Rumours abound as to the future of Team Sky ever since it was announced that the broadcaster Sky would end its sponsorship at the end of the 2019 season. Another potential saviour for the team has been added into the mix, with reports that team manager Dave Brailsford met with the Colombian President Ivan Duque and Coldeportes [sports ministry - ed.] director Ernesto Lucena to discuss the possibility of turning Team Sky into the first-ever Colombian WorldTour team.
According to Colombian publication El Espectador, the meeting was organised by former Team Sky rider Rigoberto Uran, who has previously expressed his desire for a top-level team from the country. The report said that Brailsford, who is in the region for the Colombia 2.1 race, went to the President’s home, the Casa de Nariño, in Bogota.
"It is the dream and the hope that we have," Coldeportes director Ernesto Lucena told El Espectador.
In the article, it states that the idea surrounding the project would be to keep the current crop of Team Sky riders but to create a base of Colombian riders. Team Sky have a long history of signing Colombian riders with Uran and Sergio Henao two of their earliest additions. Though Uran and Henao are not part of the team any more, Team Sky still have three Colombians on their roster, Sebastian Henao, Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa.
One of the biggest challenges, if the project were to go ahead, would be shoring up the funds to pay Team Sky’s top earners. The British outfit has the biggest salary outlay in the peloton, but Lucena believes that it would be possible to secure the financial backing necessary.
"The most significant amount is the salaries of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. The project could cost around $30 million per year, which, with the union of three or four multinational companies, we believe could be viable. The market analysis that Sky did shows the remuneration that the brands investing would get," said Lucena.
Colombia currently has eight UCI-registered teams but only one at Pro Continental level, Manzana Postobon – which previously raced as Colombia es Pasión and fostered the talents of Sergio Henao and Nairo Quintana. They previously had the Colombia-Coldeportes team, which helped develop the likes of Esteban Chaves and Darwin Atapuma, but that disbanded at the end of 2015.
Brailsford effusive about Colombian cycling
When speaking to Cyclingnews prior to the Tour Colombia 2.1 race, Brailsford was coy about the various rumours around potential buy-outs and sponsors. However, he was effusive in his passion to learn about the Colombian culture and believes that it’s only a “matter of time” before there is a WorldTour team from the South American nation.
"You need the talent and the structures and the pathways, and from our experience, if they’re there then young talented riders will find their pathway to the top. I’d love to see it. It would be great," said Brailsford.
"We talk a lot about the globalisation of the sport and I think that the UCI has done a good job, but you can have global events, but you need global teams, and why couldn’t we see a Colombian-based team or one with a Colombian heart. I think it’s only a matter of time.
"I’ve enjoyed very much coming here and whilst I’ve been here I have tried to invest culturally. Proper engagement, not just watching. There’s a difference between observing and really trying to educate yourself about it. I’ve put my mind to it and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the riders fit into the fabric of society and their families fit into the fabric, where cycling fits as a sport into the overall society in Colombia.
"I have just tried to unpick that a bit and what it all looks like, the colours, the music, the fans and the passion. It’s different. It’s important that we try to embrace those differences. I find it hugely exciting and the wealth of talent that exists in this country is second to none."