Team Sky, after being in the peloton for seven years, is working on creating its “second generation” of British stars for 2017 and beyond with contracts like those with Owain Doull and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Doull, who just returned from winning the team pursuit Olympic gold medal with Sir Bradley Wiggins, witnessed the first generation take shape when he attended the 2010 team launch at the age of 16. Next year, it will be his and Geoghegan Hart’s turn to put on Sky’s kit and lead the team.
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“These riders have seen the other stars like Bradley win and now they’re joining the team,” team principal Sir Dave Brailsford told Cycling Weekly. “There is still a bunch of the guys who created the team here, but now there is a sort of second generation coming through with ambitions to be a part of the team.
“It’s exciting because they come through with different experiences and different expectations growing up and seeing British riders win the Tour de France and win big races. That wasn’t the case in our group when we first started out. Their confidence and beliefs in terms of what’s doable has increased.”
Both riders have ridden as trainees for Team Sky. Geoghegan Hart, 21, decided to race another year with Axel Merckx’s Axeon Hagens Berman development team even though Sky wanted him already for the 2016 season. Doing so, he had more time to develop his stage race strengths.
“Tao is an interesting one because he decided to do another 12 months at that level,” continued Brailsford. “It’s proven to be the right decision. He’s had some pretty good performances this year. He’s been involved in the front of the races. He’s matured and learned some more.”
“We’re thinking [he’s a GC rider]. I can’t see why he wouldn’t be. But like everything else, I think the key is to break it down into bite-sized chunks and look for progression, and not worry too much about the end result.”
Doull, 23, worked his way through on the track and rode 2015 and 2016 with Team Wiggins. Doing so, he placed third in the Tour of Britain and of course, had time to train to help Great Britain to another team pursuit gold.
“It’s helped that he’s been a lot around Bradley and observing what he does. He’s professional, has attention to detail and he’s a very exciting prospect. It’ll be good to see which direction he can go in this sport,” said Brailsford.
“As Bradley says, he’s very much like a very young Geraint Thomas. He’s fast and he can climb. That’s the great thing we really don’t know yet what’s possible. That’s the fun, helping someone develop to discover where his niche is and seeing how you can help them develop.
“We need to focus on that first phase of his development, and his opportunities are quite broad. He’ll be able to specialise as he goes through and learn what he is very good at later on his career.”