Any doubts, or hopes for doubts, on the collective strength of Team Sky went out the window yesterday, as their 40,000,000 + Euro budget showed itself on the road to La Rosiere. Hand it to Movistar and their aging captain Alejandro Valverde for creating a race of great interest, but there was nothing to do as the Sky train put an end to any hopes for an open race. Once Luke Rowe pulled over, his tempo duties done, the money kicked in the form of Jonathon Castroviejo’s and his torrid pace that began the shutdown of Valverde’s long-range attack.
Castroviejo, a Movistar from 2012 through 2017, is a superb time trial rider who also climbs in the great Spanish tradition. Team Sky, looking to reinforce their train sought him out, and, as is their custom, according to the backroom voices, offered him double of what anyone else was capable of doing. He earned those euros yesterday with a phenomenal ride that put the entire peloton, or what was left of it, into the red.
Another prime example of Sky’s power was seen in the actions of Polish Champion Michal Kwiatkowski who set a mercilessly hard temp on the final climb, completely emptying himself out as is his custom, before handing the reins over to their new young star, Egan Bernal. Here was the Colombian’s moment: the chance to show the world that he’s the comer, the one who can become the first South American to win the Tour. Unfortunately, despite the perfect setup Bernal was not up to the job and immediately faded off the back. Kwiatkowski, dead on his feet (or in his pedals) somewhere, somehow, found the energy to do Bernal’s job for him and without missing a beat went right back to the front at that same impossible pace. One of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in the sport. No team can match the money offered to a rider who, when not on tempo duty, does things like win the World Championships and Milano-San Remo.
Team Sky, under the stewardship of their trainer Tim Kerrison, trains the train unlike any other team. Kerrison, who comes from a swimming and rowing background, has adapted training for rowers specifically into his team’s preparation, changing the traditional winter base miles approach to one of “intensity camps”. The fine-tuned pacing and rhythm of the Sky train is recognizable to those who’ve suffered in boats on rivers.
A final example of what money can get you was seen on the stage into Roubaix. Team Sky had 50, yes 50, volunteers, all with special team clothes, armed with spare wheels and bottles and flags to mark their positions, spread out over each of the cobbled sections. That’s a pile of organization and resources to pull something like that off and there’s only one team in the world capable of doing so.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.