Category: Team Sky

Bradley Wiggins warns young cyclists that Team Sky will ‘ruin you’

• Wiggins tells young riders to ‘steer clear’ of his former employers
• Cyclist vows to have his say on his anti-doping inquiry ‘very soon’

Bradley Wiggins has warned young cyclists to steer clear of Team Sky, claiming his former employers will “ruin” them.

The 2012 Tour de France winner was speaking at the announcement of a new roster of riders for Team Wiggins, the under-23 team he has set up. He introduced his new signing Tom Piddock and when asked if he had any advice for his young charge, the 37-year-old made a stinging assessment of his former team. “Don’t go to Sky in the future, steer clear of them,” he said. “Go somewhere else because they’ll ruin you.”

Related: Time for Chris Froome and Sky to rebuild the people’s trust | Richard Williams

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Chris Froome struggles against the backdrop of failed drug test

• Four-times Tour de France winner finishes 10th in Ruta del Sol
• Race was Froome’s first since news of failed drug test broke

Chris Froome admitted feeling below par as he finished the Ruta del Sol in 10th place overall but Team Sky were happy with his performance given the backdrop of an ongoing battle to rescue his reputation.

Froome was surprisingly slow on the 14.2km time-trial which began and concluded in Barbate on Spain’s Costa de la Luz, the finale of a five‑stage race which was his first since a failed drugs test last year became public knowledge. The four-times Tour de France winner finished 27 seconds behind his team-mate David De La Cruz, who recorded his first stage victory for Team Sky.

Related: Time for Chris Froome and Sky to rebuild the people’s trust | Richard Williams

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Chris Froome’s respite only brief before Ruta del Sol puncture strikes

• Froome welcomes Seville diversion from controversy before fourth stage
• Late puncture puts British rider out of contention; he slips to 14th

Chris Froome has faced a grilling at every juncture of a race overtaken by debate around his involvement. The start of the penultimate stage of the Ruta del Sol was no different but this time it was Tim from Cheltenham asking the questions and he had little interest in discussing salbutamol.

With the grand central building of Seville’s Plaza de España behind him, Froome had his game face on, exchanging a few words with his team-mate Philip Deignan until Tim leaned over the metal barrier to employ the four-times Tour de France winner as his own personal travel guide.

Related: Chris Froome denies Ruta del Sol is mental escape from fight to clear name

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Chris Froome denies Ruta del Sol is mental escape from fight to clear name

• Team Sky rider claims media has hyped up story of failed drug test
• Wout Poels retains lead with Froome 28sec adrift after stage three

Chris Froome bristled at the suggestion his first race of the season was providing a mental escape from the fight to clear his name as he maintained seventh place in the Ruta del Sol.

The 32-year-old insisted it was business as usual and confirmed he will do a warm-up race in March as he continues his preparation for the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.

Related: Time for Chris Froome and Sky to rebuild the people’s trust | Richard Williams

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Chris Froome writes off chances of Ruta del Sol victory after second stage

• Froome seventh as Sky team-mate Wout Poels takes stage win
• Briton competing for first time since news of failed drug test broke

Chris Froome has admitted he will not target victory in his first race since a failed drug test last year became public knowledge but he insisted turmoil off the bike was not a factor in him being slightly below par.

Related: Chris Froome and Dave Brailsford defiant as Team Sky rider returns

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Brailsford balances legal and PR battles as Froome case plays out

CALA DE MIJAS, Spain (VN) — Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford is walking a tightrope.

Torn between a PR battle that he might be losing right now, and the even more important legal war over Chris Froome’s Salbutamol case, the British team manager insists that less is more. At least right now.

“It’s challenging. We are privy to a lot more information than what is out in the public domain,” Brailsford said Wednesday. “There is also a legal process. We don’t want to jeopardize that in any way. Then you have the reputational side of it, which is equally important, but we have to manage the whole legal process first.”

Right now, it’s all hands on deck as Sky tries to clear Froome’s name from a possible career-altering ban and Vuelta disqualification. Froome defiantly returned to racing Wednesday, and a horde of journalists descended on southern Spain to cover the story.

Team Sky has discretely remained quiet over the past several weeks while media and the public have been wringing their hands over Froome’s case.

Froome voiced concern of “misinformation” that has seeped into the public arena since he tested for high levels of Salbutamol en route to winning the 2017 Vuelta a España.

After the case was leaked in December, everyone at Team Sky has been waiting on the sidelines as lawyers and experts prepared their arguments. The case seems to be moving along within the UCI’s anti-doping structure, but no one really knows how long it will be before a final ruling.

In the meantime, with Team Sky refusing to comment publicly about the case, the narrative has taken on a life of its own. Online forums, social media, and a large part of the media have already seemed to have made up their minds.

