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Team Sky sports director Scott Sunderland.
Sunderland tailors race schedules around developing riders
With a new team of twenty-five riders Team Sky has its work cut out when it comes to creating race programmes but senior team director Scott Sunderland believes that it’s possible to keep everyone happy and that there will be no preferential treatment shown towards home-grown talent. The former-pro also said that every rider will be riding a Grand Tour in 2010.
The team had their first get together last month in Manchester. It was the first opportunity for all the riders to meet each other and with no press access it was the perfect time to set out team goals and riders’ schedules. The next team meeting is in Valencia, Spain, just after the official team presentation in London on January 4.
“When it comes to deciding on a rider's schedule you first need to establish what his goals are and what his capabilities and capacities are. They need to fit with what the team’s goals are,” Sunderland told Cyclingnews from his home in Belgium.
Sunderland was instrumental in the recruitment of the team’s riders and says that when it comes to the younger ones, nurturing talent rather than exploiting it is the key. “With all first year riders you need to see where their strengths and weaknesses are at U23 level. Then you need to give them a programme where they ease into the racing. You can’t just throw them out there in the deep end. That’s happened to riders before, to myself included. They need to get smaller blocks of racing and then a good period of rest. It’s a big learning curve for them competing against the riders they used to look up to,” said Sunderland.
“Even younger ones, everyone gets a chance to do a three week Tour. Some riders will be doing the Tour and Tour of Spain too.”
With potentially three Grand Tour rosters to fill throughout the year, Sky will be aiming to compete on all levels, but saving their most competitive line-up for the Tour where selection for places has already been decided for some. Bradley Wiggins will lead the team, while Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Thomas Lövkvist have also been confirmed.
“There are riders in the team who will focus on the Giro and prepare their whole year around that. Then you have some riders more focussed on the Tour, but until the race comes around they’re not guaranteed a spot. Some of them who don’t get to the Tour they might do the Vuelta. If it fits into the programme and what we want and we believe they’re up to it, then they’ll do that.”
With a British sponsor some quarters in the media have questioned whether nationality will play a factor in race selection. Recent developments at Astana have indicated that sponsors can exact pressure on rider quotas at certain races, but Sunderland believes it won’t play a part at Sky, despite the long protracted pursuit of Wiggins.
“I don’t think it will factor. At this moment now we have a few British riders highlighted for possible selection for the Tour, but we have other riders listed, too. Dave Brailsford said it won’t play a role and I’m on the same page.”