Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sky Squad Speculation

Team Sky have announced their teams for Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and very interesting they are in light of expectations of the team for the rest of the season.

Tirreno-Adriatico’s status as preparatory leg stretcher for Milan-San Remo explains the decision to send Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Juan Antonio Flecha, Mathew Hayman, Thomas Lofkvist, Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton. With the exception of Lofkvist, it’s a team of guys who specialise in flat or arduous terrain, and in Eisel and Stannard you get two tireless workhorses who excel at setting Cav up for a sprint.

Perhaps more interesting is the Paris-Nice squad. The race’s three most pivotal stages will be the opening time trial, the stage from Onet-Le-Chateau to the summit of Mende  that features a 3rd, a 2nd and three 1st category climbs, and the traditional closing time trial that climbs the short, sharp Col d’Eze.

 It’s a route that begs for a strong time triallist supported by riders who can climb a bit. So Sky are sending  Chris Froome, Christian Knees, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Geraint Thomas, Rigoberto UrĂ¡n and Bradley Wiggins.

It’s hard to envision a a squad better suited to shepherding Wiggin’s to a victory.  Take it a step further: if you were picking a nine-man Sky squad for the Tour de France and Cavendish weren’t an issue, than you’d pretty much just send that Paris-Nice squad plus one more climber for mountain protection-most would suggest Lofkvist, but I haven’t forgiven his anonymity at the Vuelta, so I’d opt for Sergio Henao.

Of course, Cav is an issue, and I’d expect him to want to take Eisel and Stannard to the Tour. There’s a long time to go until July, but when Sky eventually announce their Tour squad I wouldn’t be very upset to see it composed of those three plus the strongest six from the Paris-Nice squad. Obviously past TDF stage winners Edvald Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha would feel somewhat differently, but in all honesty, I'd be happy to see no stage  hunters taken at all. I feel awful for saying it, but I'd even drop Cav and Eisel given the choice, and build the Tour squad entirely around Wiggo's pursuit of Yellow.

In any case, next week's racing should provide the first hints of what we'll see come July.

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