Monday, June 17, 2024
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How NOT to Win Friends


Ben Swift — top guy, affable, always happy to chat, looks the business and has a great career ahead of him.

But — I don’t like what’s happening with this Sky business. I might be wrong – and am probably writing my own obituary here, as far as Sky interviews goes – but it smacks to me of; ‘we can’t get Brad, so we have to get some one else who can win a bit and who’s English!’

Ben should have been left where he was to mature and learn more of the ropes of pro racing in a team that helps him but puts him under no undue pressure.

Ben Swift
Ben Swift.

Personally, I believe that Sky should have come in at Pro Continental level and built from there, with a view to going Pro Tour — and snaffling Cav? Brad? Ben? – for 2011. That way, there would have been room to manoeuvre, time to build and much, much less pressure.

Ben Swift
Ben found the Tumble climb in the British Champs tough going.

As it stands, they’ve done what we expected — recruited all the ex-Academy/Plan guys they could get hold of; and also a strong all rounder in Boasson Hagen, just in case they couldn’t get a big British star.

But there’s the rub, for the team to get the kind of exposure and publicity that an name like Sky needs, wants and craves, the star has to have a nice simple English name. Even The Comic [Cycling Weekly Magazine] is making negative noises; ‘this is a super squad that still lacks a serious GC contender or a major British presence,’ they said in the November 26th issue.

Ben Swift
Katyusha insist that Ben will ride with them in 2010.

On the one hand, the team played the line that; ‘yes, there’s money available, but not silly money, we’ll be paying market value and no more.’ But then the tales circulate that they were willing to give Garmin two million dollars to buy Brad out and then pay him eight million for a six year contract.

Probably exaggerations, but then we hear that they’ve poached a guy from Formula One to look after the team vehicle fleet — this hardly smacks of ‘prudence’ as my fellow Kirkcaldy boy, Gogs Brown would say.

On the track, you don’t really need to make friends and the GB steam roller has certainly flattened all opposition on the boards.

But the road is different, friends are essential, irrespective of how fat your cheque book is; whilst there are few presents in pro road racing, you have to have allies, or at least have as few people as possible who’ll want to chase you down at inopportune moments. Ask George Hincapie; seemingly headed for yellow on the Tour stage eventually won by Ivanov, Garmin decided that they didn’t want a Columbia man in yellow and launched a chase.

Before a wheel has been turned in anger, Sky are now in a position where two powerful teams — Garmin and Katyusha — will do them no favours and go out of their way to stop the English team from winning.

Apart from that, they’ve propelled Ben Swift into the centre of a media storm and an awkward situation. If he stays with the Russian squad, there’s a real risk that Katyusha won’t race him; and if he goes to Sky, there will be a huge weight of expectation upon him to perform — I just hope he’s ready for that.

Just one more t’ing sir

And under the ‘just one more t’ing, sir’ rule, whilst mentioning Cycling Weekly; ‘the recent Dortmund and Munich Six-Days have not done as well as they once did,’ that’s very true in the case of Dortmund – it was cancelled.