Aussies key in Sky’s Tour de France win
Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford first plays up to the question, invoking the age-old rivalry with the colonials. How deliberate is the strong Australian presence in the British Sky team?
“The first thing that went on the (team) strategy document was to … turn them on their fellow countrymen and let them loose – civil war,” he says with a straight face.
Australia and Great Britain are having an influence in cycling that no one could have anticipated as late as a decade ago.
A year after Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France, Brad Wiggins has made the same history for Great Britain.
Sky have dominated this year’s Tour, with Wiggins’ teammate Chris Froome finishing second overall.
It was also a landmark Tour for Australian cycling – having the defending champion Cadel Evans, Orica-GreenEDGE becoming the first team from Australia to compete in the race and a record 12 starters from Down Under.
Two of those riders are the most visible Australian presence at Sky.
Mick Rogers and Richie Porte have been pivotal to Wiggins as support riders on the big mountain climbs.
But two of Wiggins’ most important advisors are also Australian – long-time mentor Shane Sutton and sports scientist Tim Kerrison.
It is Kerrison’s insight and left-field advice over the last couple of years that has played a massive role in Wiggins taking the step from very good Grand Tour rider to a champion.
There is a strong historical background to the Australian presence at Sky.
Back in the early ’90s, when British cycling started developing their track program, they borrowed heavily from the Australian model laid out by Charlie Walsh.
Naturally, there is a strong rivalry between the two countries in cycling.
But there is also plenty of mutual respect and more than occasional sharing of ideas and resources.
“When you are looking at national teams and professional sports teams, I think … look at any professional sport now and it is a real blend of taking the best people for the job, regardless of nationality,” Brailsford said.
“And when we look at this team we wanted to try and choose some of the best guys for the job.
“The fact we got quite a few Aussies on the team is testament to just how good we rate Australian cycling and the people who work in it.
“They are a talented bunch and a talented bunch of riders.”
As well as the expertise and ability, Brailsford is an unashamed fan of the Australian approach to sport.
“I must admit I like the Australian attitude,” he said.
“I think it is a great attitude to have in sport.
“And I think it’s good to have that in a team – a blend of different cultures and nationalities, the diversity which I think is good in every walk of life.”© AAP 2013