Category: Team Sky

Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome to ride in Tour of Britain

• Froome set to appear in race for first time since 2009
• Cardiff-born Thomas: ‘It starts in Wales which will be special’

The Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome will line up for Team Sky in the Tour of Britain next month. In a coup for organisers, Froome will ride his first Tour of Britain since 2009, with the six-times Grand Tour winner making a rare appearance in a British race.

Thomas was once a regular in the Tour of Britain, but his appearance last year, when he finished seventh overall, was his first since 2011. The Welshman was drawn to last year’s Tour of Britain by its finish in his native Cardiff, and will again be on home soil when this year’s event begins in Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, on 2 September.

Related: Faster, higher, stronger? Not in Olympic women’s road cycling | Stephanie Constand

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Porte: Teams need more sponsors to compete with Sky

One of the big talking points in the wake of another Team Sky blowout at the Tour de France was the team’s financial heft that allows it to steamroll much of the peloton.

Several voices have called for salary caps and budget parity across the UCI WorldTour to create a more equal playing field.

For Richie Porte, who’s been on both sides of the Sky train, the peloton needs to bring in more sponsors like Sky, not impose some sort of arbitrary salary cap or budget limitation.

“There’s been a lot made of salary cap, but firstly cycling needs more sponsors like Sky,” Porte said in a phone interview. “I think a lot of the crap that’s been thrown around is rhetorical.”

Porte has been inside the Team Sky train and he’s still hoping to have a chance to use that insider knowledge to his advantage. After crashing out of the Tour for the second year in a row last month, Porte is slated to start the Vuelta a España on August 25 in Malaga in what’s expected to be his final grand tour in a BMC Racing jersey.

Porte defended Sky’s tactics and said riding a high tempo at the front of the peloton is the best way to control a grand tour. Some might not consider that the most exciting way to race, but Porte said it’s highly effective.

“It is hard to attack a team like Sky but it’s sensible what they do. If they can ride tempo and win the race it makes sense to do it,” Porte said. “They way they ride is just how you win bike races. You take control of the race and that’s what Sky does brilliantly.”

Many teams have tried to emulate Sky, but few have had much success. Porte pointed to the travails of Movistar during this year’s Tour as an example that there’s more going on at Team Sky than just a deep pocketbook.

“To get the guys to ride on the front like they do is one thing but not every team can get the best out of high paid guys,” Porte said. “Look at Movistar, they’re a prime example. They’ve got three of the highest paid guys but other than Nairo Quintana winning a stage, they didn’t really do a hell of a lot. No disrespect, but maybe if they’d ridden like Sky did, as a unit, they might have had better success.”

Porte watched the Tour with interest from his couch after crashing out in stage 9 in a minor pileup that had massive consequences. He cracked his clavicle and was out of the race when he was perhaps in the best shape of his career. Observing from a distance, he could tell the peloton fears attacking Sky.

“To give them respect, it’s not easy to do,” he continued. “When you see guys like Luke Rowe and [Jonathan] Castroviejo riding like they do. Then having [Egan] Bernal too. Guys were afraid to attack [Chris] Froome, then Geraint [Thomas] was the one who profited out of that the most. People were afraid of Froome, and Geraint was the strongest guy in the race. I don’t know what you do — maybe gang up on them.”

Porte said the only way to beat Sky is to hope that the team’s captains have a bad day. That’s a rather bleak but honest assessment of Sky, which has won six of the past seven yellow jerseys.

“I think people are going to let Sky do tempo, if they’re good enough to attack, they have to hope that Froomey or Geraint aren’t on a good day. That’s the only way I can see to beat them,” Porte said.

“In 2013, one stage Froome was isolated, the rest of us [on Sky] got dropped because the whole peloton ganged up on us,” Porte continued. “We tried to control too many guys that wanted to go in the breakaways. That’s probably the way to take them. If everyone keeps attacking full gas, that’s the only way to beat Sky.”

When asked if he thought it was the end of the Froome era, Porte didn’t hesitate.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Froomey, not for a second,” he said. “It’s Chris Froome, he’s always up for a battle. He hasn’t had the easiest season. If he turns up next year and the Tour is his goal, then he’ll be the man to beat, 100 percent.

