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Sky's the Limit - A Sky fans review
on 11 June 2011
As a Team Sky fan, Richard Moore's latest publication was eagerly anticipated. An esteemed writer and cycling blogger, Moore's previous offerings, the excellent `In Search of Robert Millar' and `Heroes, Villains and Velodromes' have set the bar high. 'Sky's the Limit' does not disappoint.
Although Moore appears to have been granted unprecedented access from day one, perhaps surprisingly the book is neither authorised or official. This is good as it has allowed Moore to document the evolution of Team Sky and it's debut season warts and all.
The book is a journey with Team Sky the central character. But, as the sub-title suggests 'British Cycling's Quest to Conquer the Tour de France' it's clear that the Team Sky project was a culmination of the total domination by the British Track Team and the hugely successful British Cycling Academy that was producing world class talent in the shape of Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish etc. The natural progression was to take the principles of the track and the World Class Performance programme onto the road.
Moore eloquently guides the reader through the early day's, confirming that Cavendish was originally first choice to lead the team before an apparent fall-out led to him signing a contract extension with Columbia High-Road just day`s before the official launch of Team Sky. Without a dominant British star for the all new British team the book chronicles the ensuing prising of Bradley Wiggins from Garmin, and to a lesser degree Ben Swift from Katusha, this and the apparent `new kids on the block' muscling in with their Jaguars, state of the art bus, and unprecedented philosophy resulted in a subsequent knock-on effect from the other teams that ultimately led to a ganging-up at the Tour of Oman.
Moore is able to witness first-hand and document the training camps, rider selection, the `marginal gain' attention to detail and the new coaching methods that Team Sky introduced, although such was not always well received by the traditionalists and in the early day's led to several staff members parting company, in particular `Senior' Sports Director, Scott Sunderland. A fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes activities and innovations that haven't really been seen before on the road.
But it's the Tour de France that takes centre stage. After the fight to obtain a Tour contender and the stated aim of providing a clean British winner within five years all eye's were on Bradley. Moore was there, at the hotel's, riding in the team car, interacting with staff and riders - his account provides a fascinating testimony of the race and the disappointment by all when it started to fall apart. Knowing that Moore's book was in the pipeline, fair play to Team Sky for allowing him to stick around when it all started to go wrong.
The book culminates in the ill-fated Veulta a Espana, where half the team suffered from illness and tragically soigneur Txema Gonzalev contracted a bacterial infection and subsequently died aged just 43, forcing the team to withdraw from the race, and finally the Tour of Britain where according to Moore an apparent lack of confidence and insecurity contributed to the Team's failure to secure a win on home soil.
Moore quite rightly states that Team Sky should not be judged after just one season. The Team did enjoy considerable success in 2010 - The Tour Down Under, Het Nieuwsblad, Russ Downing's excellent Criterium International... Unfortunately a major classic victory, or overall success in a stage race eluded them but as Dave Brailsford said to a fan at the Tour of Britain "We'll be back, we've learnt a lot, it hasn't been easy but we've learnt a lot".
'`Sky's the Limit' is an excellent read, well written, superbly researched and apparently impartial. The story of Team Sky's debut season but without the spin. I thoroughly recommend it and eagerly look forward to the sequel...