His Continental team’s longtime sponsor ended its run with the team at the end of the 2018 season. Like several other domestic pro teams, Van Haute’s outfit was on the brink of closing up shop, leaving riders, staff, and Van Haute without jobs.
The former pro rider provided a few details of a new project for the coming season in a Facebook post on Friday.
“Danny Van Haute announces the formation of the 2019-2021 men’s continental professional cycling team Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling Team p/b Maxxis,” he wrote. “Danny’s leadership as a former professional rider, Olympian, then director sportif for Jelly Belly Cycling continues with this Specialized supported development team.”
Focusing on both developing talents and late bloomers, Jelly Belly produced numerous domestic stars over the course of its history. Alumni include Tyler Farrar, Kiel Reijnen, Lachlan Morton, and Gavin Mannion.
“I take pride in riders that move on to WorldTour or Pro Continental teams,” Van Haute told VeloNews at the Colorado Classic in August. “We’re development. So we need to take chances on some guys and sometimes you fail with those chances too.”
Van Haute helmed the project since its inception. Now, he is set to stay in the racing scene with a new sponsorship commitment that apparently spans a healthy three years.
Details on the new Wildlife Generation team’s roster and expectation schedule are as of yet unknown. It is unclear whether the team will look to add signings from the now-defunct Jelly Belly squad. A number of those riders remain unsigned, at least officially, for the coming season.
Colorado Classic organizers made waves this week with news that their 2019 event will be a women’s only race. The move could potentially boost women’s cycling and attract more fans. From a practical standpoint, the move might give the race financial security it needs to survive, something rare in domestic cycling these days.
“I think this year we have a shot of breaking even. If we can do that, that will be a game changer,” Ken Gart, chairman of race organizer RPM Events Group, told VeloNews this week.
It’s been a tough year for domestic road racing, with both teams and events folding as 2018 winds down. The Colorado Classic, like most of the top-tier road races in North America, did not turn a profit in 2018, its second year of existence, but organizers did see a positive trend. As Gart put it, “We cut our losses dramatically from year one to year two.”
In shifting to a women’s only event, Colorado Classic organizers see a roadmap to stability in an otherwise challenging financial climate. While costs for the combined 2019 event were in the low seven figures, the expectation is that a single race for the women could cost less than a million dollars — even while being among the “best-supported” women’s races in the world.
Organizers are applying for UCI status in 2019, with race director Sean Petty telling VeloNews that the Colorado Classic is aiming as high as a UCI 2.1 classification. Beyond the increased prize purse, the race will pay teams stipends to cover travel expenses. According to Gart, without a men’s race, the event can cover those costs with a similar level of sponsorship cash to what it received in 2018.
“We’re hoping to keep the financial support more of the sponsors than the investors. If we can do that, maybe even increase it, maybe the thing can break even in year one. Maybe,” Gart said.
A showcase for women’s cycling
Beyond the balance sheet, RPM sees an opportunity to give women’s racing a boost. If the race attains 2.1 status, the Colorado Classic would be the second-highest ranked women’s stage race in the country in 2019, behind the Amgen Tour of California.
A conversation with EF Education First manager Jonathan Vaughters helped bring about the decision to go women’s only.
“We started talking about the ability to have an impact on women’s cycling and realized that not doing a men’s race is going to have no negative impact on him or men’s cycling generally. If he goes from 85 races to 84, it’s not going to have much of an impact on him,” Gart said.
The mission to support women’s cycling might also open doors for more sponsorship.
“That’s where we started to think, if we can carry over sponsor support, and if the sponsors love what we are doing and switch this to women’s only, maybe we can have a bit of a ‘Billie Jean King moment,’ where she showcased tennis for women in America, we can showcase cycling for women in America,” Gart added.
That noble goal could help retain sponsors or possibly even motivate them to up their commitments. Even though the men’s race attracted familiar pro riders over the years, such as Taylor Phinney, Brent Bookwalter, and Rigoberto Uran, organizers expect partners will get behind the women’s event.
“The hope is that our sponsor commitments will increase, and I think they will,” Gart said. “I think the cause is much more inspirational.”