“If anyone wins the Giro like he did, that’s an incredible season,” he continued. “I guess Froomey put the pressure on himself to go to the Tour to try to win his fifth. It was probably a big ask. It can’t have been easy with him with all the stuff going on and the hostility at the Tour. At the end of the day he’s only human, and that all had to get to him eventually. To still to be third in the Tour, I’d give anything to be third at the Tour … Chris didn’t win the Tour this year but I think next year he’ll be all in to win that fifth title.”

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Team Sky’s Gianni Moscon escapes sack over Tour de France incident

  • UCI gives Moscon five-week suspension for Gespert incident
  • Team Sky ‘confident he has learnt from this episode’

Gianni Moscon has been handed a five-week suspension from the UCI after he was thrown out of the Tour de France for trying to punch another rider – but he will keep his job at Team Sky.

Moscon, 24, was disqualified following an incident that occurred in the opening kilometre during stage 15 of the Tour de France from Millau to Carcassone. Video footage showed Moscon raising his fist to the French rider Élie Gesbert and the race commissaires said the Italian had been disqualified for “particularly serious aggression”.

Related: What next for Geraint Thomas and Team Sky after his Tour triumph?

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Team Sky cyclist Egan Bernal sustains serious facial trauma in crash

• Cyclist hospitalised after multi-rider crash in San Sebastian
• Movistar’s Mikel Landa also required treatment after incident

Egan Bernal has sustained serious facial trauma after a crash during the closing stages of the Clasica San Sebastian.

Related: Egan Bernal set to give Team Sky the edge for years to come

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Measuring the impact of taunting, jeering Team Sky at the Tour de France

First it was Chris Froome who received the brunt of fans’ ire at this year’s Tour de France. Presumably, this was a direct reflection of how some fans felt about him racing the Tour after his drawn-out case for an Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España, despite being cleared to race days prior to the Tour start.

Eventually, teammates and staff members at Team Sky also suffered through days of taunts, jeers, and fierce opposition to their presence at the Tour. The roadside boos became a constant.

Despite the abuse, Team Sky managed to collect yet another grand tour title, this time under Geraint Thomas, with Chris Froome finishing third. Did the taunts have any effect? Did they add stress to the riders and staff? Did they have the opposite effect, and bring about emotions that propelled the British team to its fourth grand tour title in a row? We may never know the extent of the impact, but it’s interesting to understand the nuances of negativity on athletic performance.

We spoke with Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach, an executive board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology to help us understand how roadside boos impact world-class athletes.

VeloNews: How do the jeers and taunts that Team Sky was subjected to affect performance, generally? In some cases, in some people, might it actually improve short-term performance, due to the adrenaline surge it elicits, albeit short-lived?

Kristen Dieffenbach: Response will always be individual. The impact and response from each rider will vary, given when it occurs. With regards to the short-term impact, in the last kilometer of a race or last few kilometers, crowd noise is crowd noise. The energy of the crowd certainly helps boost the adrenaline of competitors. With athletes of this caliber, they are used to large and loud crowds at the end of the race and from my experience working with athletes, they are so focused on the task at that point that the noise is just noise, and it is all fuel.

However, there is also the element of the constant nature of the crowd negativity across the course, the individual voices that can be heard on climbs where crowds are more spread out, the reception of those at the finish line, the reporters’ comments and questions. The negativity can feel more individual and targeted in these settings and, as a result, can become quite cumulative.

Some athletes will be able to ignore it completely, while for others it can be very disruptive to performance, focus, concentration, and to their ability to rest and recover post-race. The situation could be compared with home-team advantage with regards to the fans’ support element. It is an “away” event for everyone on the Tour, but the huge negative from the crowds is like playing an away game. While these are not novice pro athletes — they have raced in front of large crowds throughout their pro careers — everything about the Tour is unusual: the length, the physical drain, and the sizes of the crowds, day after day. The negative culture and environment can add to the drain, particularly as the deep fatigue of grueling endurance efforts set in physically. It can take a toll mentally, depending on the support and resources that each individual has.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t just a “vilifying the opponent” reaction from the crowd. The crowds are responding to something in particular, something that they feel is unjust. The riders know this, and they know they are on a team that is being perceived very poorly. They are, at the moment, “that team.” They are also, according to the rule books, playing by the rules at the moment. Nothing has been proven and their team was allowed to make the choices it has made. For some athletes, the public response may be demoralizing and for others it can inspire them to prove everyone wrong. It depends on how they perceive the situation and the support they have.

