Team Sky is following the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) rules in its attempt to court Team Katusha’s Ben Swift for its debut season next year, according to team manager Dave Brailsford. Brailsford clarified his team’s position to the media after South Australia Tourism, the government body which operates Tour Down Under, announced the British rider would start its event with Team Sky in January, despite Swift still being under contract with Katusha.
"It was planning ahead. The information we've received is that Ben had resigned and terminated his contract and become a free agent - that's what we were led to believe,” Brailsford told Press Association Sport. "We just acted in good faith."
Brailsford admitted his squad is hopeful of signing Swift for 2010 and that he’s spoken with the UCI following the TDU announcement. "Were he to become a free agent - as we were led to believe - then in our pre-planning we have foreseen a situation where Ben, were he a Team Sky rider, would compete in the Tour Down Under,” he said. "However, we respect the fact that there is an element of speculation, but we have acted in good faith and have been in contact with the UCI regarding this matter."
While a Katusha representative said last month that Swift was its rider at that point in time, the team didn’t comment on whether that situation may change. According to Brailsford the rider and his manager are negotiating an early termination of his rider agreement with the squad, entirely independent of Team Sky.
"The situation regarding Ben is in the process of being resolved," said Brailsford. "I think we're very much following the UCI's lead in terms of that situation. As a team we haven't actually been directly involved with regards his current team - that's him acting independently with his agent.
"Our understanding is that he has become a free agent, but were this not to be the case then of course we wouldn't want to be in a position where we didn't act in accordance with all of the UCI's regulations," said Brailsford.
Swift has become the focus of Team Sky’s spotlight in recent weeks after hopes of signing compatriot Bradley Wiggins seemingly faded. Wiggins announced via Twitter in July that he wouldn’t be moving to the squad, however speculation continued through to November, in part fueled by the rider’s own comments. Like Swift, Wiggins had an existing agreement for the 2010 season with his current team that he was unable to be released from.
Besides Swift, SA Tourism announced Team Sky’s squad for TDU as: Christopher Sutton (Aus), Christopher Froome (GBr), Russell Downing (GBr), Davide Viganò (Ita), Mathew Hayman (Aus) and Gregory Henderson (NZl).