Partnership with Italian arm of Murdoch empire reinforces team's ties to the country...

BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster behind Team Sky has announced that two companies with which it has strong links, Sky Italia and News International, have invested in the UK-based ProTour team, which makes its debut at the Tour Down Under five weeks tomorrow.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, of which Sky Italia is a wholly owned subsidiary, owns just under 40% of BSkyB, which operates the various Sky TV channels in the UK. Both News Corporation and Sky Italia will be represented on the board of Tour Racing Limited, which holds Team Sky’s ProTour license, joining two executives from BSkyB and British Cycling’s President and Chief executive, Brian Cookson and Ian Drake.

Robert Tansey, Brand Marketing Director at BSkyB and Chair of the Sky Pro Cycling Board, said: “We have the perfect partners backing this team and welcome Sky Italia and News Corporation on board.”

He continued, “Italy has a great heritage in road cycling, through its riders and manufacturers, and that is already reflected in our team. They have a real passion for the sport and we’re delighted that Sky Italia has joined us.”

Bringing Sky Italia on board may well be a shrewd move by the team, which has already forged close links with the country through having its training base there, recruiting three Italian riders, Davide Viganò, Dario Cioni and Morris Possoni, and choosing to ride Pinarello bikes. Meanwhile British Cycling’s academy, run by Max Sciandri, is in Tuscany.

And with only one Italian team – Liquigas – having achieved ProTour registration for 2010 following Lampre Farnese Vini’s failure to meet UCI criteria last month, bringing Sky Italia on board appears a shrewd marketing move given the country’s obsession with cycling.

Certainly, Andrea Zappi, Vice President of Sky Sports Channels, is looking forward to the partnership, saying: “We’re enthusiastic about taking part in Team Sky’s great adventure, which will allow us to become a leading player in a sport which has deep roots in our country through the passion of the people, tradition and history.” He added, “Sky shares with its other partners in this thrilling adventure a passion for excellence which we’re sure will provide further inspiration for our team.”

Tansey also believes that partnering with News Corporation will bring benefits to the team, since it is “a leading broadcaster in sport globally and brings a huge range of skills and experience.”

“Team Sky is a very exciting project with great ambition; not only to win in style and with the right racing attitude but to inspire the public to enjoy cycling too,” he added, saying “Dave Brailsford has formed an impressive group of riders, coaches and crew and we are looking forward to Team Sky’s debut at the Tour Down Under next month.”

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.