If I were working with a team, one of my concerns would be the impact on a rider’s ability to rest and recover daily as needed, because whether they see it as a drain, a negative, they are indifferent, or they see it as a challenge, it is an extra emotional component that they need to contend with during what is arguably one of the most grueling endurance challenges.

VN: Is there any way to quantify the effect that emotions and psychological health play in performance, particularly over an extremely demanding three-week event like this?

KD: Simple answer, no. The academic answer? Quantifying emotions and psychological health in general are incredibly challenging. One of the essential measures of “when is it a problem,” is when it begins to interfere with normal activities and have a negative impact on one’s life or the lives of those around you. And this is highly subjective. There are scales for depression and worry and other negative emotions as well as measures of perceived stress, well-being, optimism, and hope. There are also bio-feedback tools.

But these are not infallible or perfect and are best used by a trained professional who can understand the results within the context that they were taken and supported by an individual’s history. None of the types of measures have been validated for use within an extremely physiologically grueling environment. Within the context of a sporting challenge, there really is no way to isolate out an individual straw in the haystack of elements that contribute to any given performance. There are personal and cultural factors, external and internal factors, psychological, social, emotional, and physiological factors. So many things contribute to performance in both positive and negative ways.

And our emotional experience — how we perceive things and how we respond — changes with fatigue. Think about how you know a toddler needs a nap, when he or she loses their little mind over something minor when they are overtired. Ideally, adults have a better grasp on their emotions, but extreme fatigue is extreme fatigue. In the ultra-endurance community, spontaneous tears, uncontrollable laughter, and emotional outbursts — say chucking one’s bike off a small cliff out of frustration — are considered just part of the experience as deep fatigue sets in and the brain just isn’t functioning the same, and that is without the outside stress of jeering crowds.

Keep in mind how much the brain’s ability to function changes with deep fatigue. We know that response time gets dulled, we know that our taste changes — what was fine becomes too sweet — our frustration fuse shortens. So, given the brain is the epicenter of emotion, and that all stress — good or bad, physical or emotional — is cumulative, it stands to reason that it will have an impact. But there is really no way to determine if it is a minor or major factor other than athlete self-report.

VN: What about the danger that the riders might feel? How does that affect performance?

KD: The human response to perceived stress and danger is heightened alertness and “fight or flight” readiness. One can be hyper-aware of this or it can be a more subtle, lower level response of being extra tense. It drains resources, contributing to fatigue. Depending on how aware the athlete is, it can be a minor or major distraction, which can be disastrous in a high-speed race causing a missed break or a crash. A tense cyclist is one who is more likely to respond poorly to bumps from the road and other riders — an athlete who is more likely to crash. It is also just draining, which of course takes a toll on the resources the athlete has for performance.

VN: What things can the riders do to combat the negativity that they are facing? How can they keep from allowing their emotions to get the best of them and reacting with negativity themselves?

KD: The riders have a job to do right now. That job is clearly defined. Their job on the bike is to execute the plan, and off the bike it is to recover and prepare. The more they are supported and able to stay focused, the better. Control the controllable. What the crowds are doing or saying is completely outside of their control. Nothing they do or say right now will change that. And any efforts to do so now are a distraction from the task at hand and will just suck energy.

Easy to put on paper, very hard to do when this is something very important to you and that you are so invested in. It is also incredibly hard to stay focused over the course of the entire month. Recovery needs from the emotional stress will be as individual as the perception of stress that is added.

Some things that might be useful: set strict parameters and create blackouts as needed, such as stay away from the news, don’t read blogs, email or social media — places that tend to fuel negativity. Ask someone to filter news and just fill you in on things you absolutely need to know if you have to stay up on things. Allowing themselves time to feel the emotions, they are there, acknowledge them and let them pass so you don’t dwell and they don’t fester. Journal, share them with someone supportive so that they can be released and you can refocus. Find healthy passive recovery activities — watching a movie, getting lost in a book, listening to music. Some athletes will feel rejuvenated through interaction with others and others will need solitude. Very hard in the moment, but knowing what you need and asking for it is essential. This is made even more difficult when they are on the road and travel and lodging is so out of their control.

VN: Besides the taunting, cycling as a sport has many inherent dangers. What are the ways that professional cyclists deal with the constant dangers in the sport?

KD: Danger is a matter of perception and preparation. Rock climbing is incredibly dangerous to the novice and unskilled. And it is dangerous to one who fears it. But to someone who is aware of the risks and has a healthy respect for them, who has developed the skills and knows the bounds of their competence, the danger is greatly reduced. This does not mean there is not risk involved, but the danger from those risks diminishes.

