After months of speculation, Team Sky has officially announced the first six riders for its 2010 line-up.
All six are British, although it is very likely there will be more British riders named in the coming weeks.
As Cycling Weekly first reported early this year, three Barloworld riders are among the six. Steve Cummings, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have all signed two-year contracts with Team Sky. Ian Stannard switches from ISD after one season with the Italian team.
Russell Downing earns a one-year contract following his impressive win in the Tour of Ireland and Peter Kennaugh, currently riding the Tour de l'Avenir for the Great Britain Academy team, gets the opportunity to turn professional at the age of 20.
Team Sky's Principal Dave Brailsford said; "It's hugely satisfiying that the first batch of riders to name is the British guys. It's a massive moment for us; very important."
Downing was the surprise inclusion of the six, cementing his place with his recent win in the Tour of Ireland."Russell had been on the list from day one to be honest," Brailsford said. "Russell was good last year. This year he started off well, had a quiet patch in the middle of the season and has come back with a bang."
Brailsford admitted that more names will be revealed tomorrow, with the final few riders making up the 25 man squad being named as and when it suited them.
Cycling Weekly has spoken to all six of Team Sky's new recruits about signing for Britain's new professional team.
TEAM SKY 2010
2007 Discovery Channel
2010 Team Sky
It has been a disappointing season with Barloworld for Cummings. After a steady start he was left out of the team for the Giro d'Italia, leaving his year without a goal or sense of focus. However, since July he has raced more consistently and has picked up a couple of top five placings in Italy and he's been able to look ahead.
Cummings, who has signed a two-year contract, told CW: "I'm delighted to be joining Team Sky and I'm really looking forward to it. Being part of a British team will be good for morale, and I'm sure all the British riders will push each other and motivate each other to another level.
"I like it and give my best when I deal with reasonable people who have our best interests at heart, and I know it's going to be good at Team Sky.
"There are going to be a lot of talented riders in the team but I hope to have the chance to have a go in the Classics and I'd love to get a ride in the Tour de France.
"It's been a really difficult year for me but I think I've dealt with it well. I haven't raced much, but when I have, I've shown I was ready for it and got some results."
2001 Linda McCartney
2007 Health Net
2010 Team Sky
For much of the year it looked as if Downing, the dominant rider on the domestic scene, might be overlooked. But it's fair to say that his impressive stage win and gritty overall victory in the Tour of Ireland last month forced his way into Dave Brailsford's thinking.
Downing has signed a one-year deal with Team Sky. "I'm really happy," he said. "I know a lot of people have said I deserved a place on Team Sky because of my results in Britain but it doesn't work like that. It's not about winning the Premier Calendar two years in a row and proving I'm the best rider in Britain, it's about showing I can race against the best in the world.
"I think the Tour of Ireland showed that I can get results in big races. I haven't had many opportunities to show what I can do at that level but when I've had the chance I've done something.
"I always thought something would come up, but I really wanted it to be Team Sky. It's a British team and it's going to be really exciting.
"Dave Brailsford rang me up after the Tour of Ireland and we talked about it. I told him I could work for the team and that maybe half a dozen times a year try and do something for myself. I think I can get results at the top level and hopefully now I'll get the chance to show it. I only signed my contract a few days ago, so it's all happened really quickly."
2007 Team Konica Minolta
2010 Team Sky
The Kenyan-born rider is now a fully fledged Brit, having ridden the World Championships in red, white and blue last year. He's also on the short-list for selection for the Worlds in Mendrisio at the end of the month.
In two seasons with Barloworld he's completed both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, finishing 36th overall in the Italian grand tour in May.
Froome has signed for two years. He said: "I think there's been so much speculation and our names [the three Barloworld riders] were linked so often that it's nice to be able to get it out in the open.
"I've known for a while I'd be joining the team but I didn't actually sign the contract until September 1. But throughout the year I've been hearing a lot about how it's going to be structured and how it's going to run and all those things sounded really positive.
