No easy way in to Team Sky for British riders

Team Sky’s Principal Dave Brailsford has said there will be no easy way in to the new British professional team for British riders.

Speaking earlier today when the first six Sky riders were named, Brailsford said that a rider’s passport would not be a ticket in to the team aiming for a Tour de France spot in 2010.

“It was one of the things that we wrote in to our criteria from day one,” he explained. “As a British rider and a British team, there’s no way you’re going to get in on your passport. I think that would have been a real own goal for us.”

“The idea of getting in on your passport is an interesting one, but it’s one that would be detrimental to us. In our Olympic planning it was always medal or nothing, we don’t want to do fourth to eighth. It was always that type of thinking and if you take that across then we only want people in this team who can do a job.”

“There’s got to be a minimal standard of performance, and if you can’t reach that you’re not getting in, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are.”

“You wouldn’t attract other riders if that was the case. Even for the young lads in the [Olympic] Academy, there’s no guarantee that anyone will get in this team because they’re on the Academy and they’re British.”

“They have to be good enough. I’ve got confidence in the guys we’ve announced today and their ability to perform at that level.”

Although none of the six riders named today (Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings, Chris Froome, Russell Downing, Ian Stannard and Pete Kennaugh) are currently in a ProTour teams, several of them have competed at the highest level.

“Geraint’s ridden the Tour obviously, and when Steve rode with Discovery, the feedback from the team [suggested that] had it not folded at the end of the year he would have still been involved, there’s no doubt about it,” Brailsford said.

“Chris has definitely got the ability and Ian likewise. Young Pete Kennaugh; well okay he’s a developing athlete but we’ve got every confidence that he can hold his own at that level. And Russell? Yeah, definitely.”

The aim of the team remains the same: win the Tour de France with a British rider in the next five years. Although the team may be left without a genuine GC contender in its first year as Brailsford denied being in negotiations with Bradley Wiggins, who finished fourth in this year’s race.

Wiggins remains under contract with his Garmin-Slipstream team until the end of 2010 and no structure is in place in cycling for Sky to attempt to buy him out of his current contract.

If Wiggins wanted to leave the team he would have to offer to buy out his own contract, but while the money at Team Sky may be bigger than Garmin, the Brit has found a spiritual home with the American squad.

More riders are expected to be announced on Thursday (September 10) with details of the remainder of the 25-man squad being released as and when it suits the riders. Likewise, many of the 33-strong backroom staff will not be named until later in the year.

The team’s first get-together will be in November.

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