Team Sky will make their much anticipated racing debut in Adelaide tomorrow afternoon when the British team line up for the Cancer Council Helpline Classic.
The race is a brief prelude to the six-day Tour Down Under, the first ProTour race of 2010, but for Team Sky the race will go down as one of the most significant points in their history.
4.15pm on Sunday, January 17th will mark the end of almost two-years of planning and preparation, and the start of the next phase; to become one of the most dominant teams in the sport.
Slowly but surely everything has come together to create one of the biggest teams in cycling. Now the riders have to go out and perform, and prove they deserve the tag they’ve been given.
Upon arriving in Adelaide Team Principal Dave Brailsford said the aim for the first half of the season would be to not under achieve, it’s likely the riders will want considerably more. The six-man team is made up of predominantly sprinters, and, unike Lance Armstrong who arrived via private jet on Wednesday, have been in South Australia for over a week getting in the miles and practising their lead-outs.
“We’ve been doing three, four hour rides with 20 minute blocks of through-and-off work, building up to 90-100 per cent leads-outs,” said Russell Downing. The stages in the Tour Down Under are commonly decided by a bunch sprint, and Team Sky will be expected to waste no time in asserting themselves on the front and put New Zealander Greg Henderson in a winning position.
The order that has been worked in training is Chris Froome, Matthew Hayman, Russell Downing, Davide Vigano, Ben Swift, Chris Sutton and finally Henderson, although the top end of that order can be shuffled about. “If we were to do a stirling lead out on the first day, that would be amazing,” Downing said. “We know what we’re doing and we’ve got a bit of time to play with it.”
“We’re working well in training, we’re getting on together out and about an in the hotel so, I think that’s one of the key factors. I think if you get on well with a guy you’re going to give him one hundred percent if you’re going to lead him out.”
Although Sky don’t have all the technology to hand that they’re rumoured to have for the bigger races in Europe, they have been doing their homework. “The boys have seen all the routes here, [and] some of the run ins, We got a guy who’s working as one of the mechanics, he’s been riding with us this week, he’s a local guy so he knows some of the roads. There’s plenty of stuff being done and we’ve got all the information we need.”
The race will also bear witness to the debuts of the Armstrong’s RadioShack team and that of much revamped BMC. World Champion Cadel Evans was one of the last riders to arrive on Friday evening and went riding with his new team mates on Saturday morning instead of joining thousands of cyclists for Armstrong’s Twitter Ride.