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‘I know what you’ll ask and you know how I’ll respond': Updates from Team Sky training camp

James Witts
11 Jan 2017

Awkward interviews and huge buffets at Team Sky's Mallorca training camp

‘Can people believe in Team Sky? 100%’ And so the tone was set for, at times, a painfully uncomfortable hour of roundtable interviews with Sir Dave Brailsford, here in the Vanity Hotel, Team Sky’s regular Mallorcan abode for their annual post-Christmas training camp.

Brailsford repeatedly fended off allegations about inappropriate use of TUEs and, of course, the contents of ‘that package’ with a straighter bat than Sir Geoffrey Boycott. Daily Mail correspondent Matt Lawton, the man who broke the jiffy-bag story, led the attack on Brailsford with Brailsford repeatedly declining to comment due to the ongoing investigation at UK Anti-Doping.

Brailsford did, however, question the timing of UKAD chairman David Kenworthy’s criticism of Brailsford’s evidence at the recent Commons committee as ‘extraordinary’.

Brailsford also noted, rather accurately, that the entire interview had descended into role play. ‘I know what you’ll ask and you know how I’ll respond,’ he said. If only he’d said the right thing at the right time, critics might argue, this situation may never have arisen.

Still, the UKAD investigation won’t go on forever and once they presumably find no paper evidence of the decongestant Fluimucil, Brailsford will almost certainly be back in front of the Commons committee. 

Essential pain

The dark clouds hanging over Team Sky’s hotel dominated press day. This is a day where journalists form a scrum for sufficient time with their targets; for the riders, well, you suspect it’s a hindrance they could do without.

However, it’s perceived, this is one necessary human zoo, designed to give the team’s sponsors the global exposure they pay for.

Before Brailsford and Lawton took centre stage, riders and photographers gathered outside the Vanity Hotel for a 120km out-and-back loop to the island’s most infamous climb, Sa Calobra.

The high-profile Brits – Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe – were absent with the trio in Australia, Froome on a training block, and Thomas and Rowe racing the Tour Down Under, which starts in Adelaide on Saturday. 

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Success still emanated from each pedal stroke, though, with uber-domestique and Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2016 victor Wout Poels in attendance, alongside Michal Kwiatkowski and Brit newcomers Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jon Dibben.

Geoghegan Hart, in particular, was in particularly ebullient mood, throwing around the banter with Dibben with youthful abandon.

‘I remember Jon beat me the first time we raced back in our teens,’ Geoghegan Hart regaled. ‘On today’s ride, I’ll get my own back.’ And he did indeed, his lightweight frame easing up Sa Calobra; Dibben’s a more powerful athlete forged from the track. He’ll come into his own over the cobbles where absolute power’s more advantageous than power-to-weight ratio.

Geoghegan Hart’s not lacking in confidence or climbing ability and has a very mature head on those 21-year-old shoulders.

Many see the duo, plus Owain Doull, as the next successful generation of Team Sky’s British riders. Time will tell but first impressions of performance manager Tim Kerrison were equally as praiseworthy, suggesting the athletes he trained down in Monaco before Christmas, that included Dibben as well as new signing Kenny Elissonde, is one of the ‘strongest groups I’ve ever worked with’. 

Protein and a writ

While the riders ascended Sa Calobra and photographers fought for ‘the shot’, journalists remained at the hotel, this one looking to determine what roles the support staff play in attempting to propel Froome to a fourth Tour de France title. And it started with a humble water bottle marked with felt-tip. 

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‘That indicates it contains protein,’ revealed one of the team’s masseurs. ‘The other bottle contains either water or carbohydrates.’

Why is down to muscle repair; in fact, that’s doing the nutrition innovation a disservice as later in the morning, Team Sky’s head of nutrition, James Morton, explained the deeper detail of why Team Sky use a protein-only bottle.

You’ll have to read the next issue of the Cyclist to find out more but, needless to say, Team Sky are reportedly the only team on the WorldTour following this nutritional template.

As Kerrison explained, the gear side of things is equally important to the evolution of the team and, right on cue, Fausto Pinarello appears. The Italian’s in town to showcase Team Sky’s new aero road bike, the Pinarello F10 Dogma.

And as you’d expect from a bike that’ll break the bank, it’s loaded with aerodynamic features derived from slipstreaming experts on their CFD programmes. 

Standout features include the control unit that’s now integrated into the downtube rather than untidily cluttering up the front end and the concave downtube borrowed from Pinarello’s Bolide TT bike. (With exquisite timing, on the same day Velocite threatened legal action in an open letter in an ongoing patent infringement debate relating to that concave downtube design. As you’d expect, this wasn’t mentioned in the Pinarello presentation.) 

SEE RELATED Pinarello Dogma F10 design stolen from our patent, claims Velocite

Not all partnerships continue. Rapha’s ended in 2016. Castelli are now Team Sky’s apparel suppliers. The Italian brand has a long history of supplying WorldTour teams, most recently the Cannondale-Drapac squad, who will partner with POC for 2017.

The 2017 jersey is described as a ‘British-Italian fusion’, the horizontal-lined design representing a specific Team Sky victory.

The longest lines represent Team Sky’s four Tour de France victories; the short dashes one-day races, while the medium-length lines represent multi-day stage races.

The large-scale version is seen on the team’s bus where mechanics were adding new bars to Kwiatkowski’s Bolide TT and integrating Shimano’s 2017 Dura-Ace Di2 groupset.

The afternoon would see rider interviews – again, more in a future issue of Cyclist – but nothing could match the sheer excitement of two words that’d send deep joy coursing through the veins of any self-respecting writer: ‘free buffet’.

Lasagne made by the team chefs, salads that sparkle with colour and flavour, and a mound of homemade humus that resembled Sa Calobra.

For the riders, the macronutrients were hitting Morton’s textbook instruction. For this writer, the packed 12-inch plate left New Year weight-reduction plans disappearing into the Mallorca 12°C air.

Once the post-banquet Americano had been sunk, all that was left was a squeeze of hand gel and that memorably painful roundtable with Brailsford…

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