British Cycling today announced its plans for Team Sky, a professional road cycling team, in a multi-million pound four year deal. The team hopes to contest the Tour Down Under when it commences racing in 2010, with the hope of earning a wildcard entry to the Tour de France. One of the new squad's aims is to produce the first British Tour de France winner within the next five years.
The outfit will contest its home tour, the Tour of Britain, to showcase the nation's top talent on home soil. Before the official unveiling of the news, Performance Director, Dave Brailsford spoke to Cyclingnews.
"Having a British team on the continent has been talked about for a number of years as a natural evolution to our Olympic track program but over the last 12 months it's really gained momentum, to the point where we can confirm that the whole project is going ahead," he said.
At this early stage, and with several riders still under contract with their respective teams, Brailsford was reluctant to disclose the make-up of the roster, but he did confirm that non-British riders would be part of the set-up. "I can't go into the names of staff or riders at this time. I know there's a lot of speculation but we can't go further than that at the moment.
"There will be a core of British riders but the team will not just include home-grown talent," he added. "We'll need international riders and I don't ever envisage us having only British riders, but at the heart of the team will be a very British ethos: a British HQ, British staff and a British core."
An initial squad of around 25 riders will be recruited during the 2009 calendar year. They will be supported by a team of coaches, technicians and support staff from across the sport, many of whom already work throughout the year with British elite and developing riders.
Brailsford went on to give more details regarding the team's ambitions. "It's a four-year deal and with the budget we have it's sufficient to be competing at the highest level of the sport right from the start," he said. "The Tour de France is something we want to do to, but we can't get an automatic invite. At this stage it will have to be as wild card entry. We want to perform straight away but we also want to support the current crop of riders and help the next generation break through too."
The move from British Cycling comes on the back of the unprecedented success the team had at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China last year. "Our Olympic success has laid the foundations for this development and I think this move will give us success in London 2012 and beyond and if that wasn't true we wouldn't be doing this," he said. "This doesn't sit outside our Olympic ambitions, it's very much part of it."
"Team Sky will only enhance British prospects, with riders, and especially up-and-coming talent, benefiting from a pro team set-up that gives them the best training and support in an environment that will help them to develop," he said. "The team is a natural evolution for the Olympic programme as the quantity and calibre of British riders continues to grow."
As for the partnership with television broadcasters Sky, Brailsford made clear their vision was shared with the team. "The key for Sky is that they're investing in cycling anyway and with this project they're going to be part of a very important legacy within British sport," explained Brailsford. "At the same time they also want to inspire broad participation in the country. They're an ideal partner that goes hand-in-hand with our plans."
Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch has been impressed by Brailsford's work with the track squad. "Sky has a core belief in the power of sport - we want to get people involved. We are hugely impressed by Dave Brailsford, inspired by the success of British riders and excited about embarking upon this ambitious project together.
"Sky is already the principal partner for British Cycling, supports the Youth Sport Trust through Sky Sports Living for Sport and invests heavily in British sport," he added. "Team Sky builds on this and will inspire people of all ages and abilities to get out and ride, for fun, for fitness, and for the environment."
Team Sky is aiming to:
- Create the first British winner of the Tour de France, within five years.
- Inspire people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes, through the team's positive profile, attitude and success.
- Add further support to competitive cycling in Great Britain.