Speculation is growing that Team Sky is about to announce the signing of Ben Swift but Katusha manager Andrei Tchmil has made it clear to Cycling Weekly that the talented young British rider is under contract and has to stay with his team in 2010.
Sky has so far released the names of 24 riders, only six of which have been British, but over the last few days Swift’s name has been consistently linked to the new British team. He was even accidently announced as a future Team Sky rider during last Saturday’s Revolution event in Manchester.
There’s no doubt that Sky want Swift. The 22-year-old graduated through British Cycling’s Olympic Academy under the tutelage of Rod Ellingworth and is one of the brightest prospects in the sport.
If Swift were to ride with Team Sky in 2010 he would be expected to attend the team’s first get together in Manchester next Tuesday. However, Tchmil has ordered him to attend a meeting at the Katusha offices in Italy on the same day.
“He’s been summoned to the team HQ for November 24 so we can find out what’s going on. There’s been no sign of life from him for ages,” Tchmil angrily told Cycling Weekly.
“I’ve sent a letter to the UCI and they’ve confirmed that his two-year neo-pro contract is valid, so Swift will stay in this team for 2010 despite what Team Sky are trying to do.”
“I don’t know why Swift wants to leave. He’s on our roster and getting paid by us. Pozzato hit the brakes to let him win the stage at the Tour of Britain and we worked for him in the sprints at the Giro d’Italia. We were even looking at giving him a pay increase.”
Tchmil is not impressed with Team Sky’s aggressive behaviour.
“I think it’s very bad that a new team like Sky goes around thinking they can buy up riders who are under contract. It’s something we never did last year out of a matter of principle. Contracts exist because they have to be respected,” he said.
“I’ll say once and for all, Swift will be part of Team Katusha in 2010. He’s not for sale. I don’t sell my riders.”
Cycling Weekly tried to contact Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford but he was unavailable, while the team’s new head of communications, Brian Nygaard, refused to comment.