With the dual focus of boosting women’s racing and financial stability setting the tone, organizers still have a great deal of work ahead. This week’s announcement addressed the shift to a women’s only race, but most of the finer points of the event remain unknown. The route and details on the Velorama festival that has run concurrently with the race for the past two seasons have yet to be announced. Petty says that was by design, to focus media attention on the women’s event.
Organizers still must iron out race specifics, confirm sponsors, and coordinate with the state of Colorado. Both the outgoing and upcoming governors were present for this week’s announcement, but with a change in the administration following November’s election, Gart estimated that it would be another two months before he had a clearer picture of what state involvement would look like.
In the meantime, Petty and his team will be hard at work putting the race together. They have their work cut out for them in designing an event that will attract big names — the August 22 to 25 window puts the event in the heart of a packed stretch of racing on the international calendar. The Ladies Tour of Norway runs at the same time, followed shortly by the GP Plouay and then the Boels Ladies Tour, all three of them WorldTour races.
“It’s a very busy time, with a lot of quality racing in Europe, and a month out from worlds it will be difficult to get teams to fly over here for a four-day race. A lot of headwinds, no doubt,” Petty said.
“But I think we’ll prove ourselves this year in terms of the quality of the event, the online live stream, the exposure that we hope to bring to this. We might surprise ourselves. The main thing is that we are going to have a great race.”
Larry Warbasse spent much of the off-season brushing up on his French. He’ll need it for 2019 with his new team Ag2r La Mondiale.
Warbasse will be a first for Ag2r, one of France’s longest-running teams dating back to the 1990s. The Michigander will be the first American rider in team history.
Team boss Vincent Lavenu stressed, however, he didn’t sign Warbasse for his passport.
“The first time I noticed Larry was when he won that stage at the  Tour de Suisse, the way he held off the pack in the final climb was impressive,” Lavenu said. “I thought, he’s a talented guy and I will keep on eye on him to see if he needs a team someday.”
The chance came sooner than expected. Late this summer, Warbasse’s Aqua Blue team unexpectedly went up in flames before the 2018 calendar finished up. That left dozens of pros scrambling for jobs at one of the worst possible times of the year.
Warbasse’s friendship with star Ag2r rider Romain Bardet helped open the door. Bardet put in a good word with Lavenu and Warbasse was able to get in touch with the veteran French manager. With time running out, Warbasse took matters into his own hands.
“It was crunch time and I went straight to contact several teams myself. I know Romain and I asked him if the team needed a climber and helper,” Warbasse said. “Romain put me in touch with Vincent [Lavenu, Ag2r director] and things moved pretty fast.”
The 28-year-old was on his famous “No-Go Tour” last summer with Aqua Blue teammate Conor Dunne across the Alps when the door cracked open with Ag2r La Mondiale.
Warbasse exchanged some messages with Lavenu and then went to meet him face-to-face in the team’s offices in France. The rapport developed quickly and easily. Before he knew it, Warbasse was looking to book immersion classes this fall to hone his French ahead of the 2019 season.
“The opportunity to take a closer look at Larry came up with Aqua Blue,” Lavenu said. “I first spoke with his agent, and then directly with Larry. I quickly noticed that not only was he a great rider but an interesting person as well.”
The pieces came together both for Warbasse and Lavenu. Unlike some of the other French teams, Lavenu has always had a more international expression to his team lineups. There were nearly a dozen nationalities on the team’s 2018 squad. Next year it will add an American to its roster.
“It was a good fit,” Lavenu said. “We wanted to sign Anglophone riders as well. He is the first American in the history of our team.”
For Warbasse, Ag2r La Mondiale will be his fourth team since turning pro with BMC Racing. He then moved to IAM Cycling and later, Aqua Blue.
“I’m very excited to be joining Ag2r,” Warbasse said. “I am going to be a fresh-faced newbie. We haven’t spoken about calendar or anything, but I will go anywhere the team wants me to. I am going to take it with both hands and run with it.”
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Team Sky’s riders are calm for now, but agents say that could quickly change if the team fails to confirm a new sponsor in the next five months.
