by Rob Sturney and Philippe Tremblay
On Wednesday, Team Sky revealed that the British telecommunications giant will end is ownership and title sponsor at the end of the 2019 season. Team Sky has been dominant in the Grand Tours of the last decade, winning six of the last nine Tour de France titles, a record equaling the feats of Reynolds in the 1980s and 1990s and Renault in the 1970s and 1980s.
Love them or hate them, Sky has become a mainstay in international cycling as one of the longest-running continuous sponsorships of a WorldTour program.
When the team was founded, the goal was set to win the Tour de France for the first time with a British rider. In 2012 just two years after beginning sponsoring the team, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour. Since then Chris Froome has added four titles and in 2018 Geraint Thomas continued the programs absolute domination of the calendars biggest race.
In an open letter to fans, team principal Dave Brailsford said the team would look for a new sponsor: “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.”
Members of the team’s management has known of the decision for at least a week and it was reported that the riders were informed Tuesday evening.
Sky is the richest team in the WorldTour peloton, with the company putting $228 million into the squad since 2010. The team’s budget was $58 million last year.
The fade of the cycling team now rests on whether Brailsford can find a new sponsor to replace Sky beginning in 2020. The team has a number of high profile riders under contract beyond 2019 including Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon.
Four time Tour winner, 2017 Vuelta a Espana champion and Giro d’Italia title holder Froome was optimistic on Twitter about the chances of the team existing in 2020.
What a journey it has been! Thank you Sky 💙
Let’s make 2019 the best year yet 👊 pic.twitter.com/SwaoBKknAm
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 12, 2018
With Team Sky the centre of controversy over the last three seasons, it wasn’t shocking that Sky would reconsider its investment, but even so, the move caught many by surprise. The team received widespread criticism after high-profile investigations into allegations that the team was abusing Therapeutic use exemptions while Froome spend the end of 2017 and much of 2018 defending himself against allegations he abused Salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana which he won.
Pro cycling fans: "This is the most boring off-season ever."
Team Sky: "Hold my cup of black tea."
— Mihai Cazacu (@faustocoppi60) December 12, 2018
There was plenty of wild speculation on which corporation might back the team next or whether it would happen at all. For some, it was a “whither professional cycling?” moment.
The fate of cycling definitely not depends on the fate of one team. There was cycling after Moletini, after Mapei, after US-Postal and there will be definitely cycling after Sky. https://t.co/QVXysH3jie
— Felix Schönbach (@Felixschoenbach) December 12, 2018
In September, Comcast outbid 21st Century Fox for Sky. UK telecommunications company bid $38.8 billion for Sky. Upon the acquisition, many questioned whether the new owners would continue supporting the worlds best-funded cycling team. The team will have the entire 2019 season to add upon the 322 all-time wins including eight Grand Tours, 52 stage races and 25 one-day races.