Despite a temptation to counter some of the wilder stories that are circulating, lawyers are telling everyone within Sky that it’s more prudent to hold their collective tongues until the case is concluded.

“We are 100 percent behind him,” Brailsford insisted Wednesday. “On the public side of things, as uncomfortable as it may be at times, we’ll just have to wait. It’s tempting to correct a lot of the misinformation that is out there. We are in an age of a lot of fast information. We have to be very careful with that. Right now, we are focused on the legal side of things.”

And that means keeping mum about any critical details of the case. It’s one thing to publicly express support for Froome, it’s quite something else to reveal what arguments lawyers might make before arbitration officials.

Brailsford flew directly to Spain from Colombia, where new recruit Egan Bernal won the Oro y Paz race. As much as he would have liked to have talked about that — or just about anything else — dozens of reporters packed in around the Team Sky bus Wednesday with only one thing in mind.

Brailsford weathered a media barrage after Froome pedaled away to make his season debut at the Ruta del Sol. There were plenty of questions:

Why doesn’t Froome stand down? “I get the difference of opinions that are out there. I think it’s fair and correct that he should be treated like any other rider in this situation. I think he should race.”

How long will the process take? “It’s not in our interest to go slow. I’ve read in a few places that we are trying to stall. Why on earth would we want that? We’d like to be resolved as quickly as possible, [but] I think there is a dilemma of trying to get it resolved as quickly as possible and being careful, making sure things are accurate and not rushing things. The most important thing ultimately is that all the information will be shown and he will be allowed to clear his name.”

Is the team fully backing Froome’s insistence that he didn’t break any rules? “The rule is the number of puffs. So did he take more than the allowed number? No. I am 100 percent confident that I cannot see how it won’t play out.”

Would Sky appeal if Froome is banned? “That is purely speculation, isn’t it? We are working hard on the situation we have now, and we’ll manage it from there.”

The Froome case comes on the heels of a rough patch for Sky and Brailsford. There was the whole Wiggins business, with TUEs and Jiffy Bags. Before that, biological passport queries and doubts about former doctors. And now Froome, the team’s franchise rider and poster boy for new cycling, is facing a possible ban for asthma medication.

Brailsford might appear to be under pressure from all sides, but he shows no signs of it, at least not publicly. He was all smiles and chatting with riders and staff before the start of the stage Wednesday.

One reporter asked Brailsford if he’s worn out? “No, no, not at all.”

Is all this harder than JiffyGate? Brailsford shot him a hard glance, “Come on — cheap shot.”

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Chris Froome and Dave Brailsford defiant as Team Sky rider returns

• Froome racing for first time since news of failed drug test broke
• ‘I’m 100% confident he didn’t break the rules,’ says Brailsford

Chris Froome and the Team Sky principal, Dave Brailsford, presented a united and defiant front as the four‑times Tour de France winner raced for the first time since his failed drugs test last year became public knowledge.

Froome was warmly received by crowds gathered on a palm-tree lined road in Granada, southern Spain, to witness a solid start to the Ruta del Sol, his debut race in a season during which controversy promises to reign. The 32-year-old rider insisted he will compete at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France – where public reaction may be tepid or worse – even if his anti‑doping case, which has rumbled on for almost five months, remains unresolved.

Related: Time for Chris Froome and Sky to rebuild the people’s trust | Richard Williams

Related: Team Sky’s Chris Froome ready for first race since failed drugs test

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Team Sky’s Chris Froome ready for first race since failed drugs test

• Froome failed drugs test last September but clear to race
• Briton has been training hard for Ruta del Sol

Chris Froome will compete for the first time since his failed drug test became public, beginning a five-stage race in Cala de Mijas on Wednesday, a fishing village on the Costa del Sol, popular with tourists for year-round sunshine and beachfront bars.

But this will be no holiday for the four times Tour de France winner. That much was clear when his rivals gathered to discuss the Ruta del Sol at the race headquarters, inside a municipal performing arts centre on Tuesday evening.

Related: Chris Froome fights to save career after failed drugs test result

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Chris Froome and Sky must stop hiding behind the letter of the law | Richard Williams

Dave Brailsford’s lofty ideals when setting up Team Sky have been exposed under the pressure of top-level competition

To judge from his words the other day, it seems that Dave Brailsford still doesn’t get it. He was talking in a press conference about the business of the abnormally high salbutamol level in a urine sample taken from Chris Froome in Spain last September but not revealed – by this newspaper and Le Monde – until three months later. While re-emphasising his belief that Froome had done nothing wrong, he added that the finding should not have been made public.

