Sky's classics problems

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Dec 9, 2012
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I am not sure what people were expecting of Sky's campaign if they think this year has been a problem so far. It has been a more consistent start to the year than last year was anyway. If people are expecting stage race style domination it just isn't going to happen unless they manage to recruit Peter Sagan/Fabian Cancellara/Tom Boonen or the next 'find' over the next couple of years.

If they don't get any classic/semi classic wins by the end of the year it will be lessons learned and move on, but I don't see them abandoning the 'core team' idea which means it will be well nigh impossible squeezing them into traditional warm up stage races. Maybe they'll introduce a Belgium camp as well and go and dodge the tractors on the pave for a week or so in preparation.

In 2012 at this same point in the classics season they had six top ten results including a 1st, 3rd and 4th place from two riders no longer with the team this year (Cav and Flecha), with Hayman, Bernie and Eddy having one each.

In 2013 they have eight top ten results from one less race (K-B-K was cancelled, it has been traditionally very successful for the team as already pointed out in the OP) including a 3rd place, two 4th places and two 6th places, one of them in a monument. It's not a brilliant start, but they've done quite well so far in my opinion. RvV and PR were the main disappointments for the team with a 17th and 12th respectively being the best placed riders.

I am also not so sure that simply slotting 3-4 classics team members into TA and PN teams would have provided the riders with any useful racing practice given Sky's usual week long stage race tactic of getting the leaders jersey ASAP and defending it. (Maybe stage 6 TA was classic like but it didn't seem to do Henao much good riding that stage). Despite their 'superior to Tenerife?' stage race training Henao and Kiry both ended up crashing twice yesterday early on in AGR. Stage hunting which would probably be the most useful type of racing for trainng classics type riders doesn't seem to be part of the Sky stage race focus since their domestiques always have to try to save energy on easy/medium stages for use in the 'hard' defensive stages to protect the lead/minimise losses. Henao's two stage wins so far this season were both on super steep MTF's which don't appear much in the classics. He'd have probably had more chance on the old AGR finish.

This leaves the team gaining racing/winning experience in one day races and the Classics focussed stage races like TDU and Qatar thus it will take the team a couple of years to build the necessary experience which seems to be what they are working towards. At the moment if anything they seem to be going too far the other way compared to the stage race model and wasting energy to no effect too early in the long classics with attacks that have no chance of staying away or even riding on the front/side in numbers when not the dominant team.

I am inclined to think that the lack of a 'finisher' is the main thing that prevents them from challenging for wins more, even at this stage of the teams development.

I still have hopes that another year or two of concentrating on the road will improve GT's race craft and positioning, his two 4th places before he started hitting the tarmac regularly this year and his stage win in the TDU certainly showed some promise and he could still step up to be a classics leader, if not in the 'big three' league.

Eddy has had a poor start to the season with injuries and stomach issues compounding this, but may come good later like he did last year. His best is very good indeed but he is too inconsistent due to his physical and possibly mental fragility.

Hayman and Stannard would need a very particular set of circumtances to occur before they could win as they don't have much of a sprint, CJ and Bernie are not top sprinters in the classics company, but in the right circumstances could possibly pick one off. Puccio and Rowe are still young and it is not clear how far they can go, but both have a decent sprint if the endurance is there.

Hilly classics wise, with only AGR in the bag so far Henao improved from 21st last year to 6th this year (in the sprint for 2nd), via a 9th at the Valkenburg Worlds last September, which shows good progression. Eddy and JTL didn't show much in the race even before JTL's puncture and didn't finish, but both had already admitted Henao was leader there. Hayman was the only rider I regularly spotted up near the front before the main selection despite his not really being a climber, and he and Josh Edmondson were the only two other Sky riders to finish the race. Uran hadn't raced for a few weeks (since Catalunya) and used the race as a warm up for the later races.

With Froome and Porte still to be added to the arsenal and the great performance of the Colombians at last years Lombardy I don't think we can write the year off just yet.
 
will10 said:
1. Course you can http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3rZphEtzSM ;)
2. Bingo. It doesn't matter how much hype Geraint Thomas gets, he's still only a sub-topper.
They turned nobodies into superstars in terms of stage racing though. Most of the classic squad is more talented on paper than Porte or Froome were. Yet they haven't improved even nearly as much, in fact most of them have stagnated or even gotten worse.

I think they might have trained too hard this winter. A lot of the riders have showed signs of being completely burnt out too early. Stannard has been nowhere since Dwaars, EBH has looked tired (both physically and mentally) all season and Geraint Thomas has also clearly had a falling form curve. I don't buy the claim that he was good in P-R and RVV, then he wouldn't have been so far back all the race...

Sure, none of the classics guys have the talent of Peter Sagan or Cancellara. But many of them are more talented than e.g. Kristoff, Ladagnous etc, who both were better than all the Sky guys in the cobbled classics.
 
Dec 27, 2010
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maltiv said:
They turned nobodies into superstars in terms of stage racing though. Most of the classic squad is more talented on paper than Porte or Froome were. Yet they haven't improved even nearly as much, in fact most of them have stagnated or even gotten worse.

I think they might have trained too hard this winter. A lot of the riders have showed signs of being completely burnt out too early. Stannard has been nowhere since Dwaars, EBH has looked tired (both physically and mentally) all season and Geraint Thomas has also clearly had a falling form curve. I don't buy the claim that he was good in P-R and RVV, then he wouldn't have been so far back all the race...

Sure, none of the classics guys have the talent of Peter Sagan or Cancellara. But many of them are more talented than e.g. Kristoff, Ladagnous etc, who both were better than all the Sky guys in the cobbled classics.
It is a little odd that Sky's marginal gains only works for about 6 guys. Who are then amongst the top 15 climbers in the world.
 
