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Riders the focus, Tour de France major goal
Amid fanfare unlikely to be matched at any other team presentation this season, Team Sky was officially launched in London on Monday, with all but four members of its international 26-man roster taking to the stage. Team captain Bradley Wiggins explained that the Tour de France will be one of the team's major goals in 2010.
Despite an extravagant presentation, the launch's focus followed the theme of the 'thin line' between winning and losing that the team will face in its debut season. After months of polemics over the final make-up of the squad, manager Dave Brailsford emphasised the efforts the British outfit's management had made to maximise its continuity.
"It's not for me to judge [us against] other teams, it's how we work that will make the difference," said Brailford. "The key thing for us is to make sure that everything's right [for the best performance] and that we give ownership to the riders; that they have control over what they do. We treat them with great dignity and respect, and give them the opportunity to be the best they can be."
With Greg Henderson, Chris Sutton and Mat Hayman racing the Jayco Bay Classic in Australia, and John-Lee Augustyn continuing his preparation for the new season at home in South Africa, the remaining 22 riders were presented close to the centre of the British capital.
The team's marquee signing, Wiggins, was the last rider to make his way onto the stage and said that despite the air of expectation that surrounded Sky, the riders themselves would take a measured approach to the season, and what is likely to be the major focus of the team's efforts throughout the year, the Tour de France.
"It's no secret that [the Tour de France] is going to be the main goal of this team, and for us [the objective] will be to do as well as we can," he said. "I don't want to sound like I'm dodging the question, but without putting a number on it we'll go there with the best form of our lives, with the best team and the best people behind us, and what happens, happens."
Wiggins revealed that he will begin his 2010 season at the French race, Étoile de Bessèges, February 3-7, after the team's first training camp, which begins this week in Valencia, Spain.
Wiggins was joined a strong contingent of British riders, including Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Russell Downing, Steven Cummings, Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift, whose presence ended speculation about his departure from Russian squad Katusha.
Despite the strong anglo-saxon basis, the team represents an international front, with riders from Italy, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain represented in the squad.
Alongside Wiggins, Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen will be one of the riders the team will work to regularly support at races. The 22-year-old said that although aware of the expectation he will face, he is confident of his ability to produce a strong season with his new team.
"I try not to think too much about the pressure and always try to do my best, which has so far worked out well for me," he said. "I hope it's going to be a good year. The team is really strong and I'm looking forward to the season start now."
Augustyn will join his teammates for the training camp in Spain, when it begins on Wednesday.
|1||Kurt-Astle Arvesen (Norway)|
|2||John-Lee Augustyn (South Africa)|
|3||Michael Barry (Canada)|
|4||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)|
|5||Kjell Carlstrom (Finland)|
|6||Sylvain Calzati (France)|
|7||Dario Cioni (Italy)|
|8||Steven Cummings (Great Britain)|
|9||Russell Downing (Great Britain)|
|10||Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain)|
|11||Chris Froome (Great Britain)|
|12||Simon Gerrans (Australia)|
|13||Mat Hayman (Australia)|
|14||Greg Henderson (New Zealand)|
|15||Peter Kennaugh (Great Britain)|
|16||Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden)|
|17||Lars Peter Nordhaug (Norway)|
|18||Serge Pauwels (Belgium)|
|19||Nicholas Portal (France)|
|20||Morris Possoni (Italy)|
|21||Ian Stannard (Great Britain)|
|22||Chris Sutton (Australia)|
|23||Ben Swift (Great Britain)|
|24||Geraint Thomas (Great Britain)|
|25||Davide Vigano (Italy)|
|26||Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)|