British WorldTour squad Team Sky started the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday with six instead of eight riders, and could face a financial penalty
The team began the Abu Dhabi Tour with only six riders instead of the required eight. The team always planned to start with a seven-man roster, but came with six when Ian Boswell developed the shingles virus.
“It’s WorldTour and you do get a little bit of a fine when a rider doesn’t start, it’s about 5000 per rider,” Sky Sports Director Brett Lancaster told Cycling Weekly.
“We might have many riders, but if one is sick and one is injured, we just don’t have the riders to put in if we want to do a perfect programme leading up to the big races.
“This is modern cycling, you have all these guys in altitude camps preparing for the Giro and Tour.”
Sky’s team is scattered around the world at the moment, with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas training for the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, respectively, in South Africa and others in Colombia. Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe will lead the charge on Saturday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which also moves up to the WorldTour in 2017.
The team has much bigger goals in the season to interrupt its plans and pull Froome, Thomas or the classics men into its Abu Dhabi Tour team.
The stars are shining brightly in the Middle Eastern race, however. On the start line today for the first of four stages were Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Fabio Aru (Astana), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) and many others.
“The Belgian races are this weekend [Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne]. Then many are at altitude, Froome and Thomas in South Africa,” added Lancaster.
“He’s in South Africa now getting a bit altitude block. It’s always his plan, you can’t change that. Henao is at the Colombian championships and is back for that.
“I’d be nice to have some of the classics guys here around Elia Viviani, a Luke Rowe or an Ian Stannard would be ideal here, but that’s just the way it is.”
Boswell told Cycling Weekly that he contracted shingles after the Dubai Tour. He was also sick in the Volta ao Algarve.
“It’s a weakened immune system and a bit random, but it can happen to anyone,” Boswell said. “I hope to be back for Strade Bianche.”
Organiser RCS Sport may be upset and the UCI may issue a fine for the team not respecting its new WorldTour race, but Sky still has ambitions in the three sprint stages and for the overall.
Wout Poels placed second in this race behind Esteban Chaves in 2015. He is not here this year, but new French recruit Kenny Elissonde will take the classification leadership role.
Italian Viviani will aim for his first win of 2017 in the three sprints. He is building for the Milan-San Remo in March.
“Kenny’s been training for these longer power thresholds a bit more, and this climb is around 20 minutes on stage three. We will give him all we can to support him,” Lancaster continued.
“We have Elia, he’s here to win. I’d like to have more guys for the lead-out, but we have Jon Dibben and Owain Doull, who just had his appendix problem though. It’s his first race back and we don’t expect much from him. However, Elia is good to jump around and works well in the wheels.”