Still opportunities for sprinters at Team Sky despite GC focus, says Danny van Poppel

Despite big ambitions in Grand Tours and stage races overall, sprinters can still find good opportunities at Team Sky, says Dutch sprinter van Poppel

(Image credit: Watson)

Team Sky is still a great sell for sprinters despite the team’s inherent focus on Grand Tour general classification success, according to fast-man Danny van Poppel.

Van Poppel started his season with the team at the Tour Down Under this week, finishing third behind Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) at the end of stage four on Friday.

>>> How Team Sky will treat their young riders differently in 2017

“We didn’t do much wrong today, I have to go faster,” he said after the undulating 149.5km run to Campbelltown.

“It’s getting better and better. We have some Colombians and a small Frenchman, so they need to stay behind me [in the sprint train] but they try to help. Luke [Rowe] is my last man, he is good in the lead-out and he showed it today.

"Ian [Stannard] and G [Geraint Thomas] are really strong guys and they can handle bikes really well.”

Sky is a hotbed for Tour de France title success but has marked short affairs with sprinters, who have left for greater opportunity and support elsewhere.

Mark Cavendish departed after a season with his ‘home’ squad, while Ben Swift, albeit following a seven-year tenure, has joined UAE Abu Dhabi in 2017.

“There are not so many sprinters, like Elia Viviani and me, but it’s really good,” van Poppel said. “When someone is in better shape we go for that rider. Some teams, they go only for a rider because of what he did in the past.

“When Team Sky ask you to join, you join. Not a lot of riders will say no,” he continued. “I’ll get my chances here. I’m not only a sprinter, I can work also for the team.”

Watch: Highlights of Tour Down Under stage four

Van Poppel joined Sky in 2016 and this year is due to undergo an elevated race programme that will include working for Viviani at Milan-San Remo as well as starts at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Nice.

“At Milan-San Remo we’re going for Elia, but I know that race suits me really well for the future so I’m looking forward to seeing it,” he said.

The 23-year-old has one more shot at line honours in Australia at the sixth and final stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday.

Ewan has so far proved unbeatable in the bunch sprints at the race, which Van Poppel on Friday attributed to the Australian’s early season start, which already includes a criterium series and national championships.

“This is my first race [of the season], and he is already busy for a long time. My shape is getting better and better. This is a good warm-up,” van Poppel said.

Sky entered the Tour Down Under with a two-prong approach that included van Poppel for stage victories and a title bid with Sergio Henao.

Henao lost time on the first hilltop finish of the contest on Wednesday, suffering a double puncture. The Colombian is 33 seconds down on leader Richie Porte (BMC), however, has not ruled out a podium finish ahead of Saturday’s queen stage to Willunga.

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