18. Tim Kerrison is the guy that changed a lot for Team Sky. He has fantastic athletes to work with, but he was young enough, had enough energy and enough outside experience to help "disrupt" the sport.

  19. 1. too much money to run the team
    2. systematic dopers (yep, everyone sees this except diehard Brits cycling fans)
    3. ABC (new parent of Sky) does not want to associate themselves with dopers (ABC knows Lance Armstrong)
    Now, let's see if the Brits can win without all that out of competition doping and without all that lavish money.

  20. I agree with so much that you have said. Truly appreciate this accolade to Team Sky. Team Sky and the Chris Froome era got me to buy my first road racing bike at 60 years old and GCN was my go to resource. Team Sky and you GCN were my inspiration to get out and ride up to my longest ride of 200 kms in one ride. A big Thank You to all.

  21. Completely off the point, why is it that you have photos of logs as the pattern for your wallpaper but your fireplace is full of plastic drinks bottles?

  22. I reckon we could have a team Nectar as Sainsburys will be keen to up their advertising. Sadly not the staffing levels but hey ho.

  23. If you're coming on here to make a hilarious comment about TUE's, doping etc just be aware that we've heard the joke already, and it wasn't funny the first time.

  24. Brailsford has focused on an holistic training style, embracing technology and psychology. This psychological aspect may be Team Sky's edge.

  25. With brexit let's not pay the divorce settlement and use it to sponsor sky change the name to "Team Sky French dream smashers" or something equally non PC

  26. Dave Brailsford _ the man behind Great Britain’s rise to the top of the track cycling world. Hmm. I expect better, GCN, things not quite that simple. Some people, (who were there) might take a quite different view.

  27. Thanks for the summary Dan – like all things there are very good aspects coming from Team Sky's reign, particularly for popularising Cycling as a global sport. But for all the good stuff also, bad things like having too much control over races and making things too predictable and boring. I also doubt whether we will see the likes of the huge budgets they were granted in the future however..

  28. Ideal sponsor: Ruby TUEsdays. Or maybe The American Lung Association, owing to Brailsford's unwavering commitment to employing athletes with "exercise induced asthma."

  29. Just like the state of art testosterone patch that were 'mistakenly' delivered to the offices's. Wonder if there are some new PEDs that will be testable for in the next few years. Better duck out prior! Good Riddance!!

  30. biggest cheats ever and they got away with it despite multiple infractions. Utterly delighted that sky pulled the pin before this drug team did huge damage to the sky brand.

  31. Simple solution to the Froomey episode would be to have inhalers that only give out a measured dose of medicine ,a new one been given out before each race and then been handed back in ,and scrutinized!?

  32. the same thing happened Renault elf all the stars one team and now cycling spread out over all the other teams or HTC TEAM as well sorry for caps cycling will get wild again.

  33. Good. They’re boring. Have they produced results? Absolutely. But no characters, personalities. Boring as shit.

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