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Sky to end sponsorship of Team Sky cycling team

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LONDON (AP) — The future of the most successful cycling team of the last decade was put in doubt Wednesday when Sky announced its withdrawal from the sport following the European pay TV giant’s takeover by American company Comcast.

Team Sky, which had a rider win the Tour de France this year for the sixth time in seven races, will compete under a different name from 2020 if new backers can be found, according to Sky.

“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,” Sky group chief executive Jeremy Darroch said.

The team was reliant on 25.3 million pounds ($32 million) in title sponsorship in 2017 from Sky and 21st Century Fox, which had owned the largest stake in the broadcaster.

Philadelphia-based Comcast outbid Fox in September to win control of Sky, which runs television services in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy. Fox, which has a 15 percent stake in Team Sky, is also pulling out of cycling. Sky owns the remaining 85 percent of the team through Tour Racing Ltd.

“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,” Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford said.

Team Sky was established in 2009 by Brailsford, the brains behind Britain’s 14 medals in cycling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the target of producing the country’s first Tour de France champion.

Bradley Wiggins won the Tour in 2012 but was later beset by controversies that engulfed the team. A British parliamentary committee said earlier this year that Team Sky crossed “the ethical line” over the use of a therapeutic use exemption to allow Wiggins to take a powerful corticosteroid to prepare for the 2012 Tour. Wiggins and Sky denied wrongdoing.

“The vision for Team Sky began with the ambition to build a clean, winning team around a core of British riders and staff,” Brailsford 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.”

Only one other team since 2012, Astana with Vincenzo Nibali, has won the Tour de France title as Chris Froome won four times and Geraint Thomas once.

“What they have achieved together would have been beyond the dreams of many just a few years ago,” Darroch said. “We thank you for joining with us on this journey and look forward to enjoying our last season of racing together.”

Brailsford is not looking beyond then, 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,” he said. “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.”

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Paul Sherwen, NBC Sports cycling analyst, dies at 62

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NBC Sports cyclist analyst Paul Sherwen died Sunday at age 62.

Sherwen, one of the most well-known voices in the sport, was involved in 40 Tours de France, including 33 as a commentator and seven as a competitor. He also covered cycling at five Olympics for NBC in 1996, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

As a pro cyclist, Sherwen won British national titles in 1986 and 1987 and raced in prestigious one-day classics Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo.

Sherwen lived in Uganda since age 7 and was a citizen of the East African nation. He helped create Paul’s Peloton, which brought bicycles to Africa, and advocated for African wildlife as a chairman of the Ugandan Conservation Foundation and supporter of the Helping Rhinos initiative.

“We are saddened to offer our condolences to the friends and family of Paul Sherwen, who passed away this morning at his home in Uganda,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “Paul was synonymous with the Tour de France in the U.S. and will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and the NBC Sports family, which was honored to be part of Paul’s 40th Tour last July. Our thoughts are with Paul’s wife, Katherine, their children, and all of those in the cycling community who became Paul Sherwen fans over his many years calling the sport he loved.”

2019 Tour de France route revealed

2019 Tour de France
Tour de France
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The 2019 Tour de France will be “the highest Tour in history” — with a record 30 mountain passes and five summit finishes — Tour general director Christian Prudhomme said, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The planning here means it is impossible to win this Tour unless you are a great climber,” Prudhomme said, according to the report.

The Tour route, revealed Thursday, starts in Brussels on July 6 and includes three summit finishes above 2,000 meters — the Col du Tourmalet pass, Tignes and Val Thorens.

“That’s really going to stand this route apart from previous editions,” four-time Tour winner Chris Froome said.

It’s the 106th edition of the Tour, celebrating 100 years of the yellow jersey worn by the race leader. Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to win the Tour this past July, succeeding Team Sky leader Froome, who finished third.

“I think that [the 2019 Tour] will be similar to this year in the way that we rode together,” Thomas said Thursday, according to Cyclingnews.com. “We were always honest with each other and I don’t see why we can’t do that again.”

The 2019 Tour also marks 50 years since the first of Belgian Eddy Merckx‘s five titles, making Brussels a fitting start.

Brussels hosted the Grand Départ one other time in 1958 during the Universal Exhibition and the inauguration of the Atomium.

The three-week stage race includes a team time trial for stage 2 and an individual time trial for stage 13, each just shy of 17 miles.

“More individual time trial kilometers would have been better, so it’s not an ideal course for me, but that was also the case this year,” 2018 Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin said.

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