1.17.2015

Majorca Reportage: 2. On the road with Team Sky

On the road!
"Do you come with me? would you like?" Rob Jorgensen asks me pointing out a van already full of photographers and cameramen. Ellie Brownless is driving a second one and they are leaving now. "Sure, if I can. Thank you!" Team Sky press officers are both very kind and helpful. 
Getting ready
Riders have arrived in dribs and drabs, sat here and there in the hotel lobby to wear their cycling shoes while reporters were still checking their equipments, then we have all attended the morning briefing with Dave Brailsford, Team Sky Principal, explaining the "new chapter of Team Sky" and DS telling riders about today training session.
Rob and Ellie will give us a printed version of Brailsford's speech in the afternoon and a digital one is already waiting in my e-mail box so I had no need to write it down and simply listened:
“The first chapter of Team Sky was successful." Brailsford said "We set out to win the Tour de France, to do it clean and to do it with a British rider. We have done that twice. And we have helped  inspire a million more people in the UK to take up cycling. 
Morning briefing
But it is in our DNA to think that we could have gone further, that we could have achieved more. And we are now hungrier than ever. 
Our mission for 2020 is very simple - for Team Sky to be indisputably and consistently the best cycling team in the world, and to be viewed as one of the very best sports teams in the world.
We will do that by winning more races in the next five years than we did in the past five years. And do that consistently in Grand Tours as well as Classics and Monuments.
Chris Froome
Our vision is to continue to play a leadership role in charting a better future for this great sport of ours and changing the culture that so damaged it. That means continued leadership on anti-doping. But much more than that, we want Team Sky to be at the cutting edge of innovation and a reference point for excellence in human performance.
And the purpose of all this is very simple - to do everything we can to make more people fall in love with cycling so it can have a positive impact on their lives.
By 2020, I want Team Sky to be seen as a beacon of sporting excellence after a decade of sustained success. And how we have done it matters just as much as what we have done. But above all, why we have it done it matters most of all.”
While he's talking - and all day long - images of Team Sky victories were shown on a big screan. Rob and Ellie will send us also a recap of "Team Sky highlights of the last five years":
Ben Swift
· Greg Henderson claimed Team Sky’s first win at their debut race in 2010 in Australia
·Team Sky has had 165 wins in five years
· Team Sky has won the Tour de France with two different British riders
· Edvald Boasson Hagen has had the most wins for Team Sky with 24
· Sir Bradley Wiggins is close behind, with 23 wins in Team Sky colours
· Chris Froome currently has 21 wins for Team Sky
· In total, 59 riders have ridden for Team Sky (including 2015 new signings)
· 15 British riders have been members of Team Sky
· 7 founding rider members remain with the team: Froome, Kennaugh, Stannard, Sutton, Swift, Thomas, Wiggins (six of them British)
· In 2010, there were eight British riders - the same number for the 2015 season
· Team Sky have raced in 21 countries across the world, including 4 continents
· Helped inspire over 1 million more people to get on their bikes and ride more regularly
· Team Sky has the biggest following of fans in cycling
An impressive picture, and - let me say - an impressive marketing work. Team Sky efficiency is famous as well as its perfectionist attitude. Still I'm not impressed: I don't have to buy it. 
Money are not a problem here: the whole Vanity Sports Hotel in Puert d'Alcudia is temporarily occupied only by Team Sky (and British Cycling), who also brought his team chef; two vans, a truck, several cars, a scooter and of course the team bus are parked outside; there are two press officers and a large number of staff members. Team Sky organogram is more complicated and peculiar compared to other teams' and seems quite integrated with British Cycling federation, that had an important role in his making.
Dave Brailsford
Now we are on the road after one of the training groups, including Chris Froome, heading to the mountains. I'm siting in the back of the van with some Spanish guys working for Reuters, while some British photographers are in front with Rob, who's trying to drive smoothly and says sorry everytimes he takes a turn wrong. It's about 11 am and finally the sun has broken up the mist.
