Flecha, Knees and Barry contract extensions boost Sky Procycling’s 2012 prospects
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Flecha, Knees and Barry contract extensions boost Sky Procycling’s 2012 prospects

by VeloNation Press at 9:42 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Experienced riders renew with British team, enhances overall strength and experience

Juan Antonio FlechaWith its list of signings for next season drawing close to completion, the Sky Procycling team unveiled three more riders that will race with it in 2012. The disclosure of the names follows Tuesday’s announcement that Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel will transfer across from the HTC Highroad squad; in contract, the trio confirmed today are already with the team, and are thus extending their initial contracts with Sky Procycling.

The first two will remain for 2012 and 2013, and are the Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha and the German Christian Knees. The first of those was runner-up in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year, fourth in the Tour of Oman and ninth in Paris-Roubaix. He’ll aim again for the big one day races in the season ahead, but will also have an important role sharing his experience with the other riders.

“I am really happy to be riding for the team again next season. The improvements we have made over the last year have been testament to the amount of work we have put in and I am really excited about what 2012 will bring,” he said.

Flecha has seen the team grow from a first season that delivered less than the expectations to one which hit many of its big targets in year two. It picked up two Tour de France stage wins via Edvald Boasson Hagen and might have got a third had Flecha not been hit by a car while in the winning break in the Tour de France and knocked to the ground.

Fortunately he was okay after the incident, but the chance was gone. He remains a strong rider and has certain objectives for 2012. “The cobbled Classics will be my main focus, as always, but I am also looking forward to helping the team throughout the rest of the season,” he said.

Former German champion Knees joined the team last winter and settled in well. Although he personally has had a quiet season, he has done some good work for the leaders and is pleased to continue. “I've had a great first season with Team Sky, and a lot of happy memories, so when the offer of a new deal arose I signed straight away,” he said.

There was a specific highlight, and also a more general one. “To make the Tour de France team was amazing, especially after joining the squad so late,” he explained, “and I've been really happy with the role I've had to play in the team.

“I hope I can show my best over the next two years now, and when I'm not working for the other riders it would be nice to try and get a win for myself to repay the faith they have shown in me.”

The third rider, Canadian Michael Barry, will stay on board for one more year. He rode his first Tour de France last season and while he was not part of the French event this time round, he did get to ride the Giro d’Italia.

He was in the top fourteen in both the Tour de Wallonie and the recent Tour of Beijing, as well as the GP Cyclisme de Quèbed. Like Flecha, the 35 year old has seen a clear progression by the team and wants to keep help it growing. “I've enjoyed being a part of the development and growth of the team in the last two years and am looking forward to another season with Team Sky,” he said.

“To me, the environment is ideal: the team is well organised, the management is solid, the staff is committed and we have a great ambiance amongst the riders. All of the guys enjoy racing and being together which, in the end, produces results. I'm happy and proud to be a member of the team.”

Dave Brailsford, Team Sky Principal, has seen the squad make big progression since last winter. In 2010 Bradley Wiggins was below strength and never looked capable of equalling his 2009 performance in the Tour. He’s rebuilt himself and while he missed out on the chance in that race due to an early crash which took him out of the event, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné and was third in the Vuelta. Chris Froome was runner-up in the latter contest, while other riders such as Edvald Boasson Hagen also showed their class.

Cavendish’s signature means that the team should have an even more successful set of results next year. The world champion is the fastest rider in cycling and providing things go well, he will earn the squad multiple victories in 2012.

Brailsford knows a big season could be in store, and that the riders given extended contracts on Thursday could play an important part in supporting the leaders. They should also have chances themselves in some events. “At Team Sky we are always striving to improve as a team and retaining our key riders is a vital component of that strategy,” he said. “We are delighted that three world-class talents in Michael, Christian and Juan Antonio have seen Team Sky as the best place to continue their careers.

"As athletes, their records at the very highest level of our sport speak for themselves. As senior professionals they have set a standard of behaviour that is an inspiration to our younger riders. All three have contributed hugely to our success as a professional team and we all look forward to continuing that momentum into 2012 and beyond.”
 

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