The telecommunications giant announced Wednesday it would no longer sponsor the British WorldTour team after 2019. It will end a 10-year run at the top of cycling’s ranks. Over the years, Sky’s riders have won all three grand tours, including six Tour de France titles.
Team boss David Brailsford is now searching for a company to fill the £34 million ($42.6 million) gap. Cycling agents say Sky’s riders are calm for now.
“The riders in Sky are all high-level riders, they don’t feel the pressure,” agent Giuseppe Acquadro told VeloNews. He represents 12 riders currently on Team Sky. “That’s the sensation that I had when I was in Mallorca at the team camp. The situation is calm.
“I don’t think it’ll be a problem for Dave to find a new sponsor. Sure, that is a big budget, but if he continues, it’ll be at the top.”
Reportedly, Brailsford is already speaking to two or three companies that could step in and replace Sky. Sky helped start the team in 2010 with stars like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Geraint Thomas. Thomas gave Sky its sixth Tour de France victory this summer.
“The riders heard the news, but there’s still plenty of time to find a new sponsor and for the continuation of the team,” said Dries Smets, an agent who represents four Team Sky riders.
“For now, there’s no stress or nervousness. Not only the management, but the sponsor Sky is committed to helping find a new sponsor.”
“The guys at Sky will be loyal and they want to stay there,” another rider agent Andrew McQuaid said. “I know them, they will give Sky every opportunity to have time to find a replacement.
“When you look at Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, they have been there so many years, they want to stay. They will wait as much as they can, help as much as they can.”
“I think that David Brailsford has something up his sleeve, given he signed riders for 2020 and 2021,” rider agent Johnny Carera said.
“I think he has an alternative, a sponsor in his pocket. Otherwise, you have to pay those contracts. So, someone has some idea and a plan.”
In May and June, tension could increase. As the Giro d’Italia passes and the Tour de France nears, Sky riders and rival teams will be wondering about the team’s standing. If no deal is confirmed for 2020 and beyond, riders, teams, and agents will be on their phones.
“The team said that they want to secure the future before the Tour, and that’s when the nerves will happen,” said Smets, who also represents Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing). “We’ve seen it with BMC Racing this year, between the Giro and Tour, things start to happen. They risk that the riders jump ship.”
“You can’t wait until September if you are Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas, you need to already find a team,” Carera explained. “And teams need to start to look for that budget around May if they are going to bring on a big star rider. That’s an important amount of money, so you can’t wait for months.”
With its budget, Brailsford and his staff created the best team with the most advanced training and equipment. Doing so, Sky is one of the most globally recognized teams.
“If you sponsor Sky, you will immediately have a global publicity, as soon as Brailsford announces it’s company X,” Acquadro said.
“It’s never easy to find a sponsor in cycling, but he has the best project, the best riders, the best support staff,” McQuaid added. “At least he’s going onto the market with the best product.
“Also Sky’s executives will open the door for Brailsford to make connections, but it’s going to be difficult with Brexit on the horizon.”
Here’s your News roundup for Friday, December 14. This is our way of keeping you up to speed on all of the stories circulating in the world of pro cycling.
Nibali will race Giro and Tour in 2019
Italian media report that four-time grand tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) will ride in both the 2019 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. The 34-year-old has never won two grand tours in a single season and said that his home race would be his main target next year.
“Next year, I will do the Giro and the Tour. The Giro d’Italia is my main aim,” he said at a presentation of his team, Bahrain-Merida, in Croatia.
Nibali, a winner of two Giro d’Italia titles and the 2014 Tour, has competed in both races twice before, including when he claimed his second maglia rosa in 2016.
The 102nd edition of the Giro gets underway in Bologna on May 11, with Geraint Thomas’s defense of the Tour de France yellow jersey to begin on July 6 in Brussels.
Tour of Flanders route remains nearly unchanged for 2019
The 2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen will again start in Antwerp for the 267-kilometer romp through the Flemish countryside. The route as a whole will remain relatively unchanged with three trips up the Oude Kwaremont, two ascents of the Paterburg, and the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen. Organizers have added a climb that is new to the race, Ladeuze, which is one kilometer long and reaches a 16 percent maximum gradient. The women’s route will be a 157km race. It has a more difficult finale with the addition of the Taaienberg at 40km to go.