But when Brailsford set up Team Sky eight years ago it was on the basis of absolute honesty and openness. We are going to ride clean, he said, and you can watch us do it. He gave every appearance of recognising that his zero-tolerance policy on doping would require the team to be transparent even beyond the letter of the law.

Related: Chris Froome says report of plea bargain over failed drug test ‘completely untrue’

Related: Team Sky will not suspend Chris Froome during investigation

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Egan Bernal ready to impress as Colombia’s newest diamond in rough

Two years ago, Androni-Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm. Always on the lookout for unsung Latin American talent, Savio gushed at his latest discovery, “I’ve found someone who could be even better than Nairo Quintana!”

At the time, many just rolled their eyes. The exuberant Savio is always his own best salesman, but it turns out the Italian just might be right. That rider is Egan Bernal.

The 21-year-old races this week on home roads during the inaugural Oro y Paz race in Colombia. Already a budding star in South America, the larger peloton is just now discovering his potential.

“I don’t feel the pressure right now to perform,” Bernal said at last month’s Tour Down Under. “Journalists are asking me more questions. I am focused on the racing right now and learning all I can.”

Bernal is already generating buzz with his potential, his attitude, and his VO2max (more on that later). After watching him blow away the field at last year’s Tour de l’Avenir, Team Sky came calling with a chance to join the WorldTour on a three-year contract.

After racing two seasons with Savio, Bernal’s emphatic victory in last year’s Tour de l’Avenir seemed to confirm the hype. Bernal is part of Sky’s glimmering “Class of 2018” that also includes new recruits Kristoffer Halvorsen, Chris Lawless, and Pavel Sivakov.

Last month, Bernal made an impressive WorldTour debut with Team Sky at the Santos Tour Down Under, winning the best young rider’s jersey and finishing sixth overall, just four seconds off the podium. Over the weekend, he won the Colombian national time trial championship.

This week, he’s set to race on home roads against the biggest names of Colombian cycling. Rigoberto Urán and Quintana will be the star attractions, but everyone could be talking about Bernal in a few years.

Sky sport director Brett Lancaster said Bernal was impressive in the early outing in team colors.

“Bernal was sort of apologetic after the race, but all in and all, he gave it a real good dig,” Lancaster said. “He was almost there on the podium, and it was a good start for the young guy. It shows what he can do.”

Bernal entered cycling thanks to his father, who raced in the 1990s. Much like a Colombian version of Peter Sagan, Bernal shined in mountain biking. He won silver and bronze medals in the junior category in the 2014 and 2015, respectively, in the world mountain bike championships.

Savio was tipped off about Bernal by a former Italian pro that works in the mountain biking world. Savio brought Bernal over to Europe to test him in the lab and give him a chance to race on the road. Savio, who’s been in cycling for more than four decades, knows a diamond in the rough when he sees one. He promptly signed Bernal to a four-year deal.

That’s when Bernal underwent the now-famous VO2max tests in Milan. Savio brought his young protégé in for testing in a lab where former pro Michele Bartoli works, and Bernal’s numbers were impressive. According to a report in MARCA two years ago, Bernal at 19 tested a VO2max of 88.8 milliliters per kilo.

In Australia, Bernal told RIDE journalist Rob Arnold said that initial number was “when I don’t train,” and suggested that he could improve to 90 to 91 ml/kg with training.

Bernal raced two seasons with Savio, posting 47 race days in 2016 and 68 days in 2017. Last year’s victory at the Tour de l’Avenir, when Bernal blew everyone away in the decisive mountain stages later in the race, got him a ticket to join Team Sky.

Bernal is adjusting well. Already fluent in Spanish and Italian, he was speaking English to reporters in Australia. He called Team Sky the “team of my dreams.”

Team Sky isn’t putting too much pressure on him just yet, but the team also knows it has a potential jewel on its hands.

“It’s the first time I’ve worked with him, but he’s got everything to be a big champion,” Lancaster said. “He asks the right questions, he listens to the staff and to his teammates. He comes from a mountain bike background, so he’s got the skills. He has all the attributes to become a big rider in the future.”

Lancaster confirmed that Bernal is on the long list to race the Vuelta a España later this season. That is still far down the road — first, he’ll likely race Paris-Nice or the Volta a Catalunya — but the idea is to bring Bernal for his grand tour debut this season.

“It’s not his first year pro. If he was a neo, you’d nurse him a little bit more. He’s penciled in for the Vuelta, but it depends on how the year plays out,” Lancaster said. “We won’t put much pressure on him this year. The Vuelta is the best grand tour to start with.”

How far Bernal can go remains to be seen. Staying healthy and motivated is important in any young professional’s trajectory. Sky’s deep and crowded talent pool means Bernal will have to earn his chances to lead. All indications so far suggest that he’s not shy about pushing the pedals when he gets the green light.

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