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Thomas claims money 'can't buy success' in cycling

Tour de France champion claims Team Sky has simply spent its money wiser than rivals

Joe Robinson
18 Apr 2019

Geraint Thomas has claimed 'you can’t buy success' in cycling, saying Team Sky's superior budget is not the main reason for the team's dominance in the sport.

Writing in his monthly GQ column, the Welshman put the team's success down to its sole focus of winning the Tour de France adding that other teams in the sport operate on similar budgets to Sky but fail to spend the money as effectively.

'In cycling, you can’t buy success, which is how Team Sky’s sponsorship is portrayed a lot of the time. Of course money helps sign good riders, but it all depends on how you run the team and what you do with it,' said Thomas in GQ.

'The main reason we are successful, I think, is the fact that we focus on the Tour de France: it’s the main goal of the year and therefore we’re in the public eye because it’s so high‐profile.

'Of course, there are other races that we want to win, but the main one is the Tour and the whole season revolves around this.'

Thomas also added that 'there are no egos in the team' and each rider is willing to ride to a common goal.

Team Sky have won six of the last seven Tours, with three different British riders. In that time, they have also managed to take a Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana title, both with Chris Froome, but only two of cycling's Monuments – 2016 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and 2017 Milan-San Remo.

Publishing their annual accounts for 2017, Team Sky's budget was disclosed as £34.5m per year with £25m of the total being provided by title sponsors Sky.

Around 75% of the budget is used to pay riders and staff wages with the team rumoured to have around 10 riders on £1m contracts.

Putting this into perspective, Quick-Step Floors were rumoured to be operating on an annual budget of £16m last season while two of Team Sky's biggest Tour rivals, Movistar and Team Jumbo Visma, are believed to operate on budgets under £20m per year.

The maths would suggest a shortcut to success, especially at the Tour de France, but Thomas argued that many rival teams actually operate on similar budgets to Team Sky, but maybe do not spend their finances as wisely.

Bahrain-Merida and UAE-Team Emirates are both backed by wealthy Emirati states and both of their budgets are believed to be close to that of Team Sky. Swiss-registered, Russian-owned Katusha-Alpecin have also previously operated on a budget over €30m.

For Thomas, it is the incentives set by the team that has bred success.

'It’s undeniable that you have to think about money, but, as far as I know, there are two or three other teams on similar budgets to ours that are nowhere near as successful. It all comes back to spending what you have wisely,' said Thomas.

'We’ve got a lot of money, but the cost of running of the team hasn’t changed much over the years. The numbers have grown as our riders have improved.

'In our team, Chris Froome was on a lower wage until he started winning the Tour, so Sky wanted to back that success and keep him. They invested in him.

'It was a similar story with me. That extra money to keep quality riders obviously helps – you’ve got a better chance at the big races if you’ve got a bit of money – but it’s sport, ultimately, and anything can happen.'

One thing for sure is that money is not going to be an issue for Thomas and his teammates any time soon.

As of May 1st, new owner Ineos will replace Sky as primary sponsors. It is expected that the chemical and oil company, owned by Britain's richest man Jim Ratcliffe, will match the current budget with some rumours even suggesting it could be boosted to around £50m per year, an unprecedented amount of funding in professional cycling.