Tirreno-Adriatico route snubs climbers
Top GC favorites hoping for a pre-Giro d’Italia tune-up at Tirreno-Adriatico will be disappointed this year. The 2019 race, held March 13-19, will not feature any summit finishes. It begins with its traditional team time trial and concludes with a 10.1km individual time trial. In between, the stages are hilly but not mountainous by any means. Stage 4 from Foligno to Fossombrone may prove to be the most decisive. It is long at 223 kilometers and will climb the Muro dei Cappuccini twice, the final time just 5.7km before the finish. Overall, a strong time trial rider with a deep team, who can handle punchy climbs will be favored in the “Race of the two seas.”
Introducing … Jumbo-Visma
For 2019, LottoNL-Jumbo will be known as Jumbo-Visma thanks to the addition of new sponsor Visma. The Norwegian software and IT company will underwrite the Dutch cycling team as well as its speedskating outfit.
“Visma has been interested for a longer period of time,” Jumbo-Visma’s cycling team director Roger Plugge said. “The long-term support of Jumbo, the resignation of Lotto and especially the way we have positioned ourselves in recent years have convinced Visma to partner up with us.”
Team Bigla offers independent mediator
On the heels of the accusations that riders on the Bigla team were bullied, intimidated, and manipulated, the Danish team is going above and beyond the UCI’s new 2019 code of ethics and offering a mediation and conflict management service provided by an independent Swiss Bar Association-accredited party. This means riders will have access to a female lawyer if a conflict arises. Complaints will be handled anonymously, according to the team’s press statement.
The Pro Road Tour will span 18 events in 2019. USA Cycling announced the calendar for the upcoming season, which will mark the Pro Road Tour’s fourth year running, on Thursday.
“The calendar is structured to provide a balance for travel, as well as support long-standing races that are traditions in local communities,” said Chuck Hodge, USAC Vice President of Operations.
The 18 events include 10 criteriums, six stage races, a road race, and a time trial, across 16 different states.
Sixteen of the events feature both men’s and women’s racing.
The calendar includes date changes for the Redlands Bicycle Classic, which moves from May to March, and the Tour of the Gila, which moves from April to May. The North Star Grand Prix makes a return to the calendar, with the women’s event earning UCI status.
The Joe Martin Stage Race, the Tour of the Gila, The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and the Colorado Classic (now a women’s only event) mark the other UCI-rated stage races on the calendar. The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic and the Chrono Kristin Armstrong bring the total number of UCI events to seven.
2019 Pro Road Tour calendar
March 13 – 17
Redlands Bicycle Classic (Men and women)
April 4 – 7
Joe Martin Stage Race (Men and women)
Sunny King Criterium (Men and women)
May 1 – May 5
Tour of the Gila (Men and women)
MVP Healthcare Rochester Twilight Criterium (Men and women)
Wilmington Grand Prix (Men and women)
Winston-Salem Classic Criterium (Men and women)
Winston-Salem Classic Road Race (Men and women)
June 1 – 2
Armed Forces Cycling Classic p/b The Boeing Company (Men and women)
June 7 – 9
Saint Francis Tulsa Tough (Men and women)
June 12 – 16
North Star Grand Prix (Men and women)
Chrono Kristin Armstrong (Men and women)
Andersen Banducci Twilight Criterium (Men and women)
So what happens if David Brailsford cannot secure new backers by mid-summer and tells everyone at Team Sky to find a new job?
It would be a gold rush like cycling has never seen before.
“That would totally change the market for 2020,” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “We’ve never had a team like this in the history of the sport. We’re talking three guys who’ve won the Tour de France or who can. To have all that talent on the market at once would change everything.”
If Brailsford cannot secure a new sponsor to keep the band together, the level of riders suddenly looking for jobs would be unprecedented.
