• Team Sky has a tight grip on the WorldTour peloton. (Getty)Source: Getty
Team Sky’s suffocating stranglehold on cycling’s Grand Tours has no apparent end, with rival squads starting to make mental concessions to the conquering British powerhouse.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
18 Sep 2017 - 11:24 AM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2017 - 11:27 AM

Sky - through preeminent leader, Chris Froome - won both the Tour de France and the  Vuelta a España this season at the expense of an exasperated peloton.

“We need to hope one of the guys has an off-day - I’m kind of afraid it’s gone that far,” Trek-Segafredo road captain Koen de Kort said.

“If all the riders stay healthy and don’t crash on that team, it’s going to be near impossible to beat them.”

De Kort supported Alberto Contador at the Tour in July and then this month at the Vuelta where the Spaniard marked his career swansong with a stage win and characteristic flighty attacks, which enamoured fans but didn’t disrupt Sky’s steady pace as it once might have.

“You can try to attack them like Alberto did, a few times he managed to take time out of them,” de Kort said of the faded title contender.

“It’s pretty difficult. They already signed all the big names, the big upcoming riders [and] I think the best under 23 riders this year have all been signed by Team Sky.

“It’s quite obvious that they have by far the strongest team … they also have a clear goal for all the riders, and for these roles, they get the best riders available and it doesn’t matter how much they cost.

“Therefore, they really grip the peloton and are super strong and can do what they want. They don’t need help from other teams, or [to] give away presents or anything like that so they can get help later.”

Sky boss David Brailsford at the Tour repudiated sentiment the squad, with its sizeable budget comparative to that of others, can afford to and does buy its competition.

“There is no doubt being in our situation certainly is an advantage if you use it wisely, but it’s not the single thing,” Brailsford said.

“This has been the toughest Tour to win and it’s required a lot more planning, thinking and the team has played a big role in it… We recognised that was going to be the case and worked very hard for the team as well as the individual performance.”

Rivals will be able to take their first steps toward planning Grand Tours coups when the RCS unveils the route for the 2018 Giro d’Italia on Monday, and the ASO showcases its 2018 Tour course next month.

Sky hasn’t yet been able to conquer the Giro and it doesn’t appear to be on Froome’s radar at least for now. 

The team has had a more languid approach to the Italian spectacle in recent times, opting for multiple leaders over a proven singular focus on one leader.

This season it was commonly accepted that the Giro and Tour double wasn’t a plausible goal with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) among those that fell short despite great expectation.

The WorldTour peloton has observed a generational shift, with Contador and his taunting attacks as well as reputable peloton patrons that brashly just part the bunch retired.

That’s not to say, however, that Sky will be unbeatable through the 2018 Grand Tours. But it is a time for rivals to be more goading.