Sky announced the signing of three young riders in August, but how do they fit in to the cycling super-team's overall plans?
This week they announced some of the best under 23 riders – Colombian Egan Bernal, Russian Pavel Sivakov and Norwegian Kristoffer Halvorsen – will join the professional WorldTour team.
“If you look at the demographics of our team did you see you have a successful group of riders who performing well now and probably for the next couple of seasons but equally we have to keep an eye on the future,” Sky principal David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly.
“We classified three groups of our riders: those who are winning now, those who are helping the others win, those who are learning to win the future. And we thought about how we could work on our development.”
Amateur signings like Joe Dombrowski got lost among Sky’s star elite in the past and for several reasons failed to perform. Others, like Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jon Dibben who joined last year, are still finding their way while Sky dominates the stage races.
Some suggest that young athletes can better develop in smaller teams with more space to lead and race the top races. Otherwise, in Sky, they can risk becoming overlooked.
“We talked long and hard about that question. What does the optimal development programme look like? And how we can provide experiences that they need?” said Brailsford.
“We have a fantastic experienced group riders on the team and it’s one the best ways to learn it’s from them. We are putting together a plan for each one of the younger riders.
“Of course they have to be flexible and resilient when they’re gaining all those experiences but we are offering a very progressive and step-by-step development programme.”
Pavel Sivakov, 20-years-old, won the amateur Giro d’Italia and Giro della Valle d’Aosta stage races and a stage in the Tour de l’Avenir this year. He rode several years for BMC Racing’s development team.
The move would have upset BMC, who closed their development team this summer after the deal was done. As part of the deal, riders with the feeder team must join the professional team if a rival’s offer is matched. Sky would have offered too much for BMC Racing’s taste.
Critics argue that Sky with a budget around £24 million is plundering the market’s best riders and leaving crumbs for its poorer rivals.
“It isn’t about money because you’re not paying a lot of money for these young riders when they first come up. They are paid at the lower end of the salary range which every team could afford,” Brailsford said.
“So it’s more about recruitment and identifying the riders that you could develop. And making them choose you because everybody else wants them.
“Ultimately they want to go to a team where they can show their potential. Maybe the money side of it becomes a greater issue if they develop to where they think they can be but at this time it hasn’t really been a big issue. The budget argument is totally misplaced.”