“There would be a big fight among the teams to sign those Sky riders,” White said. “There’s never been a team with so many good riders to close like this. Ninety-nine percent of those guys would get picked up. It would just be a question of who would have the money.”
Teams have come and gone for decades, but most teams only have one or two marquee names. No team before Sky had so many established pros and promising talents assembled under one banner. The final days of High Road have a similar ring, with Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and the team’s series of winners released, but none of those riders were grand tour winners.
To see all that talent hit the market at the same time would result in a glut. Cycling’s game of musical chairs is always a game of supply and demand. If there are suddenly a lot of riders looking for a job, the prices come down.
“Having this many big names on the market at once brings down the value for everyone,” White said. “It all would depend on a team’s budget.”
There would be another interesting twist to market dynamics. One agent said it wouldn’t be the top Sky riders who should be worried about finding a job, instead it would be riders in a contract year in 2019 on rival teams. An established rider might see their value drop dramatically with a flood of marquee Sky names swarming the market.
If a team has a chance to sign a proven Tour de France winner like Geraint Thomas or Chris Froome but only has enough money to sign one GC captain, who do you go with? The guy who’s won a Tour, or your guy, who has tried to win the Tour for the past few years?
If Sky does fold, the big question is how many teams would have the money to sign a rider with the salary expectations of Froome? As one of the highest paid riders in the peloton, Froome would command several million dollars. You could count the number of teams who could afford him on one hand.
White pointed out another scenario: just cherry-pick the best of Brailsford’s team. Why try to buy the entire shop when you can buy the best parts?
“You could buy Froome and a few of his top helpers, and boom, you got a Tour de France team,” he said.
There’s already been some speculation that Brailsford might already have some sort of new sponsor waiting in the wings in anticipation of Sky’s inevitable exit. After all, no sponsorship lasts forever.
Sources, however, tell VeloNews that team management was telling riders and agents this fall that the team was expecting full Sky corporate backing for at least through 2021 and even up to at least 2024. Something obviously went off the rails when Sky management informed Brailsford that it was pulling stakes at the end of 2019.
Right now, Brailsford is in an enviable position. He was a world-class team with all of its stars and supporting cast under contract. It’s a one-stop shopping for Tour de France success. Just pony up $40 million, and the yellow jersey can be yours.
Many observers believe, however, that Brailsford will have a hard time finding a new sponsor as committed and generous as Sky. The ongoing political drama involving Brexit would only complicate the search for another UK-based sponsor. It’s hard to know if Brailsford would accept financial backing at anything less than he’s accustomed to.
Publicly, Brailsford was putting up a brave face in a series of interviews with British media Wednesday afternoon. He hinted to the BBC that’s already received calls “expressing interest,” adding the future “looks very good.”
Could this finally present an opportunity for a Chinese sponsor to step up? Gentleman, start your speculation engines.
“We know in life things change. When things do change you stay calm, bring the group together, stay strong and look for opportunities. Go out there with energy and excitement and build something new,” Brailsford told BBC Sport. “I like to build things, I’m an optimist.”
A peloton without Team Sky would open up the yellow jersey to riders who have tried and failed to beat back Sky, with the likes of Tom Dumoulin or Nairo Quintana at the top of the list.
And if Sky dispersed among a half-dozen teams or so, Froome wouldn’t be racing with Thomas, he’d be racing against him.
“If the team folds, it would totally change the playing field. You could have the talent spread across several teams,” White said. “But if I were a betting man, I would expect to see Brailsford with a team in 2020.”
VeloNews caught up with van Garderen before he headed to EF’s first offseason training camp to get his take on the transition to a new team, his ambitions moving forward, and his career at the “midway point,” as well as a few thoughts on the Amgen Tour of California — where van Garderen rode to a stage victory and runner-up honors in 2018.
VeloNews: Tejay, what have you been up to over the off-season?
Tejay van Garderen: We’ve got a place in California and also a place in Basalt, Colorado, so we’re kind of in the process of getting both of those houses set up. Our plan is to split time between those two places. I’m in California right now in the Santa Ynez Valley.
That’s where I’ve been basing myself over the winters throughout the years, so finally we were just like, you know what, it’s about time we get a place out here because we love it out here so much. And I always get really good training done here.
