Forget bankrolling a team that has won six of the last seven editions of the Tour de France; Sir Dave Brailsford says Sky’s biggest achievement in cycling has been getting more people riding bikes in Great Britain.
Besides sponsoring the UCI WorldTour outfit that Brailsford is team principal of, the broadcaster also backed British Cycling – where he was formerly performance director – from 2008-16, a period that saw the introduction of mass participation Sky Rides across the country.
Last year, British Cycling said that its membership had risen almost tenfold from 16,500 members in 2005 to 145,000, and is now equally split between competitive and leisure riders.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Brailsford said that events such as those, which continue under the banner of successor sponsor HSBC, had helped encourage people to get in the saddle as well as increasing interest in cycling.
“The majority of the time people stop me and say – 'I never used to ride my bike and then I started riding' – some of them for fitness, some racing,” he said.
"As a youngster growing up in north Wales, trying to get into the sport of cycling was not easy. I ended up packing my bike up in a box and going off to France to pursue my dream.
"Now when I go back, there is a thriving cycling culture in that little area of north Wales with a fantastic club. For me, that signifies what has happened in the rest of the country.
"Despite the fact that we have been terrifically successful in the big races, I think what has happened from a participation point of view is actually what gives me the greatest pleasure and is the biggest achievement that Team Sky made."
He was speaking as he reflected on the team’s path over the past decade that saw it win the Tour de France six times in the past seven years, prior to petrochemicals group Ineos taking over sponsorship, and the UCI WorldTour outfit’s management company.
Officially, the change in ownership takes effect from tomorrow, but this afternoon Team Ineos made its debut at the Prologue of the Tour de Romandie, with the final race in Team Sky’s colours taking place at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.
Geraint Thomas – fifth today – and his team-mates are racing in the Swiss one-week race in a one-off black kit with Ineos logos, but the jersey the team will wear for the rest of the season will be officially unveiled tomorrow ahead of the Tour de Yorkshire, which starts on Thursday.
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.