The Spanish guys are impatient: the back windows of the van can't get open and it's hard to take decent pictures or to film that way. Opening the doors is too dangerous - still they do once. Not optimal. We follow the convoy of cars and vans following the small peloton, including also some amateurs who are taking part in Team Sky training. One of them isn't very fit... He has been immediately dropped and a rider slows down to bring him back in front. 
Lets go!
Rob instead must speed up to pass everybody and to bring us way in front, where we can get off and wait on the road to shoot the riders when they come. It isn't easy on this tortuous mountain road and it's hard to find a safe spot to stop the car. Everytimes we all jump off the van, quickly place us on the roadside, wait, shoot or film, and run back to the car. There is an incredible silence in that waiting, almost no traffic, rocky bald mountains all around or intense green forests, the sea somewhere like a presence you feel in the quality of the light. 
Siutsou sets his pc
Things go as they usually do: riders ride together on a good pace, large flat roads at the begining, then narrow and steep, climbing toward the top of the mountain in several airpin. Riders do specific works, individual sprints, they test their condition and their materials. Both are more complicated than the word we use: 'condition' includes many elements and they work scentifically to test each one, it's way more than the old school 'good feeling'. 
Then of course a rider must pay attention to his general feeling but it's crucial, for him and for his team, to find the reason(s) of it. More specific is your awarness and more exact can be your work. Materials are many and different of course: bike - and it's also a whole made by several elements - clothing... Everything need to be tested because they are going to spend hours in or on it and they must be perfect: confortable, efficient, durable.
Kiry!!!
Chris Froome stops twice, checks a wheel with a mechanic, they make it spin and observe. Chris Froome is playing with his brand-new wedding ring. I watch him and he looks relaxed, serene, his small blue eyes quietly smiling in his small childish face. In more stressful situations this smile tends to stiffen in a grimace and this eyes get an obstinate fixity. He's committed. Riders use to say "I'm trying my best", no doubt he is, in a very litteral meaning. Unlike many gc conteders, he's accessible and kind, but you have often the feeling to have access to... nothing: Froome's interviews are predictable, barely interesting, seldom original. I watch with curiosity to this man apparently banal like the sea surface in a sunny day, I guess there is a something more we can't see, something extremely compact and strong and powerful, making his motivation. I'd say ambition, but it's hard to say.
Bernhard Eisel
There is Vasil Kiryenka, impenetrable like a fortress. When he goes in front for everybody it's pain. His face is hard and even his smile has nothing sweet. He's a terrific domestique and a dangerous stage hunter. I wonder how different it feels a personal victory and a team victory you have been decisive for. Solid in any way, Kiryenka looks determined but calm, unconcerned. A man doing what he has to do, and well, in the best possible way but as if the best was the minimum expected. That's Team Sky in the end!
Wout Poels
There is Wout Poels, he's new here and looks new, a little a part if not isolated. He had a very promosing start as a neopro, then badly crashed, risked to stop, came back even stronger and very motivated. He looks tall and slim, a little shy, his dark eyes often avoiding. 
Following in the van isn't easy to get an exact impression of where everyone stand. A second group is training in another area and of course the Tour de France team is already in Australia. For me the most obvious limit is that I don't really know these guys, I know them from races but Team Sky is new, unlike Andy's teams - Saxo Bank, Leopard or Trek - where I used to know everybody and it was easy to interpretate. But I'm curious. And they are so kind I feel at home already.
"Last shot? is that enough?" Rob says "What do you guys fancy now? some beer?", "Eating!" is the unanimous reply. "I'm starving" is often an overstatement but not in this case: I AM starving, I'm not eating anything since Saturday afternoon and not a real meat since home. Rob drives us back to the hotel - although taking wrong a roundabout and making a long detour till Alcudia. Team Sky Chef has prepared tons of tasty food and we are invited to share it. We still have a long day ahead.
Chris Froome
"Who's there?"

MORE TO COME

No comments: