Sky's Ending On The Horizon

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

What were the post-ride chats at the coffee shop like for you last July? I’m pretty happy to take a punt on the general theme. Perhaps someone started a conversation about the previous night’s Tour stage; maybe it was about the stage up Alpe d’Huez. You all sat around and moaned about the demise of proper racing thanks to the boys in blue (and white) - Team Sky.

That stage, in particular, was a cracker. LottoNL-Jumbo had thrown everything at Team Sky, Tommy D was his usual self, relentlessly mowing down every attack while sitting in the saddle. And still, SKY won. Even with Froome off his game, they had a second in command, Thomas, who was dominant. And the dominant rider of the next generation, Egan Bernal, was doing a job for those boys the whole way up the mystic climb. 

We’ve all despised Team Sky since they arrived in 2010. Their marginal gains and Hydration plans made of pineapple juice (see the latest podcast with Mat Hayman) were so easy to make fun of. But then they started winning, and just never really stopped.

There’s been a utopian land far off in the distance though, and it’s much been dreamed about by cycling fans. Imagine if they had the same budget as everyone else and couldn’t buy all the best riders and the best team buses and all the fancy pineapple juice. Well we’re getting that sooner than we all thought

News came today that Sky (the company) is looking to sell the cycling team at the end of next season and end their sponsorship. Suddenly, the competitive balance of the sport is a little bit more in check. But is it really an open-and-shut case like that? Should we all be wetting ourselves with glee about the prospects of an entirely different Tour because they have to sell a couple of Kiriyenkas and Kwiatkowskis?

It’s another sign of how badly the cycling economy is going. You might have not liked the team thanks to Brailsford’s smugness and Froome’s coldness, and you might be happy to see the team’s demise. The fact is though, the sport has just lost its best sponsor.

There’s little return for sponsoring a cycling team – anyone who decides to do it is essentially recreating the scene from the Dark Knight where the Joker sets fire to a hundred million dollars (which is probably a better option, you’d get a bit of warmth and some dank shots for the gram). Even bottomless pits of money, like the one at SKY headquarters, eventually gets a little bare.

This has been the sport’s most successful team, along with Quick-Step who’ve just come out the other end of their own sponsorship problems, and it wasn’t worth it for SKY to continue on with the relationship.

What happens to the team from here? They’ve got a year’s head start on finding a new owner and sponsor, but it won’t be easy, just as Deceunink – Quick-Step and the old BMC team have proved to us this year. If they do continue, it’s highly unlikely they have the same budget; they’ll be just another team.  

Despite our deep hatred of Team Sky and the constant controversy they bring, they have undeniably been good for the sport, and this will be the end of an era. For all the anti-anglo crowing from the traditional cycling countries, the team (and SKY’s money) has genuinely pushed the sport forwards, which is something they’ve generally been resistant to. In a year’s time that ends. Make use of that year; they’ll be gone in a jiffy.

See you back at the social club,

Josh

Joshua DugganComment