VN: The Amgen Tour of California has announced some basics of the 2019 route — what’s your take so far?
TvG: Obviously, the two things that stuck out to me were the Mount Baldy stage and the absence of a time trial.
VN: Being a good time trialist, are you bummed to see no TT next year?
TvG: I can’t say I like the direction that cycling, in general, is going with the limited time trial kilometers. You see that happening in the Tour and in a lot of the stage races throughout the year, they’re minimizing the time trials. You see that in a lot of sports though. People want to see big explosions on climbs. They don’t want to see more of a defensive-style race. You see that in the NFL right now, with protecting the quarterbacks, or in the NBA, where defense is almost illegal. I think that’s the same kind of vision they’re having right now with cycling. They think that if you have a time trial specialist, they can ride defensively on the climbs and gain all the time in the TT and that’s what they want to avoid.
My opinion is that it brings more people into the mix. You have the climbers that are forced to attack hard and set the pace hard to unload the time trialers, whereas otherwise, they might not be as worried about us because they know, okay, we don’t need to worry about this guy, and really it’s just a race between less people. That’s my take on it.
VN: What’s your take on Baldy? What do you remember from doing that climb in the past?
TvG: It’s been a while since I’ve done Baldy but I have tackled it a couple of times. The thing I remember most about it is how hot it can be. It just bakes in the sun there. It’s just super exposed. I guess that’s why they call it Baldy. It’s bald and there’s no shade. And it’s super steep. Those two factors will definitely play a key role.
VN: What kind of vibe and atmosphere are you expecting from EF in comparison to the way things were at BMC?
TvG: I think they definitely have a more relaxed philosophy. Lower pressure, so to speak. I think their philosophy is that you have to enjoy it, you have to have fun. BMC was really focused on WorldTour points. I think EF is going to have more of a focus on quality victories, regardless of whether or not they attribute to a WorldTour ranking. For them, races like Tour of Utah or Colorado Classic or Tour of California, races that don’t carry a whole lot of weight in the WorldTour, it’s still going to be important to them because it’s an American race, an American team and sponsors, and it’s a place where you can get a quality win.
It’s less like, if we don’t perform at the Volta a Catalunya, they’re not going to start stressing that we’re down on points. Not to say that there is not going to be pressure attached to getting results or certain races where we’re going to try to perform, but it’s a different mindset on what we’re trying to achieve.
VN: Will you be targeting some of those American races in 2019?
TvG: I’d like to. I haven’t had a full sit-down with what my program is going to be and laid everything out in that respect, but I think I’m trying to spend a little bit more time in the U.S. There’s certainly historical races that I’m trying to target in the spring and summer over in Europe, but for me and for my family and just general happiness, being able to spend a little bit more time at home would be good. And I have a perfect opportunity to do that with all these races that are here.
VN: Have you spoken with the team about your expected role and where you fit into the team plans?
TvG: I think another kind of key difference between BMC and the way EF functions is that they don’t really seem to go into a race with like, ‘You’re our leader, we’re all rallying around you, we have one goal.’ It’s more of like, ‘If you have good legs and you show up, we’ll show up with multiple goals but if you’re proving you’re fit, we’ll rally around you.’ I think that’s a much healthier approach because it seemed like on BMC, if you would go in with the approach of everything’s for one guy and that guy has a bad day, you kind of are left with nothing.
I think it was quite often that we’d show up to the classics and it would be all for Phil [Gilbert]. Sometimes Phil would perform, he’d win Amstel and it would be great. Other times he might have a bad day or a puncture at a wrong time and the team ends up with absolutely nothing. They really did this all-or-nothing approach and there were a lot of times that we were left disappointed. On EF, if you’re good, you’re good. You can go and take your chance, ask for help, and it will be more of a group effort. The pressure is a little bit more evenly distributed and everyone can have your chance.
VN: Do you think that opportunism will translate into you becoming more of a stage-hunter next year and focusing less on GC?
