Thursday, 26 February 2009

We haven't got a soul to sell.

I was going to blog about the continued goings on re Puerto, but what the heck, the Sky's the limit :-)

And it came to pass that British Cycling worst kept secret is out of the box. Out of the Sky + Box to be precise. For months now the word has been Sky and whilst no one had admitted it, no one had denied it either. Ask an academy rider who they were going to ride for next year and the answer was Sky.

So what now? Well expect the next few months to be rife with gossip and guess as to who's going to be donning the jersey next year. The Barloworld boys are all out of contract come end of season so it's a safe bet that their current team kit will be on ebay come October. Any academy/100% me riders due to turn pro will doubtless join up. Hammond and Hunt are on one year deals at Cervelo (a team put together by Sunderland who has been out in SA with a British MTB team), Ian Stannard is on a one year deal at ISD and Matt Brammeier is with the Kelly boys for a year, so any one of them could turn up flying the flag. Stannard is a future classics specialist and H & H have a wealth of experience that would be invaluable to any newly formed team, Brammeier is back from injury and hopefully will have a season good enough to put him in the frame.

Who will be there?

Bellis, Wiggins and Swift are all on 2 year deals, but I suspect there may well be get out clauses in their contracts allowing an early exit should the need arise. What of the home based riders? Well at Halfords you have Tennant, who rode in Italy with the academy, Clancy who had a couple of seasons in Belgium and Rob Hayles who had three good years at Cofidis. All strong riders and all part of the track setup at some point, I'd recon all good prospects for domestic duties should they fancy the chance.
Initially the team is slated to be 25 riders, rising to 30, the extra 5 I assume will be academy riders as they come through the system. I've looked at the UCI rule book (how sad am I? - er, oh you probably know that already) but can't find the bit where it states the % split of 'home' riders a team must have, I seem to have a clouded memory that lurches between 50 and 70%, depending on level of the team. So there should be plenty of places on offer.

Good cop, bad cop!

Now then, Sky, good or bad. I keep reading that the deal with Sky is a 'bad thing'. This 'bad thing' is because Sky is run by the dirty digger who is of course 'evil'. Personally I don't buy the Times due to his ownership. But I welcome the Sky deal - how come?

Well, I haven't quite got all my ducks in a row on this, but here goes. The case against Sky is made by comparing cycling to football and saying look, football is buggered, so cycling will go the same way! Firstly let me say that I 'support' or rather 'occasionally look out for the results of...' a Division 2 team, they were buggered before Sky and they were buggered after Sky and when Sky move over they will continue in that fine tradition. Sky is offered up as the bogey man in the desolation of 'grass roots football', but surely that's more to do with the fact that footballs authorities bent over backwards for Sky and gave the money to the big teams. These teams had the cash and the crowds before Sky and could afford the best players, give them an unequal share of the money and guess what, no change. Any idea that the major clubs in football ever gave a toss about grassroots football is IMHO a little naive.

Getting into bed with crooks.

Cycling in this country has a totally different set up to football. We have a central body that is strong and in most places well regarded. One whom I believe, are fully aware of what they are doing. I don't believe BC will enter into anything unless they have full control over the deal, no grease up and bend over for Big Dave.

But for me the final point and I would suggest the most important is that any thought of cycling selling it's soul to the devil is comical. We took out our soul and sold it to the highest bidder well over 100 years ago and since then have drunk with an endless stream of shady characters, thieves and crooks. As a sport we exist at the top level by selling our backsides to commercial sponsors, personally I don't care if it's Sky, Molteni, BP, Boule D'or, Carpano, Juplier or Ford. It's British riders competing at the highest level.

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