Team Sky launched in London today – and management and riders once again re-iterated their goal of winning the Tour de France within 5 years. They will have Ben Swift to help them do that, as widely anticipated after a photo of him in the new British outfit’s jersey was leaked yesterday, Swift was confirmed as the final rider in the Sky roster.
The launch took place at Millbank, close to Tate Britain, at lunchtime, and was hosted by Sky presenter and keen cyclist Dermot Murnaghan. As part of the launch Team Sky’s kit got its first airing as expected, it’s predominantly black, with light blue highlights. Two touches could have come straight from the Team GB handbook are the rider’s name on the side of he shirt, emphasising the individual attention paid to each cyclist, and a white panel on the back with a blue line that apparently represents the thin line between success and failure. That line, both literal and metaphorical was the theme of the launch, for Team Sky "it's all about the line."
Brailsford reiterated the team’s goal of winning the Tour de France with a British rider within five years, adding that the entire focus of the backroom staff was to enable the riders to perform to the best of their abilities, saying: “We started talking a long time ago about setting up a top-level British team but needed to reach a critical mass of riders to achieve it. Now here we are.
"We're ambitious but the key thing for us is to make sure everything is centred on the rider. We want to treat the riders with dignity and respect so that they can be the best then can be.
"People need to be motivated to get the best out of them and we want them to achieve excellence,” he continued. “Team spirit is critical to us so the personality of the riders played a big part in our recruitment."
Almost all of Team Sky’s 26 riders were at the swish ceremony to launch the team, each riding onto the stage on their new Pinarello Dogma bikes decked out in black and blue, with Bradley Wiggins the last to take to the stage.
Wiggins said, “the thing with this team is that we'll do everything we can to be in the best possible shape to win the Tour de France. We've done it on the track and I'm sure we can do it on the road.”
He added: If it works it will be fantastic and I think it will work. With a company like Sky behind it and a man like Dave Brailsford in charge, I think this is the biggest thing to hit professional cycling in years."
Echoing Bradley Wiggins’ comments when he joined the team from Garmin-Slipstream last month, Swift, whose protracted move from Katusha attracted criticism from his former team who believed that Sky had effectively poached their rider, said that arriving at Team Sky felt like “coming home.”
The 22-year-old from Rotherham, who in his debut season in the peloton last year won the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain and also finished fourth in a stage of the Giro d’Italia, said: "I'm massively grateful to Katusha for the opportunities they gave me," says Swift, "but coming to Team Sky feels like coming home because I know so many of the support staff and riders. I will be in the perfect environment to grow as a rider with Team Sky."
Team Principal Dave Brailsford, added: “Ben is a real talent and his future looks bright because he ticks all the boxes that it takes to make it in this sport. He’s extremely serious, skilled on bike, he can climb and sprint and I really believe he can go far with us. We’ve worked quite some time with him on the track and I think the next years could be a massive breakthrough for him on the road as well”.
The build-up to the team’s launch began in earnest early this morning with some 300 lucky fans getting the opportunity to ride with members of the new team after being selected through a competition run by Team Sky through Facebook.
The winners were split into three groups that met respectively at Guildhall, the London Eye and Hyde Park, and were led by team members to a central rendezvous point on The Mall where the three rides came together. Along the way, the cyclists, many of whom had endured extremely early starts to get into London on time, had a rare opportunity to ride alongside their heroes and chat to them.
Earlier in the day, on the other side of the world, a Team Sky rider was claiming his first win of 2010, albeit not wearing team colours, with New Zealender Greg Henderson, riding for Robbie McEwan’s Mazda team, taking Stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Classic in Geelong, holding off Team Sky colleague Chris Sutton.
Meanwhile, the Team Sky website is finally live, including photos and other coverage of today’s launch, video interviews with riders and support staff, plus a host of other features.
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.