Dave Brailsford, the architect of Great Britain’s world championship and Olympic success on the track and team principal of Team Sky, says that he has been “blown away” by the levels of support for the ProTour outfit in its maiden Tour de France and believes that this summer’s Sky Rides, the first of which takes place today, can help encourage more people to get on their bikes.
Team Sky may still be waiting for its first stage win in cycling’s biggest race, but with Geraint Thomas spending most of the first week in the leading young rider’s white jersey, Edvald Boasson Hagen fighting out sprint finishes and Juan Antonio Flecha getting into a long breakaway yesterday, there’s been plenty for fans to cheer.
"Without a doubt the thing that's blown me away more than anything at the Tour has been the amount of supporters and the number of Team Sky tops and flags at the side of the road - it's been phenomenal," said Brailsford, adding, “I really didn't expect that so soon. It's just amazing to see so many people out here cheering away and I can't thank them enough.”
"It makes you feel very lucky and inspires the team to keep giving 100% to try and give them as much as possible to cheer about," he continued.
Team Sky says that it’s not just at the roadside in The Netherlands, Belgium and France that fans have been following the team’s fortunes, pointing towards a 25% increase in TV viewing figures back in the UK, where the race is being broadcast by Eurosport and ITV4.
Meanwhile, today sees the first of this summer’s series of 11 Sky Rides around the country, which have the aim of getting 1 million more Britons to take to their bikes by 2013.
In common with all of the Sky Rides, today’s event in Ealing – not too far from Sky TV’s HQ in Isleworth – will be attended by a rider from Team Sky, and that honour today falls to Ben Swift, who said: "I think the chance to ride on traffic-free roads will bring a lot of people out and hopefully it will provide the catalyst for more people to get into regular cycling."
Swift continued: "Cycling, with the input of Sky, is definitely becoming more prominent in the UK. As well as Sky Rides, we have elite races like the Tour of Britain and the National Championships which are growing year on year. That's got to be encouraging because kids can now go out and watch the very best professionals in action."
Speaking from France about the feelings within the Team Sky squad as the Tour starts the first of four hard mountain stages, Geraint Thomas added: "Morale is still high and we're all feeling pretty good. We've got four hard days in the Pyrenees coming up and then the final time trial, so there is a lot to race for."
Besides today’s event in Ealing, there will also be Sky Rides in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Leicester, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Redbridge and Southampton, and full details can be found on the Sky Ride website.
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.