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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, December 13, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Sky to bring involvement in cycling to a close after 2019 season

Here's the team's announcement:

Sky has announced that 2019 will be the final year of its involvement in cycling, drawing to a close an association spanning more than a decade of unprecedented success.

The decision will bring to a conclusion Sky’s ownership and sponsorship of Team Sky, which will continue to race under a different name if a new backer is secured to provide funding from the beginning of 2020. The team will compete as Team Sky for the last time throughout the 2019 road racing season, aiming to add to its total of 322 all-time wins including eight Grand Tours, 52 other stage races and 25 one-day races.

Sky kicked off its involvement in cycling in 2008 when it joined forces with British Cycling in a mission to increase participation at all levels and support elite success on the track and road. By the end of that partnership in 2016, nearly two million people had been inspired to cycle regularly and the Great Britain Cycling Team had achieved unprecedented medal success at three Olympic Games.

As part of Sky’s broader support for cycling, Team Sky took to the road in 2010 with the ambitious goal of winning the Tour de France with a British cyclist for the first time. This goal was achieved in 2012 with Sir Bradley Wiggins’ historic victory and Team Sky riders, backed by an outstanding support staff, have gone on to realise sustained success in the Tour de France and other major races. Chris Froome won the first of his four Tour titles in 2013 and was the first rider in more than 30 years to hold all three Grand Tour winners’ jerseys at the same time. Earlier this year, Geraint Thomas became the third Team Sky rider – as well as the third Briton – to win the Tour de France, representing the team’s sixth success at the race in seven years.

Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Sky’s commitment to cycling has been a core part of its Bigger Picture work, which focuses on the positive impact Sky can have in local communities and the wider world. The company’s most recent flagship campaign, Sky Ocean Rescue, is raising awareness about ocean health and encouraging businesses and the public to eliminate single-use plastic. Previously, Sky has worked with a range of partners in long-term initiatives including Sky Sports Living for Sport, which promoted sports participation in schools over a period of 10 years, and Sky Rainforest Rescue, an environmental campaign with WWF that ran for six years. Last year, Sky announced a new long-term partnership with the England & Wales Cricket Board. The partnership, which includes a commitment to grow participation among children and at the grass roots, will form a central part of Sky’s Bigger Picture activity in the coming years.

Sky’s decision to step back from cycling at the end of 2019 comes as the company begins a new phase in its development. 21st Century Fox, which owns a minority stake in Team Sky, has also confirmed that 2019 will be the last year of its involvement in cycling. While Sky and Fox will no longer be involved in cycling after next year, they and Team Sky’s management will give careful consideration to approaches from third parties with an interest in working with one of the world’s most successful sports teams.

Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s Group Chief Executive, said: “We came into cycling with the aim of using elite success to inspire greater participation at all levels. After more than a decade of involvement, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved with Team Sky and our long-standing partners at British Cycling. But the end of 2019 is the right time for us to move on as we open a new chapter in Sky’s story and turn our focus to different initiatives including our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign.

“I’d like to pay a special tribute to Dave Brailsford and the immensely talented team of riders and staff he has assembled at Team Sky. What they have achieved together would have been beyond the dreams of many just a few years ago. We thank you for joining with us on this journey and look forward to enjoying our last season of racing together.”

Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Sky Principal, added: “The vision for Team Sky began with the ambition to build a clean, winning team around a core of British riders and staff. The team’s success has been the result of the talent, dedication and hard work of a remarkable group of people who have constantly challenged themselves to scale new heights of performance. None of this would have been possible without Sky. We are proud of the part we have played in Britain’s transformation into a cycling nation over the last decade.

“While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the Team is open minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself. For now, I would like to thank all Team Sky riders and staff, past and present - and above all the fans who have supported us on this adventure.

“We aren’t finished yet by any means. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more Team Sky success in 2019.”

Sky's open letter to its fans

Sky posted this:

Sky has announced this morning that its ownership and sponsorship of Team Sky will end on 31 December 2019. So that means next year will be our last year racing as Team Sky.

This news will no doubt come a surprise to many people but, as you may know, there has been a lot of change at Sky recently. It is the start of a new chapter for the company and sometimes it is inevitable that change brings further change with it. That is what has happened here.

Over the past nine seasons, Sky has backed us all the way, enabling us to achieve some amazing results and inspire millions of people to love our sport. We’d like to thank Sky for all of their support, and in particular the opportunity to help Britain become a cycling nation.

First things first, nothing changes for next year. Sky are fully committed to the end of 2019 and together we have ambitious goals for the season. We all want to close the Team Sky story with the strongest possible finish. We are more motivated as a Team than we have ever been.

In terms of the future, we are open minded. If we can find a new long-term partner to take the Team forward into a new era, then we will do so. And we will be doing everything we can to make that happen over the coming weeks and months. Equally, any future partner would have to be the right partner - one who shares our ethos and buys in to our values.

This news has only just been announced; we can’t predict what will happen from 2020 and there are no guarantees. Whatever happens, we will make sure there is clarity one way or the other about the future of the Team before the Tour de France next July. 

Finally, a big thank you to all of our fans. You are, and have always been, the people who are the most important to us and who matter the most. It has been our privilege to race for you. We are proud to have written our pages in the history books and created memories that will never fade.

And rest assured we are not done yet by any means. Right now, the Team is at training camp putting in the hard work to get ready for next season. We can’t wait to see you all out on the road in the New Year.