"When I started talking to the team directors at Sky it definitely wasn't a difficult decision to make. I don't think many pro teams out there will be able to match the level of detail and the depth of back-up they are putting into place.
"I'm looking forward to being able to plan for a whole season. I've never had that luxury because Barloworld has always been a wild card team, relying on invites to the Giro or the Tour. To be able to start a year knowing what my targets are will be great.
"From my point of view, as a younger rider, I want to get to the bottom of what I can achieve. I don't want to be just 'going to the races' I want to get the maximum out of myself and I think this team will help me do it.
"The season isn't over yet. I've got the Tour of Britain, hopefully the Worlds and I'd like to do the Tour of Lombardy but I'm already looking forward to the first Team Sky get-together, which I think will be in late November or early December."
2008-2009 Great Britain Academy
2010 Team Sky
The 20-year-old from the Isle of Man is one of the hottest prospects in the Italian-based Great Britain Academy. He finished third overall in the Baby Giro stage race, one of the most prestigious for young amateur riders. He now gets the chance to make the transition from the Academy to the British pro team, a move that should be seamless as the two organisations share an ethos, infrastructure and many of the same staff.
Kennaugh, who has signed for two years with Team Sky, said: "It's great to be turning pro. It's all I've ever wanted to do and it's what I've been working the whole season for.
"To do it with Team Sky is perfect because it means I'll be working with Dave Brailsford, Shane Sutton, Rod [Ellingworth] and Max [Sciandri], all the people who have helped and encouraged me so far in my career. I know they have my interests at heart and won't just treat us as billboards for sponsors. There's a really good structure and strategy to the whole set-up.
"I'll only be 21 in June, so I'm not expecting too much from myself in the first season. I know I've got to take things carefully, learn a lot and develop my whole potential. I'm going to be doing a lot more racing, at higher speeds and over longer distances. It won't be easy but I'm not scared because I've already done races like the national championships.
"I've had a difficult second half to this season because I've been ill but not the form's coming on and I'm looking forward the under-23 World Championships, which will probably be my last race before becoming a professional."
2010 Team Sky
Stannard has also signed a two-year contract after spending a year with each of his previous two teams. In 2008 he finished all three cobbled Classics - Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix - at the first attempt, a considerable achievement for a first-year pro. This year he completed the Giro d'Italia.
He said: "It's good to be part of a British team and such a big one. I'm really excited. I've enjoyed it in Italy with ISD but Team SKy is a British team, with a lot of British riders so the atmosphere is great. I already train with people like Geraint and Steve so it's going to be good to race with them too.
"Obviously I hope I can ride the spring Classics. I know them after finishing them the other year and I would love to be part of the Team Sky Classics team. I think being with Team Sky will help me improve and develop as a rider."
2010 Team Sky
"It's going to be such a good team. Seeing some of the other riders they've signed, I think people will see we're going to be one of the best in the world from the start," said the Olympic team pursuit champion, who has signed a two-year contract.
"It's about time Britain got a top pro team out there to ride the Tour de France.
"I think we'll get in all the races we need when people see the line-up, but I still think we will need to perform straight away. We saw this year what Cervélo did in the early season, and that definitely helped guarantee they'd be in the big races. But like I said, some of the names are big names and I think we'll be going in at the top level. But we'll crack on, get out there and race and say to people 'here we are, we deserve to be here'.
"There's been a buzz around since the Giro last year but to actually sign and know it's happening is exciting. I've been involved in all the talk about bikes, kit, equipment and buses and it's really exciting.
"Sky's involvement goes from top to bottom and that makes it even more special. They're talking about getting a million more people on their bikes in Britain and I suppose we're kind of the flagship for that. Let's be honest, Britain is not the healthiest of nations is it, so what a great way to get the message about cycling to a wider audience.
"As for the team, I know the road and track are different but I think the principals of athlete focus will transfer across. The key is the mentality that it's the riders who come first and Team Sky will be just like Team GB in that respect, I'm sure about that."
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