Wiggins and Sunderland react to Team Sky’s Tour de France selection
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wiggins and Sunderland react to Team Sky’s Tour de France selection

by VeloNation Press at 6:37 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

Bradley Wiggins, who was the clear surprise in last year’s Tour de France in fourth place overall, has given the thumbs up to yesterday’s news that Team Sky is one of the six wildcard teams for the prestigious French event.

“As a team we are thrilled that we’re going to compete in the biggest bike race in the world,” said the Briton on Tuesday. “I’m hugely proud to be in a British-based team taking on the Tour de France and I’m convinced we’ll leave our mark.”

He has targeted a top three place in this year’s Tour, and said that the support for the project has been very high.

“Team Sky has huge ambitions, not just for the team but for cycling and inspiring the public to get out and ride. The reaction to the team has been amazing and it’s been a great start to the season. Now we can continue our preparations knowing we are definitely there on the start line.”

Senior sports director Scott Sunderland emphasised that the race is a huge target for the team in its first season.

"I'd like to echo Team Prinicipal Dave Brailsford's sentiments in that indeed it was a major goal for us to obtain selection for the Tour de France in our maiden year,” he told VeloNation. “We are highly appreciative having received the trust of Mr Prudhomme and all of ASO with this invitation.

“On a personal note, I am absolutely stoked about it. In general, I enjoy most races on the international calendar, and I love the upcoming Classics races in particular, but the Tour de France is the crown jewel. It's magnificent that we get the opportunity to compete in this event with the other teams which have been selected."

Sunderland has played a huge role in helping set up the team, drawing on the experience of his years as a professional and then as part of the management of Team CSC. He recruited many of the foreign riders and helped forge links with various race organisers in the sport.

Several factors are taken into consideration when the wildcard teams are selected for the Tour. The riders are a big concern, with organisers requiring that the teams are of a sufficiently high quality to add to the racing. Ethics are also part of the consideration process; following several scandals in recent years, there is a huge pressure for teams to be clean.

"Besides the enormous effort which has preceded the launch of the team this season, I think the way we have presented the concept and our team and its philosophy to the organisers is an important factor,” he said. “Of vital importance are the riders though, we got this invitation mainly thanks to them. They are the ones who have been putting the results on the board which persuaded ASO to give us the definite yes.”

One thing that will have impressed the Tour organisers is how quick the team has been able to race strongly and start racking up results. “The team has gelled into a real well-functioning unit so quickly; it has been fantastic to be part of that,” he explained. “The passion for cycling is something we all share and I know that we will continue to work extremely hard and show the Sky Pro Cycling Team jersey to the fans and organisers on the road to the start of the Tour in July. The staff, soigneurs, mechanics, etc, are all an intrinsic part of the Team and how it is perceived by organisers and public. Their professional attitude would certainly also be an element."

Goals:

Wiggins has said on several occasions that he now considers himself a major Tour contender. His fourth place last year was unexpected, but it has convinced him that he has what it takes to chase the yellow jersey. Some have said that this year’s course doesn’t suit him as much as the 2009 route, due to the profile of the mountains and the relative lack of time trial kilometres. He has said that if he could take a top three, he’d be satisfied with that for this year.

For his part, Sunderland is reluctant to name specific goals at this point of the season. More will be disclosed as the race approaches, as the final line-up is named and as the riders’ form becomes more clear.

“We will try to do the best job we can, participate from day one, really get into the race and assist in making it an exciting event,” he said.

“The goals will be defined more specifically as we approach the month of July. When analysing the different riders on the team and their individual abilities, it is quite easy to get a general picture of what our goals for July will be. For now, allow me to leave our specific ambitions for the Tour de France undisclosed a little while longer.”

In the meantime, the team will continue to chase wins in the major European events. The Tour place may be assured, but the drive will continue to aim for big results in the Classics and other races.
 

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