In the brief season we’ve seen so far, atypical hostility seems to beshown towards Team Sky. And, writes Anthony Tan, it appears to becatching.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

To recover after a hectic Tour Down Under, write a
bunch of magazine stories from the race, then prepare for the upcoming
Tour de Langkawi that starts next Monday, March 1, I decided to skip a
February trip to the Middle East and miss the tours of Qatar and Oman.


However, like many of you I'm sure, I followed both races with
interest. And although this is my second column that has something to
do with Team Sky in the space of a month, I feel something more has to
be said.

Quite clearly, many in the peloton – perhaps the majority – don't like the presence of this British-backed powerhouse.


In Qatar, Sky spanked their rivals in the opening team time trial and
let everyone know about it, Edvald Boasson Hagen taking the lead.

The
next day, not one team appeared willing to help Sky in an organised
chase of breakaways Geert Steurs (Topsport) and Wouter Mol
(Vacansoleil), who attacked at the drop of the flag and amassed a
maximum 23-minute advantage.

Instead, a series of
counterattacks split the peloton and saw fragmented chase groups trying
in vain to catch them. After Steurs and Mol crossed the line, 1:51
ahead of Roger Kluge (Team Milram), three groups came in before the
first Team Sky rider, Ian Stannard, finished 3:33 behind in a group of
16.

The Belgian-Dutch pair rode defensively the rest of the
week to finish first and second on GC, Mol winning the race by 35
seconds from Steurs and 1:45 from Tom Boonen (Quick Step), who won the
previous two editions.

"Sky messed the whole race up for everybody," Roger Hammond (Cervélo TestTeam) told VeloNews.


"I guess they knew they weren't very strong when they came here, so
they just let the front group go on the first [road stage]. "I don't
quite know what their tactic was. But now it seems like they knew they
couldn't ride at the front. So why chase the first day if they're not
going to do it the rest of the week?" Hammond asked.

Responded
Sky sport director Scott Sunderland: "If that is their thinking, that
it is up to someone else to do the work, well then they're already
defeated before the race started. If you want to win a bike race, you
take responsibility when you see it necessary. You don't put the blame
on someone else. If they want to sit back and let everyone else do all
the work and deliver it on a silver platter, that's their prerogative."

Boonen said they were counting on the normally fierce Qatari wind in the latter stages, which didn't eventuate.


Then at the Tour of Oman, again with Boasson Hagen in the leader's
jersey, a slew of teams attacked the Norwegian road champ when he was
taking a leak. This time, the desert winds were in full force and he
never saw the front group again, finishing in 42nd place, 1:05 behind
stage winner Leigh Howard (Columbia-HTC).

Apparently, other
teams attacked because Sky rode at race speed through the feed zone.
Boasson Hagen won the final stage time trial and still finished second
overall to Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), which provided some
consolation – but really, he should have walked away with the top prize.

Reader comments on VeloNews
included "Team Sky reaps what they sow; if you're going to break the
unwritten rules (i.e. speeding through feed zones), you have to expect
your competitors to do the same (i.e. taking off when the race leader
is peeing)"; "It sounds like Sky doesn't have a lot of friends in the
peloton. It is highly unusual for a race leader to be attacked during a
mechanical or natural stop"; and "They are not making friends in the
first year as a team. Cycling can be a cruel, cruel sport. If you don't
want to play by the rules, written and equally important unwritten,
then you can't complain."

With the coming of Team Sky, are the unwritten laws no more? And how does this bode for the rest of the season?