TvG: When I look back on my career, my talents are in GC. It’s a bit more of a straightforward way to approach things. If I go into a race saying, “I’m just going to stage-hunt,” and I sit in the gruppetto and let opportunities slip, and then I pick my day and I miss the breakaway, or I pick my day and someone has better legs than me that day, well, there’s never guarantees in anything but there’s so much less guarantee when you’re stage-hunting. Most of the races I go to, I’m going to go with the ambition of GC and use stage-hunting as a backup. If I have an unlucky crash or puncture or something happens, then it’s, “Okay, reassess the goals, now we’re stage-hunting.”
VN: Do you have a sense of whether you’ll be racing a grand tour next year, and if so, which one?
TvG: I hope to do the Tour.
VN: Do you know where you’d slot into the Tour de France squad riding alongside Rigo?
TvG: It’s the way I just answered the question a couple of minutes ago — less going in with the goal of, “We’re all for one guy.” If we end up going to the Tour and they say, “Everything is for Rigo, we’re 100 percent dedicated to Rigo,” I’m fine with that. But that’s not the sense I get from the philosophy of the team. It’s more like I laid out before: “You guys take your chances and we’ll help you guys out.” Things happen and you have to go with the flow of the race. I don’t expect the whole team to be everything for Rigo, and I don’t expect everything to be for me. I think we can work together well and I think everyone’s going to have their chance.
VN: What are you expecting from being on a team where you’ll know so many of the riders from coming up through the ranks as a young American rider?
TvG: I’m excited. A lot of these guys I’ve been teammates with in the past. Taylor [Phinney], I was obviously teammates with on BMC, but then guys like Alex Howes, we were teammates way back in the day when we were racing with juniors on 5280. The young crop of Americans, the Craddocks and all those guys. BMC was technically an American team but it felt more Swiss or more Belgian. I feel like this is truly an American team. Just the vibes and the culture that you’re going to get from that, it’s going to definitely feel more at home.
VN: What do you see as the next step in your career, the goals that are still motivating you? Do you see yourself still improving as a stage racer?
TvG: Honestly, the only thing I want to do is ball. I’ve had my fair share of disappointment the past few years but I’ve also had a fair amount of success. It was only just last year in 2017 that I did get a top 10 and a stage win in two different grand tours. And it was only just last year that I podiumed in the Tour of California. I still think the GC tools are still there.
I don’t want to plan my whole season around targeting one race because that can set you up for a colossal failure. I want everywhere I go to be an opportunity to get a result. If that’s the Tour of California, the Dauphiné, the Tour de France, I just want to go, I want to have fun, I want to enjoy racing my bike and enjoy the process and the hard work, and get the most out of myself.
I’m 30 years old now so I’m definitely at that midway point, but when I look at it, a lot of guys, their best years are in their 30s. I feel like I’ve got a lot more in the tank and a lot more to give and a lot more motivation. So I just want to put it all out there.
VN: Do you feel like the big successes you’ve had in recent years would stand for themselves more if it hadn’t been for those big successes early in your career? Does something like a Tour de France top five overshadow the recent results?
TvG: I don’t want to sell myself short because I know what I’m capable of. It’s almost like I’m able to say, ‘Oh look, I did that, so therefore I’m not that bad.’ But it’s still not living up to the potential. I feel like, yeah, I’m held to a little bit of a higher standard because people expect more, but it’s more about the expectation I put on myself.
I’m not saying I’m going to go and podium in the Tour, but I’m also not going to say it’s not something I [would] strive for.
VN: Do the expectations those early results set still motivate you now?
TvG: You need a lot of things to go right. It’s not just a matter of having the tools to do it. I look at other incredibly talented riders like Richie Porte, he’s had some incredibly bad luck these past few years. He was fifth at the Tour one time but even that result was like, “What if he didn’t have some of the bad luck he had early on?”
You can only control what you can control. All I’ll say is that I definitely recognize that I have the potential. I wouldn’t be depressed if it never happened for me but at the same time, it’s not like I’m giving up on striving for it.
VN: Will you be striving for wins on the dirt at the “alternative” races EF is planning to do in 2019?
