The move that had been on any British cycling fan’s lips the last fortnight or so has finally happened, as today, in London, it was announced that Bradley Wiggins has signed for the new British Pro-Cycling team, Team Sky in a four-year deal.
It’s a major move, not just for Wiggins but for Dave Brailsford, team principal of Team Sky. Brailsford has had to work with Garmin and Jonathan Vaughters, the team principal of the team in order for the move to be sanctioned. In fact, the move has only happened in the last couple of days with the UCI verifying it last night.
The 30-year-old finished fourth in this year's Tour de France, equaling the best British finish and will be aiming to better that finish on the next tour which starts in Rotterdam next July.
Wiggins admitted it was hard leaving his previous team. “It was always a difficult situation trying to leave Garmin because I had a lot of friends there," Wiggins said. "There was only one team I was going to come home for and that was Sky and Dave Brailsford who helped me to my Olympic success. We want to be the best we can possibly be for whatever the goal is and next year that's the Tour de France.
"This team wants to be the biggest and best and most admired in the world, and to be there from the start is something special. It's a bit of a strange day, it has been going on for a long while since I finished fourth in the Tour de France," Wiggins added.
In fact the Olympian had been aware of Brailsford forming a team after the Beijing Olympics but signed for Garmin when told that the project was still out of reach at the time.
Brailsford was thoroughly delighted that Team Sky had finally got their man claiming that, “Brad will be at home in Team Sky. It is the perfect fit and he will be a marquee rider for us. He is an exceptional athlete—a great performer at a great age. And he will get better still. At Team Sky he can continue to develop, surrounded by some of the coaches and performance experts who have worked with him for years as part of the British Cycling set-up”.
The fact that Wiggins knows the staff and other British riders on the team is obviously a major factor in the move and it was clear to see that it’s a comfortable move for both parties as they’re so sure of each other. Wiggins is obviously a marquee signing for the team and one who, after such a great season in 2009, will be a great addition to the squad that Team Sky has.
I asked Brailsford about the other riders in the team, particularly the younger riders like Edvald Boasson-Hagen of Norway, Geraint Thomas of Great Britain and John-Lee Agustyn of South Africa, who of course is well known for that fall he had on the descent of the Col dela Bonette in the 2008 tour.
Brailsford's reply was simple. “When we started to think about the riders that we wanted on the team, it was clear that there was an opportunity to get some talented youngsters who, with the help of our team and programme, can become better riders.”
Hagen is certainly a name to watch out for having tasted success on the Ghent-Wevelgem classic, the Giro d’Italia when he won a stage, and of course, when he won the Tour of Britain over the summer.
It’s good that Team Sky are picking talent from abroad as Brailsford clearly realizes that it’s not just a passport that plays its part, it’s the personality and work of a rider that counts and certainly that has proven to be the case with the riders so far signed up.
There is the good mix of youth and experience in the team. Riders like Michael Barry, Kurt Asle Arvesen, and the classy Juan Antonio Flecha are riders who will not only help the team develop but get results.
During the Press Conference, Brailsford commented on how the team is not just a pro cycling team but a project which is aiming to get more and more people involved with, not only the sport but keeping fit. It’s a good move for not only Sky to get involved with, but for the nation to get out and about.
With that information in mind, I asked Wiggins whether or not he believed, through the Team Sky project and campaigns, whether or not, in the future, there would be non-white British professional cyclists.
Wiggins hoped that there would be. “You only have to look at the diversity of the UK to realise the potential of the sport and just by looking at the numbers and the areas Team Sky and British Cycling are looking to fund, that there’s a good chance we will get people from all backgrounds involved in some capacity in the sport”.
Wiggins also added that in France, there is an emerging trend of Arab/Algerian riders getting involved at amateur level and that with the attention the sport’s getting now, not just from him and the team there are doors opening up for people into cycling. It’s hard to disagree with that as you only have to look at the diversity of the nation and see the potential that Wiggins was speaking about.
With a four year deal, it’s one that Wiggins is looking to enjoy and he admitted that it could be his last contract as a rider in the sport. With ambitions of getting onto the podium in the next tour and helping the team have a successful year, it’s good to see that Wiggins wants to repay British Cycling and the Olympic team by stating that he’d still like to be involved in the sport when he retires.
Wiggins said, “developing youngsters is something that I’d like to do, it’s all part of the Team Sky project which has the drive to get people involved in the sport and keep the future of the sport bright in the UK."
Lastly, there was almost a sense of a full-circle for Wiggins, who emphasised to the reporters that, looking back 15 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that he’d be being interviewed by the press at a top hotel in London for a press conference of this scale. At that time Wiggins was working in various hotels in London doing various odd jobs before his cycling career kicked off.
Three successful Olympics later and good performances as a road cyclist have led to him being reunited with Brailsford with today’s presentation in London.
The move to Team Sky is one that should be a fitting end to a great career as a cyclist, and all eyes will certainly be on the team when the new season starts next month with the Tour Down Under.
With the riders signed up so far to the team, they certainly have every right to be ambitious and target the 2010 season with the intent to be as high up in the standings as possible. As a huge cycling fan myself, I hope that that proves to be the case.