Team Sky will cease to exist as broadcaster pulls sponsorship: Decision will bring to an end ownership of Team Sky in 2019

Here is the U.K. Guardian's report on Sky sponsorship withdrawal:

Team Sky will cease to exist at the end of next year after Sky announced that it will finish its involvement in professional cycling at the end of 2019.

The news, which was broken to stunned riders and staff over dinner at their training camp in Mallorca on Tuesday night, draws to an end more than a decade of success during which the team won six Tour de France yellow jerseys as the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana – along with 52 other stage races and 25 one-day races.

Team Sky’s principal Sir Dave Brailsford paid tribute to his team and said he hoped that a new sponsor would be found for the 2020 season. However, with Sky having investment more than £150m over the last 10 years - making Team Sky comfortably the richest outfit in world cycling - it remains to be seen whether a viable buyer can be found.

“While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself,” said Brailsford. “For now, I would like to thank all Team Sky riders and staff, past and present – and above all the fans who have supported us on this adventure.

“We aren’t finished yet by any means. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more Team Sky success in 2019.”

Brailsford also paid tribute to his team, which began in 2010 with the goal of getting a British rider to win the Tour de France for the first time – a target that was accomplished when Sir Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey in 2012 – and said he was proud of the team’s part in inspiring nearly two million people to cycle regularly.

“The vision for Team Sky began with the ambition to build a clean, winning team around a core of British riders and staff,” he said. “The team’s success has been the result of the talent, dedication and hard work of a remarkable group of people who have constantly challenged themselves to scale new heights of performance. None of this would have been possible without Sky. We are proud of the part we have played in Britain’s transformation into a cycling nation over the last decade.”

Sky executives are understood to have told a shocked Brailsford last week that with Comcast’s £30bn takeover of Sky in September it was the natural time to end the partnership. And they strongly deny that their decision – made by CEO Jeremy Darroch – was influenced by a number of controversies the team have faced, especially the damning report by the Digital Culture Media and Sport select committee in March which looked into a jiffy bag delivered to Wiggins in 2011. That report, in particular, created waves of negative headlines when it concluded that Team Sky had cynically abused the anti-doping system by using therapeutic use exemption certificates to allow the administration of the performance-enhancing drug triamcinolone. It also concluded that such practices were “inconsistent with their original aim of ‘winning clean’ and maintaining the highest ethical standards within their sport”.

You can read the entire Guardian story here.

McLaren to become joint venture partner in Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team

Here's the team's press release:

Wednesday, 12th December 2018 – McLaren Group has announced today that it is to become a 50 percent joint venture partner in Team Bahrain Merida, the UCI WorldTour team with a long-term vision to participate at the top level of the sport. The partnership is rooted in three key areas: technical collaboration, human high performance and marketing and commercial services, delivered through McLaren Applied Technologies and the group’s marketing specialism.

Bahrain Merida

Bahrain-Merida gets a new co-sponsor for 2019. Sirotti photo

The move signals the continued ambition of the McLaren Group to innovate at the intersection of technology and human endeavour, and reflects the collective vision of its Bahraini ownership to unite its investments in sport and technology through McLaren and Team Bahrain Merida.

McLaren Applied Technologies undertakes challenging projects that naturally fit with McLaren’s skills, experience and technical capacity. Competition, racing and the combination of athlete and machine are the life blood of McLaren’s 50-year-plus history and cycling is one of the rawest examples of all those elements coming together.

McLaren Applied Technologies has a proven track record of unlocking and delivering extraordinary human performance in sport and cycling. In recent years teams at McLaren Applied Technology successfully collaborated with Californian bicycle manufacturer Specialized, on the design and creation of the legendary Specialized S-Works+ McLaren Venge racing bike.

Ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games the company collaborated with Team GB’s cycling, rowing, sailing and canoeing teams who reaped the rewards from performance management systems designed by McLaren Applied Technologies.

Team Bahrain Merida comes into the partnership from a position of strength and this venture represents a natural part of the team’s growth. The combination of the team’s upward trajectory, and McLaren technology, human performance and marketing expertise, will underpin the joint ambition to build an internationally recognised pro-cycling brand through a long-term partnership aim to be the best in professional cycling.

John Allert, Chief Marketing Officer, McLaren, said:
“Racing, technology and human performance are at the heart of everything we do at McLaren. Cycling is something we have been involved with in the past and have been looking at entering for some time. It is a completely natural fit for our skills and our ambitions and a perfect partnership with Team Bahrain Merida who have the right vision and approach for the future. We will be working tirelessly in the months ahead as we know the world of professional cycling is home to some of the best athletes and competitive teams in the world of sport.”

“What Team Bahrain Merida has achieved in less than two years, off a standing start, is hugely impressive. Working together with a team this driven is a very exciting prospect indeed.”

Brent Copeland, General Manager, Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team, said:
“McLaren has been raising the bar for technological innovation and sport performance for decades. The combination of our passion and vision for Team Bahrain Merida to be a winning team, with McLaren’s expertise and dedication, is the perfect partnership.”

Duncan Bradley, Health and Human Performance Director, McLaren Applied Technologies, said:
“To be the best in sport you need the right vision, athletes, team and technology and I believe we have all of those with the partnership we have entered with Team Bahrain Merida. We will be working side-by-side to ensure an integrated approach and that we get the best out every part of the team.”

HH Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, commented:
“Our partnership with McLaren is one that gives me great national pride and excitement for the future of Bahrain cycling. We want to be the best in the world and an example to others of how to compete in this most challenging of elite sports. The partnership with McLaren will provide invaluable expertise and experience of getting the best out of machines and athletes and will help to accelerate our team’s journey to the pinnacle of professional cycling.”

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