Because Antipodeans racing in squares for an hour isn’t enough to sustain a cycling fandom ravenous for proper road racing, everyone jumped all over Team Sky’s plans for the future when they were unveiled at the weekend.
With all the news about “2020 Vision” over the internet, at first I thought the British squad had bagged Specsavers as a secondary sponsor. I’ve got good eyesight too, but I don’t brag about it in press releases, Sir Dave.
Peter Kennaugh, disconsolate at not even being allowed to lead Team Sky at the 2020 Vuelta. pic: Offside/L'Equipe
But no, it was their Five-Year Plan. We’ll give you the bottom line: winning more, winning consistently (and cleanly) so they can generally be the winners of professional cycling by five years’ time.
There was a bit where they mentioned maybe looking to the All Blacks too. Well, they’ve already got the unimaginative, dark kit and a leader with a propensity for throwing himself onto the ground at crucial moments. All it needs is Chris Froome leading a haka and they’re pretty much there.
Here’s my alternative vision of Team Sky in 2020: Peter Kennaugh has won every week-long stage race going and is still waiting his turn to lead the team at a Grand Tour. Dour, he potters around the team hotel muttering “what do I have to do?”
Performance has now been super innovated. Data will be ubiquitous: our TV screens will be little different to the Cycling Manager computer game, showing heart rate, energy levels and how much food they have left.
Ultimate racing will be followed by ultimate recovery. Post-effort, the Death Star will become a peaceful haven, with fully-reclining La-Z-Boys and Sounds of the Sea piped in through the speakers (or Paul Weller’s Greatest Hits, depending if directeur sportif Sir Bradley Wiggins is at the race).
Technically, things will have advanced too. Campagnolo will unnecessarily have made 14-speed cassettes and Pinarello will have provided a safe, raceable 4kg bike – but everyone will be still be adhering to the 6.8kg steeds because the UCI won’t change the rules.
And who knows, Team Sky might even have its own women’s team. But that monkey on their backs? It could well have turned into King Kong. Team Sky might not have won a Classic – and if they do, they’ll feel the pinch in other parts of the team.
Because, jokes aside, that is what makes their target of becoming “indisputably the best cycling team in the world” by 2020 such a brave aim.
Chris Froome after being told that he'll be leading Team Sky in a two-minute pre-race haka. pic: Offside/L'Equipe
Modern cycling has never had a top team “indisputably” across the board. Squads (and budgets) are too small for that, and the sport is too varied and specialised: for instance, it takes most of the Giant-Alpecin team to ensure Marcel Kittel can win bunch sprints.
Take OPQS last year. Even after winning 60-odd races – easily the most successes in the WorldTour – you could only reasonably say they were the best in the world at the cobbled Classics, and time-trials at a stretch.
For Team Sky to win sprints, time-trials, Classics and stage races, to be indisputably the best, would take an almighty balancing act. Achieve that, and it’d be even more dazzling and frightening than Chris Froome dancing the haka.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
0 – Number of professional races now-retired Nick Nuyens won after the 2011 Tour of Flanders.
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