• Where to next for Chris 'CJ' Sutton? (Getty)
Their ambition is to be "indisputably the best team in the world by 2020". Apart from a valuable member of their coaching staff, it just might not involve any Australians, writes Anthony Tan.
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30 Sep 2015 - 2:50 PM  UPDATED 30 Sep 2015 - 3:48 PM

For the first time since the team's inception, next year Team Sky will have no Australian rider in its line-up.

Gone is Richie Porte, to BMC Racing. Gone is Chris Sutton, and gone is Nathan Earle; for the latter pair, destinations unknown.

Coincidence, or is there something more at play?

"When Porte has gone, I don't see the British outfit investing in a potential Australian Grand Tour contender the way OGE has with the Yateses. There's no need to."

"Cycling is a global sport and Team Sky will always look to recruit the best riders from around the world. But we remain a British team with a strong British core," Dave Brailsford, the team's principal, said Monday, when the entire 2016 squad was unveiled.

When they began with bells ringing and whistles tweeting in 2010, five years ago, Simon Gerrans, Mathew Hayman and Chris Sutton were the three Aussies on board; Michael Rogers came along in 2011 to make four.

Gerrans left for Orica-GreenEDGE in 2012 but Porte was recruited from Saxo Bank, maintaining the Australian presence. After two seasons with Sky, Rogers joined Saxo Bank in 2013, leaving Hayman, Porte and Sutton.

In 2014, when Hayman left to captain OGE in the Spring Classics, Team Sky filled the Aussie void with the recruitment of neo-pro Nathan Earle, fresh out of the ranks of the National Road Series (NRS), which he won the season previous.

And so Earle, Porte and Sutton remained till this year.

But as of Season 2016, the Australian/Antipodean component will be a big fat zero.

One cannot say all Australians hired by Brailsford have underperformed. Porte has gone way beyond expectation, and it is largely a result of his efforts the last four seasons that have led to a co-leadership role at BMC Racing next year, alongside Tejay van Garderen.

Rogers was key to Team Sky's inaugural Tour de France success in 2012, as that year's champion Bradley Wiggins was at pains to point out. Alberto Contador, Rogers' new leader at Tinkoff-Saxo, has been equally, if not more, praiseworthy, of the Canberran's guile and level-headedness as a road captain.

Gerrans was satisfactory at Sky though his first year was hampered by a severe crash at the Critérium International, where it took him a good 12 months to get going properly again, finishing third at Amstel Gold and second at the GP Plouay in 2011, along with overall victory at the Tour of Denmark.

But these results pale in comparison to his subsequent three seasons at OGE, where he received unequivocal support from team management, and, to his credit, duly delivered.

Hayman acted as captain, co-leader and domestique in the Classics for the four years he was there, but Sky did not find much success in spring till this season, two years after he left. The point is not to wholly blame him for the lack of results because for the most part the team did not approach the Classics with the same commitment or gusto they did with the Tour, but still, there was something missing during Hayman's tenure, and it was never really found.

For six years, Sutton, the longest-serving Australian member, and for two seasons, Earle, the equal shortest-serving, have largely been inconspicuous. Okay, there was the memorable stage win on the final day of the TDU in 2010, and victory at the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne semi-Classic in 2011, as well as a stage win at that year's Vuelta a España, but those highlights nothwithstanding, one feels CJ Sutton, who once told me he wanted to emulate the feats of Stuart O'Grady, has plodded rather than powered along.

A change of teams, so long as he can find one, will probably be the best thing for him, now 31 years old.

For Earle, with 11 DNFs in two seasons, no Grand Tour under his belt to harden his legs and mind, and no top-five result to speak of (though quite understandable, given his domestique's role for the most part), the task of finding a new home, particularly at WorldTour level, may be his greatest challenge yet.

In professional cycling they often say it's your second contract that's the hardest, and the 27-year-old from Hobart is proving a case in point.

Overall, Team Sky probably enjoyed their best season to date in 2015, and, according to Brailsford, their ambition is "to be indisputably the best team in the world by 2020."

The signings of 2014 world champion Michal Kwiatkowski and this year's Giro podium placegetter Mikel Landa, along with Michal Golas, Benat Intxausti, Gianni Moscon, Alex Peters and Danny van Poppel, more than makes up for the exits of the three Australians, as well as Bernhard Eisel, Danny Pate, and Kanstantsin Siutsou.

In all honesty, the Team Sky of 2016 appears even more formidable than the current form. Amazing what you can do with fifty million bucks.

I mused in a blog last month that Orica-GreenEDGE's grooming of the Yates twins is likely to end in acrimony because as soon as they hit their straps as Grand Tour riders, Team Sky will be where they find their limits - physically and financially.

When Porte has gone, I don't see the British outfit investing in a potential Australian Grand Tour contender the way OGE has with the Yateses. There's no need to.

Australians may be hired in the future but only as domestiques. Given the glut of talent looking for work at the end of each season, and with so many 'Moneyball' acquisitions up for grabs, alas, there may not be the need to even do that.