Two wins, two podiums, four stage wins...not a bad few days for Team Sky, battling on three different continents
It’s been a pretty decent last seven days for Team Sky, with the boys in black and blue racking up as many wins as some WorldTour teams will get in a season.
Competing on multiple fronts is one of the hardest parts of running a professional cycling team – one race will usually have to take precedence over the others.
But Sky made it look simple in the three races – on three different continents – they entered last week, claiming two overall wins, two other overall podiums, five stage wins and six other podiums.
Such is the strength in depth that Sky possess this season that they were able to field three equally strong teams with bona fide leaders and strong domestiques capable of securing results themselves.
Wednesday, February 3
Wout Poels sprung one of the minor shocks of the young season by dominating the undulating time trial around Benicassim at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, beating teammate and world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka by 21 seconds.
The overall classification looked Poels’ to lose, with his 15 second cushion over Luis Leon Sanchez leaving him in a great position, but with a couple of summit finishes in the rest of the race, the Dutchman could not afford to take it easy.
In Dubai, meanwhile, Elia Viviani started with an eighth place on stage one – not great for his standards, considering the riders he was up against (sprinters from One Pro Cycling and Skydive Dubai finished ahead of him), but considering his sights are set on the World Track Championships in March, it’s not surprising to see him start slowly on the road.
Down Under, at the Herald Sun Tour, Chris Froome started his season with a solid 27th place in the 2km opening prologue. Teammate Peter Kennaugh fared slightly better in Melbourne, finishing eighth.
Thursday, February 4
A great day of results for the British team begun when Kennaugh marched to his second win of the season in Australia. Having already won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, he and Chris Froome went solo in the first ‘proper’ stage of the Sun Tour, claiming a one-two in Healesville.
Inspired by his teammates’ success Viviani took advantage of a crash in the peloton with two kilometres to go in Dubai to win stage two of the race – the same thing he did in the race last year.
Then, in the summit finish in Valencia, Poels watched Etixx-Quick Step’s Dan Martin roll over the line for the win, but ensured he stayed in the leader’s jersey by finishing third, just two seconds down on the Irishman.
Friday, February 5
A quiet day, by recent standards. No wins and only one podium finish – through Kennaugh in Australia.
The Manxman kept hold of his leader’s jersey in the wonderfully named Moe, finishing three seconds behind sprinter Caleb Ewan.
Viviani didn’t even bother attempting to sprint with the big boys up the Hatta Dam in Dubai, finishing 32 seconds down on winner Juan Jose Lobato. While the climb is steep, it’s short enough that the fastmen can get up it, shown by Marcel Kittel’s sixth-place finish.
In Valencia, Poels navigated a sprint stage with ease to hold on to his jersey for another day.
Saturday, February 6
Poels could have just ridden defensively to retain his jersey in Valencia, but the Dutchman wasn’t satisfied to just sit on other peoples’ wheels.
Instead he launched an attack of his own up Xorret del Cati – the summit finish at the end of stage four. He opened up a 23-second gap by the top, with teammate Beñat Intxausti pipping Ion Izagirre (Movistar) to second to move up to third overall. Poels’ lead increased to 46 seconds over Sanchez.
In Dubai, Viviani was in the hunt for the win under the gigantic Burj Khalifa but had to settle for second behind the gigantic Kittel.
Sunday, February 7
A little bit of controversy crept into the camp on the final day of Sky’s remarkable run. Despite having said earlier in the week that he was happy to play domestique to Kennaugh, Froome went and trumped his mate by winning the queen stage in the Sun Tour to snatch the overall win.
Froome smashed it up Arthur’s Seat to leapfrong Kennaugh in the standings, cruising home with a 29-second gap over the Manxman. A win’s a win, but what toll will it take on the team dynamics?
In Valencia, Poels didn’t have to do much to seal his overall win, what with the flat-ish nature of the final stage. He cruised home in the bunch to win by 46 seconds, with Intxausti in third overall, 10 seconds back on Sanchez.