SKY’s Stacked Deck

I woke up at six am on Sunday morning to watch La Primavera only to find that the race had been neutralized because of snow. “Not the white fluffy stuff” Twitter told me, but the thick wet slushy stuff. The type that I used to ride in as a Cleveland bike messenger during Great Lake winters. I paid that no mind as I watched Italians talk about things I know about, but couldn’t comprehend. I spent the first hour of my morning listening to Italians, drinking coffee and eating a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Which was nice, but I was happy at 0:700/15:00 when the racing started.

I realize that Milan – San Remo is a long race (289k) and the notion that I could watch the whole thing and make it to work by ten without the delay was a pipe dream to begin with, but I’m sure the hour or so of neutralization didn’t help my cause. Either way I was stoked to watch/listen (once I found the Eurosport feed) as I ate breakfast.

Everyone was looking at Peter Sagan to take this one, but I had placed my money on Geraint Thomas (though my secret hope was Heinrich Hausler), but most assumed Team Sky would be riding for Edvald Boassen Haggen. It was not to be however as Thomas was taken out in a crash and EBH was dropped on the climb up the Cipressa. That left two SKY riders, Eisel and Stannard in the final group. It was Stannard who lit up the race.

Stannard and Chavanel From
Stannard and Chavanel

I had to leave for work before the finish, but I delayed it to the last minute. On the ride to work I started thinking about Team SKY and playing cards. I don’t know much about card games, and the next few weeks will tell if SKY’s training camps over races strategy will pay off in the Classics but I started to think of SKY’s rosters as a stacked deck.

At first the idea of their deck being stacked felt off, as stacking the deck – something I once learned how to do while playing Euchre at Boy Scout Summer Camp – is cheating (ignoring all thoughts of doping). However, in the case of Pro cycling, and pro sports in general its ok to stack your deck with kick ass riders, which is what SKY has done.

Most teams can afford one, or two stars, and bunch of other guys*. SKY isn’t much different, except the fact that their “other guys” could probably lead or co-lead teams all their own, but have for whatever reason decided to circumvent their own careers to work with the team.

SKY is also helped by the fact that they are nearly inseparable from the British Government which has targeted cycling as a sport belonging to them and have devoted huge resources to their pursuit of excellence.

Granted they were not the only ones to put two riders in the top ten. Omega Pharma – Quick-Step had Chavanel and Cavendish and Katusha also put two men in the top ten. Those results show the depth of those teams, just like SKY’s results show their depth. At the end of the game is about World Tour points (for those that care about those things, which I would argue SKY does) and they went along way toward getting theirs.

*To be clear, those “other guys” are still top notch riders and would school all but the most up and coming Cat1s/Elites

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