Jan 11, 2010
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will10 said:
It is a little odd that Sky's marginal gains only works for about 6 guys. Who are then amongst the top 15 climbers in the world.
I think that's a result of just training really hard. They go into every stage race with a massive advantage over the rest in terms of form, which then gradually diminishes.

Classics can't be approached with only training. Those long distances require race rhythm and toughness.
 
Aug 3, 2009
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Afrank said:
2 reasons
1. You can't TTT/Skytrain your way to a classics win.
2. They have people that show the potential to be good in the classics, but they have no 'top' classics riders.
We could have closed the thread right there :cool:
 
theyoungest said:
I think that's a result of just training really hard. They go into every stage race with a massive advantage over the rest in terms of form, which then gradually diminishes.

Classics can't be approached with only training. Those long distances require race rhythm and toughness.
It didn't seem to have diminished one bit at the Tour (and Dauphine) last year...
 
Aug 3, 2009
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theyoungest said:
I think that's a result of just training really hard. They go into every stage race with a massive advantage over the rest in terms of form, which then gradually improves.
Fixed that...
 
Escarabajo said:
Are the Classics over?:confused:
Their squad of 10 riders, who have been training specifically for the classics, are done racing.

In the next two classics, only their specialist stage-racers will start. They'll almost certainly outperform the squad that trained specifically for the classics all winter...
 
maltiv said:
Their squad of 10 riders, who have been training specifically for the classics, are done racing.

In the next two classics, only their specialist stage-racers will start. They'll almost certainly outperform the squad that trained specifically for the classics all winter...
Thanks. That makes sense now.
 
Jul 29, 2012
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maltiv said:
Their squad of 10 riders, who have been training specifically for the classics, are done racing.

In the next two classics, only their specialist stage-racers will start. They'll almost certainly outperform the squad that trained specifically for the classics all winter...
No doubt about that one ;)
 
Jan 24, 2013
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sky had the same problem as BMC. None of the riders knew who they were working for. Having multiple potential race winners is a recipe for disaster.
 
Oct 29, 2009
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gruppeto993 said:
sky had the same problem as BMC. None of the riders knew who they were working for. Having multiple potential race winners is a recipe for disaster.
I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. As has been pointed out Sky didn't have a Cancellara type rider in the team that was worth focusing all their efforts on. Instead that had a lot of outside favourites. Only way to win in that situation is to attack early and try and win from a break ala Kreuziger on Sunday. Except generally speaking the riders didn't have the legs to pull it off, with the exception of Stannard in San Remo. Reality is they're not quite as good as the hype suggests.

A big win is certainly possible with that group, but it's definitely not expected.
 
gruppeto993 said:
sky had the same problem as BMC. None of the riders knew who they were working for. Having multiple potential race winners is a recipe for disaster.
Well that problem solved itself easily in RVV and P-R. In RVV everyone but EBH and Geraint Thomas were dropped with 100 km to go, without having worked. Then G crashed.

In P-R they were all immediately dropped (except from Eisel) in the first real acceleration of the race. So they had no more cards to play...

It's not about tactics, they just weren't nearly good enough.
 
Mar 15, 2013
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The biggest problem is that the DS's of Sky doesn't seem to know what the strenghts and weaknesses are from their riders. Everybody but them knows that EBH isn't a guy for the "cobbled classics". He can't handle neither cobbles or the cold. And then they sent their best cobbles guy in the attack in P-R at 120k from the finish.
 
Aug 18, 2009
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They hire riders on their numbers (apparently) when in the classics what is between the ears and other less tangible factors count for a lot

They push their youngsters in the classics where experience counts.

They need to hire/support strong mature domestiques, who can ride for themselves on the cobbles and pull the peloton around for the rest of the year.

But overall it's not a classics oriented team.
 
May 19, 2011
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maltiv said:
Well that problem solved itself easily in RVV and P-R. In RVV everyone but EBH and Geraint Thomas were dropped with 100 km to go, without having worked. Then G crashed.

In P-R they were all immediately dropped (except from Eisel) in the first real acceleration of the race. So they had no more cards to play...

It's not about tactics, they just weren't nearly good enough.
interesting then why in Tour SKY train can drop everybody else?

Did the Classics squad and GT squat use different trainer? Maybe they should move their advanced GT training method to these Classics riders?

Oh wait EBH is in both squads, his spring form is just way way off from his last year Tour form. Why?
 
May 25, 2009
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maxmartin said:
interesting then why in Tour SKY train can drop everybody else?

Did the Classics squad and GT squat use different trainer? Maybe they should move their advanced GT training method to these Classics riders?

Oh wait EBH is in both squads, his spring form is just way way off from his last year Tour form. Why?
It's also way off his autumn form.
 
maxmartin said:
interesting then why in Tour SKY train can drop everybody else?

Did the Classics squad and GT squat use different trainer? Maybe they should move their advanced GT training method to these Classics riders?

Oh wait EBH is in both squads, his spring form is just way way off from his last year Tour form. Why?
It's difficult to make that comparison because the stage distances are shorter in the Tour and there aren't any cobbles.

For example, I think Geraint Thomas was in very good shape for the classics. He just isn't very good on cobbles and struggled with positioning. Which is the main problem for Sky in the cobbled classics. Their best athletes (EBH, Thomas) don't handle the cobbles well whereas their more inferior athletes (Hayman for example) do handle them well. Unfortunately when you're up against the likes of Cancellara and Sagan that doesn't leave you with a very good chance of winning!
 

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