Sky high start for Sean Yates' men

Team Sky's start to 2011 has proven directeur sportif Sean Yates's belief that his team would improve on its 2010 performance, which he says was not disappointing, contrary to what was written in the press.

The British squad has started the year in fine fashion, winning two stages of the Santos Tour Down Under with Ben Swift and the recent Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with Australia's Chris Sutton.

Asked earlier this year whether the team would aim to maintain its momentum following the second of its Tour Down Under stage wins given that it had dropped off the pace somewhat following last season's Down Under success with Sutton, Yates quickly replied with a smile, "I would contest that statement!"

"We finished the year in sixth place [in terms of race wins] and this really rangles me that you guys give us a hard time," he continued, feigning indignance. "We had the sixth most wins of all teams, sixth on the teams classification of the ProTour, we qualified ourselves for the Tour de France and we're sitting at number eight in this year's ProTour list."

The experienced Briton puts the public - and media - perception of the team's shortcomings down to Sky's Tour de France performance. Bradley Wiggins was disappointing in the fight for general classification honours, although Yates believes there's too much focus on what is done in that race on which to judge the entire season.

"Obviously, yeah, we didn't do jack shit at the Tour de France in a way, because too much focus was put on that race, in my opinion. There are other bike races that count and we performed on a regular basis from the start until the finish of the year," he said.

"As I said, okay, we didn't perform at the Tour - we tried, and got close on a few occasions; G [Geraint Thomas] had the young riders' jersey and almost took yellow... so I think last year was far from disappointing, overall.

"We'll be stronger this year - we'll be better."

And it appears that his sentiments are ringing true so far with the latest win to Sutton; as the Classics and grand tours loom closer there's also the bonus of off-season recruit Michael Rogers' experience in the squad, which Yates admits will help the team's chances of success immensely.

"Dodger's a massive influence, a massive bonus to the team - he's obviously a fantastic rider, he commands great respect and he's professional to the tee. Certainly for the younger guys coming up he sets a great example," said Yates.

"He's just got that authority about him that everybody in the team has great respect for him - including myself and every other member of staff. It's just a massive bonus and it settles the men down; obviously we have some great riders but not all of them command such authority or have such great knowledge of bike racing as he does."

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