In a busy week for Team Sky, up and coming British rider Ben Swift was expected to be confirmed this afternoon as the latest recruit to the fledgling outfit which makes its debut at the Tour Down Under in the New Year. However as has been the case with other mooted big name signings what has been touted by some as a certainty is looking a tad more doubtful as crunch time approaches.
The signing from the Russian Katusha team would take Sky’s roster to 25 riders and most likely signal the end of its hopes of seeing Bradley Wiggins turn out in its colours next year. However Sky would appear to be finding that the Russians are just as good at playing contract hard ball as the Americans at Garmin Slipstream with Katusha's team manager Andrei Tchmil making it clear that he expects the young Briton to see out the remainder of his contract with the Russian outfit. As we go to press on this the Team Sky press office remains uncontactable… read in to that what you may.
The prospect of Wiggins joining Team Sky – it’s been reported in recent weeks that their and Garmin-Slipstream’s lawyers and management had got as far as sitting down to negotiate a potential deal – appear to have been dealt a fatal blow earlier this week with the news that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is staying at Astana.
With Wiggins confirming his credentials as a grand classification challenger through his surprise fourth-place finish in this year’s Tour, Garmin-Slipstream’s directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters was always going to put up a fight to keep the rider unless he could land a star name to replace him, but Contador’s decision to remain where he is for 2010 makes that unlikely.
Nevertheless, signing Swift, one of British cycling’s most exciting young talents, would represent an enormous coup for Team Sky. The 22-year-old all-rounder from Rotherham has just finished the first year of a two-year contract at Katusha, with whom he rode last year’s Giro d’Italia, claiming third place on one stage, and he also scored a win in Stage 7 of this year’s Tour of Britain.
Twice national champion as a junior, in the Points race in 2004 and the Scratch race a year later, Swift made his pro debut in 2007 with Barloworld, and won the Tour of Britain’s mountains jersey that year. He spent 2008 with the British Cycling development squad, gaining wins in the Coppa della Pace, the GP Coppa Romita and Stage 5 of the Giro Ciclistico Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc.
He also raced for Team GB in the road race at the Beijing Olympics last year, and shortly afterwards came fourth in the UCI World Road Championships Road Race.
So far, the team has confirmed 24 riders for its debut season next year. Those are Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings, Pete Kennaugh, Chris Froome, Ian Stannard, Russell Downing, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Thomas Löfkvist, Kurt Arvesen, Simon Gerrans, Juan Antonio Flecha, Kjell Carlstrom, John Lee Augustyn, Greg Henderson, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Morris Possoni, Michael Barry, Serge Pauwels, Chris Sutton, Sylvain Calzati, Nicolas Portal, Mathew Hayman, Dario Cioni and Davide Viganò.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.