Sky hunting third season win before Sunday
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Sky hunting third season win before Sunday

by Conal Andrews at 5:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

It’s been a quiet first two days for Team Sky in the Etoile de Bessèges stage race in France, but Michael Barry has indicated that the riders are likely to be aggressive in the days ahead, chasing a win before the finish on Sunday.

"We don't have sprinter here so this wasn't a stage that suited the team,” he said after Wednesday’s opening leg. “We will hold tight and will be gunning for one of the upcoming hillier days.

"There are several riders on the team who can win on hillier terrain so we hope to win a stage and even the overall.”

One of those he nominates is Steve Cummings, who finished fourth at the the GP Cycliste la Marseillaise on Sunday. “Steve is in fine form and can certainly do it, with the way he's climbing at the moment."

Nicolas Portal and Cummings were best of the team on days one and two, rolling in 54th and 60th. Their placings show that the team hasn’t bothered contesting the sprints but, with the terrain becoming tougher from this point, a more aggressive approach can be anticipated.

Today’s stage takes the riders 148 kilometres from Pont Saint Esprit to Bagnols sur Ceze, and will cover three tough climbs. Tomorrow covers the same distance to Ales, and will see the field scale the biggest ascent of the five-day race, namely the 11 kilometre climb up to Lamlouze, then another tough climb at Portes before a lumpy run-in to the finish.

Sunday’s final leg to Bessèges is understood to be flatter, making it likely that the fireworks from Team Sky will take place over the next two days.

The riders will be keen to keep up the momentum set in their first competitive events. Last month, Greg Henderson and Chris Sutton topped the podium in the Cancer Council Helpline Classic in Adelaide, then reversed that one-two on the final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. Henderson was also third overall.

A result in Bessèges would keep things moving nicely for the new ProTour squad, which is aiming to rack up strong early results in order to secure a wildcard slot for the Tour de France.

Barry said that the Australian performances were a big morale boost. "Their victories in Australia lifted the whole team," he admitted. "Winning early in the year gets the ball rolling and gets us off on the right foot. They definitely showed the cycling world that we will be contenders from the start as their leadouts and sprints were well timed and potent. And, we can only improve on it.

"The team is gelling well. Not only do the riders get along well but the staff is also very good which makes the overall ambiance ideal. We are having fun and eager to race hard."


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