Team Sky circled the wagons and stayed silent at Tirreno-Adriatico in the minutes after Ineos was confirmed as the new team owner and sponsor on Tuesday afternoon, with no sign of celebration amongst riders and staff.
The British team already have the biggest budget in the UCI WorldTour, and the budget is reportedly set to rise to 40 million in 2020 in the hope of continuing their domination at the Tour de France.
Some of their rivals operate on much less and are often left frustrated by Team Sky’s dominance, yet riders and directeur sportif at Tirreno-Adriatico largely welcomed the news that Team Sky has been saved and will be know as Team Ineos from May 1.
“I think it’s great news,” Steve Cummings told Cyclingnews, despite not fully enjoying his time at the team in 2010-2011. "The team is so successful and it’s been great for Britain in particular, and the growth of cycling in Britain. If that team had closed, it’d have had massive repercussions, so I think it’s really good and I wish them all the best. I’m glad they found a good sponsor.”
Elia Viviani is another former Team Sky rider. He left to join Deceuninck-QuickStep to have more opportunities in sprints but has always been complementary about the British team.
“I had no doubt they'd find a backer because a big team like that will for sure find people to support and continue the product,” the Italian said. “It'll have a new name, but it'll be the same, and I say ‘good luck for the future’. I'm sure they'll have top riders to continue to be successful.”
Max Sciandri, a former rider and now a directeur sportif at Movistar, wondered what Team Ineos will spend its huge budget on.
"They’ll probably they'll buy Aston Martins for team cars, they'll have space shuttle buses, jet packs...” Sciandri joked. “I'm actually glad they have a sponsor. A team like that should not end and should carry on for the good of cycling. You need quality, that's what cycling needs.”
Mitchelton-Scott try to compete against Team Sky in the Grand Tours, and Simon Yates won the Vuelta a Espana after leading the Giro d’Italia until Chris Froome attacked on the Colle delle Finestre and went on to win the maglia rosa.
Senior directeur sportif Matt White was happy that Team Sky will survive and tried to put on a brave face about the British team’s ever-expanding budget.
“It's great for them and for the sport, it's great that the biggest team in the sport will continue,” White said. "It would've been a real travesty and a bad mark on the sport if the team who's had the most success in the last decade can't find a sponsor.
“There's a lot of big sponsors who's entered the sport over the last couple of years who see there's an incredible value to our sport, and so its great news all around.”
Playing Moneyball to compete
White knows that Mitchelton-Scott, despite being funded by the brands of wealthy Australian Gerry Ryan, will likely never have the same budget as Team Ineos are expected to enjoy. However, he likes the challenge.
“We can't afford to buy the depth that Team Sky's got, so you have a bit of Moneyball situation and you have to go looking for talent in other places, and develop talent, not just buy talent,” White explained.
“They've raised the bar, we are just trying to keep up with them. It’s made teams with less budget, which is nearly everybody, spend their money wisely and really scrutinize how they spend their money and so really target specific goals in the year.”
“I think they’re leading the way and its up to the rest of the teams to catch up,” he said.
Sciandri now works as a directeur sportif for Movistar but pointed out that Team Sky’s budget often hurts their rivals.
“They set a high standard, and that's tough for a lot of teams to match, almost impossible for some of the teams or some nations. Italy is completely nowhere in cycling right now.”
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