Speaking exclusively to Cycling Weekly from the first Team Sky get together in Manchester this week, Sports Director Sean Yates summed up the spirit of the team when he said; “We will hit the ground running in 2010 and get results straight away.”
Yates, who has experienced 17 Grand Tours as a rider and 11 as a director sportif, revealed that he was approached by David Brailsford to do the job before the Beijing Olympics. “I’m patriotic and was already excited about the prospect of a British team racing at the top level for the first time.”
“But it wasn’t an easy decision as I had a good position with Astana and a history with Johan Bruyneel and his teams. But for a number of reasons I’d had a tough year and thought the new challenge would be invigorating.”
Asked about his first impressions of Team Sky Yates said; “Cycling is entering a new era and this team will set new standards in how teams should be. I’m lucky as a director sportif in that I’ve been in two of the best organised squads in cycling with Bjarne Riis and with Johan, and a lot of elements I’ve seen with Sky are the same, but things are in place to take this team to another level.”
Yates will, as always, be a hands on director. “That’s my strength. I relate well to the riders, and I’ve never made a tactical mistake. Some would say that’s easy working with the likes of Contador, but it isn’t, not with everybody trying to shoot you down.”
“Scott Sunderland has already put a lot of work into the team, and he will be the number one director and do a lot of the logistic stuff, which isn’t my strength. Then we have two neo directors in Stephen De Jongh and Marcus Ljungqvist, and Rod Ellingworth will be in a coaching role. So although I don’t know my programme exactly, I’ll be doing some big races.”
Team Sky will be different to other teams in many ways, but one that has already attracted comment is the rider-centric way decisions will be made. They have been told that the riders must make policies about discipline, for example what to do if a rider is late for the bus. And they were all asked what races they wanted to ride, rather than be told, before the programme was decided.
But Yates is on board with that. “I think it’s good. They can’t blame us when things go wrong, which happens. If they go wrong it’s for the riders to sort out. Obviously we have input but our job as DSs, like all the staff involved, is to do everything we can to help the riders be the best they can be.”
Summing up Yates said; “Expect us to make a big splash. From the team presentation right through to the way we do the races, Team Sky will be second to none. We’ve got some fantastic riders, great staff and ten years of British Cycling success to draw on.”
“The atmosphere here now this week is very special and I’m proud to be involved. If we can translate 50 per cent of this onto the road we are already ahead of the rest.”
Read the full interview with Sean Yates in next week’s Cycling Weekly. Available from all good newsagents on December 3.
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