Qatar to help Sky riders chase form after tough winter in Europe
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Qatar to help Sky riders chase form after tough winter in Europe

by Conal Andrews at 7:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Qatar

Several of Team Sky’s big names will get their seasons underway in the Tour of Qatar on Sunday, with the warm, wind-buffeted desert landscape being the location for their first competitive kilometres together. Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boasson Hagen will be the biggest names on the squad, and will be joined by Kurt Arvesen, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Juan Antonio Flecha, Russell Downing, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas.

Of those, the bulk of the team will go on to ride the new Tour of Oman, with the exception of Downing and Wiggins. The Britons will be replaced by Matthew Hayman and Chris Sutton on the team.

Scott Sunderland will be the directeur sportif for Qatar, and explained Wiggin’s choice in making that race his first of the season, rather than the previously-scheduled Etoile de Bessèges.

"It's been a tough winter with bad weather for a lot of the Northern European riders. Brad missed a few vital weeks in his build up for 2010 so Qatar is the ideal place to guarantee us a week of warm weather and great racing,” he stated.

"That also goes for the Scandinavian riders Kurt Arvesen, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Lars-Petter Nordhaug who have been training on snow-covered roads for 12 weeks now."

Sunderland has spent many long months helping to put the team together and is now looking forward to the chance to travel to a major event and oversee some racing. “I'm really happy to be on the road with the riders again and look forward to getting on with the races,” he enthused. “It's the part of my job I truly love best. Furthermore, it will be nice to get some sun at last."

Building the new superteam:

Sunderland has been an important part of the new project, and one of his main duties was to help pinpoint the right riders to bring on board. He said that each of those were carefully chosen, both for what they could bring to the team and also how they would fit into the overall picture.

"We sat down first of all and went through what we wanted to do with the team; from a performance perspective - the direction we would be heading, the mission of Team Sky, the long-term and short-term goals.

"Having identified the available riders for 2010, I presented a list to the Team Sky performance group. We discussed the riders we definitely wanted to look at, those of whom we thought had the right ingredients: the talent and abilities, the personality, the commitment to their sport, and of course the skills to fit into this team and the philosophy of Sky.

"Interested riders had already got in contact once the word got out we were building a Pro Team. Once we had the wish list completed, it was necessary to go out and talk to the individual riders and their managers. The most important thing at that stage was to present the concept, the team, and find out how each individual rider looked at and felt about the project.”

Also important was the riders’ backgrounds; those with question marks over them vis-à-vis possible doping were considered out of the question. Anyone selected as a possible signing reportedly had to provide details of their biological passport, so that the team could be satisfied that there were no skeletons in the closet.

Also crucial were their personalities; there’s little point in signing an established star or a bright up and coming talent if they simply won’t fit in with the other riders.

"It takes time to assess each rider's ambitions and attitude as these aspects define the level of effort and sacrifice he is willing to put in to his career. Team Sky is a rider-centred team and it's imperative each rider feels good about his position in the group,” continued Sunderland.

"To have athletes who will function well in the team has always been a key aspect - it was a vital part of the selection criteria and it will be something we will be monitoring continuously.

"It's really about getting the right personalities together from the start, and even though there's different nationalities, different cultural backgrounds, the whole of the team has really clicked and gelled together and it's cool to see."

The project has already started to reap results, with Greg Henderson and Chris Sutton placing first and second in the Cancer Council Helpline Classic in Australia last month. Sutton then edged out Henderson to win the final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under, and Henderson finished third overall.

More recently, Steve Cummings was a solid fourth in the GP Cycliste la Marseillaise on Sunday. He will be part of the team lining out tomorrow in the Etoile de Bessèges. Their goal will be to clock up a win before the finish on Sunday, then hand the baton to those racing in Qatar.

The team will be relying on a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, and so clocking up good results in the early season is vital.



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