TvG: No — I haven’t discussed my full program, but if you’re asking if that’s something I’m interested in, then no.
VN: To wrap it up: Where can we expect to see you next, your first races in 2019?
TvG: Well, I’ve mentioned my interest in doing that Colombian race and then heading over to Europe, I’ll do probably a couple of early, March WorldTour stage races like Paris-Nice, Catalunya. And then I might take a little break, come back to the States, start gearing up for the summer races like California, Dauphiné, Tour. After that, we’ll see. Maybe it will be Utah, Colorado, or whatever else ends up presenting itself. Like I said, that’s a rough outline that I’m drawing up in my head right now. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the next week once I have my meetings with the directors and all that stuff.
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Losing its main sponsor does not necessarily signal the end of Team Sky, top stars Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas said in the wake of the shocking news.
Media giant Sky announced Wednesday that after 10 years it would no longer sponsor the British team it helped create in 2010. In that time, Froome won four Tour de France titles, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España, and Thomas followed by winning this year’s Tour de France.
“It’s a shock, disappointing to start with but when you sit back and look at it, 10 years is a long time as a main title sponsor in cycling,” Thomas told the BBC.
“It’s been an incredible nine years so far and we want to go out on a high and make 2019 the last and the best year yet.”
The 2019 season will be the last that Sky sponsors the team. The decision to quit leaves general manager David Brailsford in a rush to find a new financial backer.
“We’re still confident in Dave and the team that they can continue and keep the team together,” Thomas said.
“We see a lot of other teams have lost title sponsors but have continued — Movistar was with Banesto and Caisse d’Epargne and has been going for over 30 years with different sponsors.
“It’s certainly not the end, or at least hopefully it’s not the end, so it’s also kind of exciting at the same time. It just gives everyone a bit more motivation to keep pushing on.”
Froome helped Bradley Wiggins become Great Britain’s first Tour winner in 2012, which marked Sky’s first grand tour title. He followed in Wiggins’s steps with Tour wins in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Froome won the Giro this year and helped Thomas to his Tour title two months later.
“It came as surprise, but at the same time we are all grateful for the time we had with Sky as a sponsor. It’s not over yet, we still have next season to race for and hopefully over the course of the season we can find a sponsor to take over,” Froome told Sky Sports.
“The team has been incredibility successful and I have every confidence that if the team has another season that’s on par with the previous years, then we should be able to find a sponsor.
“Everyone would like a bit of security and we have a year to replace them. It’s not for the riders to be doing, it’ll be at the back of our mind and it’ll serve as extra motivation if anything for us when we go to the races.”
Brailsford said he will need to find a backer by the start of next summer’s Tour de France or let his riders under contract seek out new teams. Waiting too long without a sponsor for 2020 would put the riders and staff members — totaling around 100 — at risk of being left without work or poor deals with new teams.
Froome last year signed a contract through 2020. Thomas renewed this year through 2021. Other riders like Colombian talent Egan Bernal are signed through 2023.
Their contracts and the others’ come out of the massive budget on which Team Sky operates, believed to be north of $43 million. No cycling team has ever had a larger budget.
“Who knows?” Brailsford told ITV when asked if the team will continue. “I can’t give any guarantees but I’d like to think there are opportunities out there.
“My personal responsibility at the minute is to make sure there is a future for the team [and] the riders, and I take that very seriously.”
Brailsford said he considers it an “opportunity” and “it’s pretty exciting” to consider the team’s future. Already, he has “no regrets” about Team Sky’s journey.
“I think our record at the races and what we’ve achieved, the team that we’ve built, the way that we’ve raced, the way we’ve built the staffing team has been a fantastic journey, so we’ve got no regrets whatsoever and we look forward and to continue to build.”
Organizers have not yet revealed all the details of the route for 2019, but they have confirmed that the race will begin in Spain.
The Vuelta has only started abroad three times — in Lisbon in 1987, in Assen in the Netherlands in 2009, and in Nimes, France, in 2017.
Chris Froome (Sky) won the 2017 edition but did not return to the race in 2018, which was won by another Brit, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). The full 2019 race route will be presented on December 19.