Team Sky has been a dominant force in recent years during the Tour de France. Their infamous Team Sky train is put into action during the mountain stages to reel in breakaway riders, and by riding long and hard they make it very difficult for riders to stay in the group. Attacking also becomes almost impossible as the tempo is so high. But this is Team Sky’s final season. The riders’ salaries will be paid up until 2021, but after that, the team will have to find other financial backing. The team must find a new sponsor to survive. But right now there’s nothing to prevent the riders from enjoying a highly successful 2019 race season. Anyway, keep an eye on these names…
As soon as Bradley Wiggins retired from professional cycling, Chris Froome was there to take his place. Froome has for years now been the force to be reckoned with during the major stage races. He has won the Tour de France four times. In 2018, he won his first Giro d’Italia and in 2017 he won the Tour of Spain. He has also won the Critérium du Dauphine three times and the Tour of Romandie twice. He is aiming for victory in the Tour de France again in 2019. He will likely skip the Giro d’Italia in order to fully focus on the French race.
Geraint Thomas was Chris Froome’s chief support rider for a long time. He was only really allowed to go for the win during minor races. But 2018 was his real breakthrough year. He booked good results in the Tirreno–Adriatico and the Volta Algarva, he also won the Criterium de Dauphine. He was clearly the man in form. But during the Tour de France it was still the idea that Chris Froome would be the lead rider for Team Sky. In the end, Thomas just proved to be too strong and rode to the biggest win of his career by far. He is aiming for the Tour again in 2019, and to prepare, he will take part in various hilly one-day classics as well as the Tirreno–Adriatico and the Tour of Switzerland. It remains unclear if he will take part in the Giro d’Italia, as is also the case for Chris Froome. Watch this space.
Team Sky is a team that rises to the top during the big races. But Michal Kwiatkowski is also a major force in the classic one-day races. In the past he has won the Amstel Gold Race, the Classica San Sebastian, Milan–San Remo and the Strade Bianchi. He was crowned world elite road race champion in 2014 and has also won the Tirreno–Adriatico. This year we’ll see him in action in the classics after Paris–Roubaix, the Tour de France and towards the end of the season at the Tour of Lombardy.
In 2012, Wout Poels’ future as a pro cyclist hung in the balance. He had a terrible crash in the Tour de France while riding for the Vacansoleil team, suffering a ruptured kidney and spleen, a bruised lung and three broken ribs. But he recovered well and after a brief, though not very successful, spell at the then Omega Pharma–Quick-Step team, he was given a chance to prove himself at Team Sky. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands. In 2016, he won Liège–Bastogne–Liège and won a number of stages in the shorter stage races. His role in the major races was that of key support rider for Team Sky’s leaders in the mountains. In 2019 he will ride the hilly one-day classics and the Tirreno–Adriatico. It is as yet unclear whether or not he will ride the Giro d’Italia, or the Tour de France.
Team Sky’s wildcard rider: Egan Bernal
Sky’s 22-year-old Colombian rider Egan Bernal has yet to show what he can in the really big races. He won the Tour of California in 2018 and won a stage in the Tour of Romandie. He was also second in the young riders classification in the 2018 Tour de France. He was also doing well in the Clasica de San Sebastian, but later in the season he seemed to run out of steam. Nevertheless it was a good season, and he is relatively young so he has enough time to grow as a rider.
And, because Sky is such a powerhouse, there are still a number of names to watch out for: Dylan van Baarle, Jonathan Castroviejo, Ben Swift, Vasil Kiryienka and Ian Stannard to name but a few.