Tour De France: Can Team Sky Stick Together Following Stunning Performance?
Team Sky has had an incredible three weeks, owning the top two steps of the podium and winning six stages of the Tour de France. They have dominated the Tour in a way that has never been seen before, but how long can it last? In an interview with the BBC, head coach Shane Sutton was bullish about the future of the team, proclaiming:
Now it is about becoming the Barcelona or Manchester United of cycling. We want to try to dominate the sport.
But is this plan feasible? Sky currently has a team of superstars on its roster and keeping them all together will not be easy.
The biggest potential rift in the team has been the race-winning potential of Bradley Wiggins' chief lieutenant in the Tour this year, Chris Froome. The Nairobi-born Brit may have finished second to Wiggins this year, but many thought that he could have beat Wiggins in the mountains.
With next year's centenary Tour set to be a return to the tough long mountains after a time-trial heavy route this year, Froome may be a better bet for another Team Sky win.
With the return of Alberto Contador from suspension and Andy Schleck from injury, Wiggins could find it very tough to stick with them in the mountains. If Froome is in the same form he has been this year then he could be Sky's best bet of challenging for yellow.
In an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe, Froome said, "It all depends on the route. If there are Cols (summit finishes) I hope Sky will be honest and all my teammates will be at my service, with the same loyalty I have shown today."
Can Team Sky "dominate" cycling
But can Team Sky support Froome with the defending champion on the same team? This lingering question could lead to Froome leaving the team and attempting to win with a team of his own.
Another rider who could leave the team, and further his own potential, is world champion Mark Cavendish. The sprinter has found himself in a strange situation in this year's Tour, acting as a domestique for team leader Bradley Wiggins. This led Cavendish to describe his position as "like putting Wayne Rooney in defence."
Despite this, Cavendish had a superb Tour with three stage wins and a fourth consecutive win on the Champs Elysees. At just 27-years-old, with a dedicated team around him Cavendish could eventually challenge Eddy Merckx's 34 Tour stage wins.
The Manx Missile is used to being the leader of the team. At HTC he was the focal point of the entire team and it would not be surprising if he would prefer to return to a setup like that.
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford has admitted that this may be an inevitability, "If he felt, or if it was felt, that he would like a dedicated team around him, then he is quite within his rights to want to do that."
Brailsford went on to add that, "This team will keep its GC [general classification] ambitions and I am sure that we will sit down and discuss that with Mark and see how he feels about that."
In terms of GC riders, Sky may have had its year in the sun. Contador and Schleck are likely to come into next year's Tour as the favourites and it would be a brave person who bets against either of them.
If Cavendish does leave the team, then Sutton's wish to "dominate" cycling may just be a pipe dream.
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