"Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…Mikel Landa!"
There was something of the talent contest about Team Sky’s announcements of its new signings this year; a metaphorical stepping onto the stage for its seven new recruits.
The fanfare began three days before the finale of the World Championships and ended with the revelation, on his final day in the job, that outgoing rainbow jersey Michal Kwiatkowski would join the team next season.
Oozing class with every pedal stroke, an aggressive but tactically astute rouleur and a formidable time trialist to boot, Kwiatkowski will be looking forward to his new role as a climbing domestique for Chris Froome. If all goes to plan, he could be the new Edvald Boasson Hagen. He must dare to dream.
Speaking of Eddie Bo, he will be joined next year at Team Dimension Data by his old HTC-Highroad compadres Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and Bernie Eisel. Reunion tours have become quite the thing in recent years, as once groundbreaking performers regroup to try and churn out the hits once more.
The song remains the same at other teams, at least.
Matteo Tosatto, at a sprightly 41, will do duty again for Oleg Tinkov next season, though it remains to be seen whether Saxo Bank will stay as sponsors. The Italian will have witnessed change since beginning his career in the service of Bartoli, Bettini, and Simoni in 1997, and this year saw the man who signed him fired: Bye-bye Bjarne, Bjarne bye-bye, as the Bay City Rollers might have chirruped, when Tosatto was still a youth.
Stijn Develoder’s memories of back-to-back wins at De Ronde have gained a sepia tint in recent years, but Trek Factory Racing will count on the 36-year-old again next season to support Fabian Cancellara, who will be a youthful 35 when he tackles his final Tour of Flanders.
Lampre-Merida, perhaps angling for a sponsorship deal with Stannah, have renewed with 35-year-old Rubén Plaza. Rumours that general manager Brent Copeland believed he was booking a hotel on the Costa Blanca when signing Plaza's contract remain unconfirmed.
Lotto-Soudal, by contrast, have staked their claim to more youthful talent by renewing the contracts of a pair of 24-year-olds - Stig Broeckx and Sean De Bie. Broeckx, a graduate of the Lotto Cycling Talent Project, spoke in the team’s official communication of paying “a tuition fee”, though it was unclear whether he meant in hard graft of hard cash.
Etixx-QuickStep’s riders, we know, will be remunerated for their efforts. With new sponsor LIDL having announced its intention to pay UK workers the minimum wage, excepting those in Northern Ireland, Lefevere’s men can expect £8.16 for every hour on the road at the Tour of Britain, but perhaps less at the Ras, should it cross the border.
We return to Sky, who have assembled a line-up of both age and experience. Thirty-eight year-old Xabi Zandio will attempt to stay ‘down’ with youthful Hackney duo, neo-pro Alex Peters and stagiarie Tao Geoghegan Hart, while Vasil Kiryienka’s extreme measures to avoid being pensioned off have earned him another year with the firm. The rainbow stripes carry a youthful aspect, regardless of who is wearing them, so keep young and beautiful, Kiri. And if neither is an option, keep winning.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH-HUH UH-HUH
200 per cent - increase in the number of Hackney residents now racing for Team sky
100 per cent – reduction in the number of Australians racing for Team Sky next season
50 per cent – reduction in the number of Belarussians racing for Team Sky next season