This equation follows for professional cyclists too. A rider who is aware of his or her own competence level and understands the nature of what he or she is doing knows the risks but does not assess it as danger in such a way that it becomes a detriment.

Professional athletes train to prepare, they ride not just to build physical fitness but also to hone corning skills, sprinting skills, descending skills. The good ones study these things and prepare for pushing the limits, much the same way that race car drivers do. They understand how they can push their bodies and their equipment. And they take calculated risks based on their knowledge. The level of risk someone is willing to take will be based on his or her perception of the situation, which is why some are more willing to take risks than others. It is still risk so they understand that factors beyond their control — another rider, an unseen bit of sand, a motorist, a gust of wind — may come into play, but they go into situations knowing they are in control of their controllable and are comfortable making decisions and choices based on this.

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Tour de France: French media call for salary cap to curb Team Sky dominance

• Winner Geraint Thomas’s team have twice budget of Sunweb
• Fans and public said to view Tour with ‘disillusioned anger’

Geraint Thomas has been hailed as “Le Prince de Galles” and “Le cyclist next door” by French papers after winning his first Tour de France. But as the 32-year-old arrived back in Britain following a heavy night of celebrations, there were growing calls for Team Sky’s dominance to be curbed.

Thomas admitted that his victory had “all come together like a dream” and said he had received calls from Arsène Wenger and Elton John, as well as a video message from Thierry Henry. An open-top bus parade is also planned in Wales, although Thomas’s next appointment will be a criterium in Belgium on Tuesday evening.

Related: Will Geraint Thomas’s Tour de France win spark thirst for more success?

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Team Sky’s riders who propelled Geraint Thomas to Tour de France win

A dedicated team effort helped propel the Welshman to the Tour title, with a mix of mountain grind, chasing tenacity as well as a potential glimpse of a future Grand Tour champion

Signed from Movistar, where he helped Nairo Quintana in the Tour de France in 2015 and 2017, and had already played an important role in Team Sky in helping Geraint Thomas win the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. If anything his efforts in the Tour were even more impressive: lending Froome his wheel when he had puncture on stage 10 and helping Thomas win up the Alpe d’Huez by providing much of the grunt work on the climb up. Also valuable in the Pyrenees – when Mikel Landa broke away up the Tournalet on stage 19 and came to being within 80 seconds on virtual classification, it was the Italian who did much of the work to chase him down.

Related: Tour de France victory has given Geraint Thomas desire for more big wins

Related: From Wales to the Champs-Élysées: the selfless rise of Geraint Thomas | William Fotheringham

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Geraint Thomas: Tour de France support has outshone negativity – video

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas says the fan support has outshone any negativity around the race following his Tour de France triumph over the weekend, saying he couldn’t believe how positive the reaction was towards his win, even ‘random people crying that have never met me.’ The Team Sky rider says he now has the ‘taste’ for more grand tour success.

• Tour victory has given Thomas desire for more big wins

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Tour de France victory has given Geraint Thomas desire for more big wins

• ‘It’s insane – I’ve certainly got the taste for it,’ says Welshman
• Next month’s Vuelta a España likely to be a step too far

Geraint Thomas says his first Tour de France victory has given him a “taste” for more grand tour successes – although he appears unlikely to tackle the Vuelta a España despite being pencilled in for next month’s race.

The 32-year-old could barely contain his excitement after crossing the line, draping the Welsh flag around his shoulders on the podium and calling it the best day of his life after his marriage to his wife Sara.

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From Wales to the Champs-Élysées: the selfless rise of Geraint Thomas | William Fotheringham

The remarkable career of a cycling all-rounder whose innate talent has taken him to Tour de France triumph

It is 11 years and one month since a chubby-faced Welsh youth stood on London’s Tower Bridge marvelling, along with a slightly less chubby-faced Manx youth, at the fact that they were both about to make their debuts in the Tour de France. Both Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas were products of the legendary British Cycling academy in Manchester, run by the plain-speaking coach Rod Ellingworth, who moved with Thomas to Team Sky in 2010, where the pair have remained ever since. Thomas’s Tour victory on Sunday marks another high point for Ellingworth’s protégés.

Related: Geraint Thomas seals maiden Tour de France title with Paris procession

Related: Dave Brailsford emotional but immovable as Tour triumph continues legacy | Jeremy Whittle

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