Before the British press dust off their Union Jack bunting, sideburns become momentarily and inexplicably fashionable again, and we ponder whatever happened to such backroom staff as Geert Leinders, we look back at the all-conquering Sky Procycling team from the 2012 Tour de France and what came next for the nine-man team.
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The team was founded at the start of 2010 with the ambition of winning the Tour de France with a British rider within five years. Those plans looked more like a dream when Wiggins cracked horribly in 2010 and the team was unable to muster a GC challenge. A year later Wiggins looked in form but a crash took him out of the race on the road to Châteauroux.
However, by 2012 the British outfit had mastered the arts of marginal gains, and had set about dominating the pro scene with ruthless efficiency.
101 – Bradley Wiggins
Coming into the 2012 Tour de France the British rider was among the firm favorites for the overall win. His early season form had been impeccable, with wins in Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
After finishing second in the Tour de France prologue in Liege behind Fabian Cancellara, the Team Sky leader edged into the maillot jaune at La Blanche des Belles Filles on stage 7 and never looked back.
There was the spat with Chris Froome, and there was Wiggins’ astonishing press conference in which anyone who dared to question the validity of relevant performances was deemed c***ts or w****rs. Or both.
In general it was a comprehensive and clear cut Tour win, with Wiggins leading a one-two in the GC and a six stage haul for Sky Procycling.
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After his Tour win, Wiggins was never really the same in terms of stage racing performances. Understandably he’d won the biggest bike race in the world, and the sacrifices needed to reach that level weren’t on his agenda going forward. Just as well really given how quickly and mercilessly he was replaced as the team’s number one a year later.
There were still plenty of glittering moments, with a valiant crack at Paris-Roubaix, an hour record, another couple of Olympic golds, and a world title in the Madison alongside Mark Cavendish, before retirement would eventually come in 2016.
He would also found a development team, a bike brand, have his name linked to a tax avoidance scheme, and have two companies liquidated.
The revelations brought to the wider public by the Fancy Bear hackers surrounding the use of corticosteroid triamcinolone certainly took the gloss off Wiggins’ achievements — even if he didn’t break any rules — while we’re still waiting for the now 42-year-old to “have his say” when it comes to “jiffy-gate”.
Now a television commentator, Wiggins jostles between residing as an out-and-out pundit and being an in-race moto correspondent for Eurosport. He’s rather refreshing in both roles, and when he speaks about racing and tactics he’s worth listening to. He remains a cult hero to many.
102 – Edvald Boasson Hagen
The Norwegian had been Sky Procycling’s savior in 2011 when he won two stages following Wiggins’ departure from the race in an ambulance. Often labeled as a misused talent at the British team, it’s worth remembering that the now 35-year-old won 25 races in his four years on the squad, and played a role in two Tour de France wins.
He also never developed into a pure monument contender, regardless of the team he raced for, so putting all the blame on Sky Procycling for his lack of success seems somewhat unwarranted. Admittedly, the incredible trajectory that he first displayed around 2009 didn’t carry on but that happens, and to be honest, Peter Sagan came through a few years later and basically raised the bar for all Boasson Hagen-like riders for an entire generation.
At the Tour in 2012, Boasson Hagen was an incredibly solid performer. He was still in the group on the critical stage to Peyragudes when Sky Procycling faced pressure from their rivals, and he was a key rider on all the flat stages too.
After leaving Sky Procycling at the end of 2014 Boasson Hagen went on to spend six years at Dimension Data, where he was underrated as a leader, before beginning a slow and steady decline into his mid-30s. Now at TotalEnergies, he’s actually found some decent form as his career approaches an Indian summer, and he could be in line for a final crack at the Tour before a likely retirement at the end of the next season.
On his day, Boasson Hagen was a force to be reckoned with and his career will probably only receive the credit it deserves once he hangs up his wheels. Speak to any of his teammates over the years and they’ll all rate him as both an athlete and a human being, which is probably all that really matters at the end of the day.
103 – Mark Cavendish
The sprinter was signed to Sky after the demise of HTC-Highroad and it looked like a marriage made in heaven with the fastest man on two wheels linking up with many of his teammates and support staff from the British Cycling scene.
However, by the end of the Tour de France, team boss Dave Brailsford was willing to let Cavendish depart mid-contract. The 2012 season certainly wasn’t a failure, and Cavendish still totted up three Tour stage wins and had the luxury of having the maillot jaune lead him out on the Champs Elysées.
He was a solid teammate, too, having dropped a bit of weight in order to help his team on the shorter climbs. Sky simply wanted to concentrate on stage racing and that left Cavendish in a tight spot.
The one-year spell on Sky would eventually make way for a stint for Patrick Lefevere’s team at the end of the season before another move to Dimension Data. Cavendish’s career then went through a complete reformation after a long period of illness and struggles that almost left him without a team at the end of 2020, but in 2021 he rolled back the years to return to Lefevere and take four Tour stage wins and a second green jersey.
Still racing, the 37-year-old is unlikely to make the Tour de France team for this year, but he still harbors hopes of beating Eddy Merckx’s 34-stage win record with the pair currently tied neck and neck. The relationship between Cavendish and Wiggins has been fascinating to follow over the years too, with the pair falling out but still gravitating towards each other.
104 – Bernhard Eisel
Eisel followed Cavendish to Sky after the demise of Bob Stapleton’s HTC-Highroad empire and the amicable Austrian made an instant impression with back-to-back appearances at the Giro and the Tour in 2012. Aged 31 at the time, Eisel had three main jobs at the Tour: sticking with Cavendish; providing cover in the leadouts, and supporting the team’s GC ambitions in his ninth appearance at the race.
He did his job without fuss or drama and was rewarded with a contract extension, although he would later call missing the 2013 Tour selection the biggest disappointment of his career at the time.
Eisel would carry on in the pro ranks right until the end of the 2019 season, coming back from a serious head injury in 2018 and forming part of the core squad at Dimension Data. Since hanging up his wheels he has worked within the commentary fraternity and was at the Tour de France last year before taking up a DS role at Bora-Hansgrohe at the start of 2022.
His skills as a rider, whether he was racing full gas at the classics, dragging Cavendish over the mountains, or backing up Wiggins, make him a natural character for a director’s role.
“I’m half Bora and half Eurosport GCN. I did the Giro for Eurosport Germany including in the studio, I’ll do the Tour on the ground as always for Eurosport GCN and finish off the season the Vuelta as a DS,” he told VeloNews in a text message just a few days ago.
105 – Chris Froome
Heading into the 2012 Tour de France, the consensus was that Wiggins was the outright leader and that Froome was a worthy backup having gone through something of a metamorphosis as a rider nine months earlier at the Vuelta a España.
Froome won at La Blanche des Belles Filles on stage 7 as Wiggins raced into yellow during the first week, and all looked rosy but controversy erupted during what was essentially a one-sided Tour when Froome initially didn’t wait for Wiggins at Peyragudes despite Sean Yates’ vocal interventions down the race radio for him to slow.
Tensions were made worse when Froome declared that had the strength to win the race, when he said. “I know that I can win this Tour – but not with Sky. We made our plans around Wiggins and everyone respects that.”
Froome had already provided proof of his superior climbing powers at La Toussuire earlier in the race, and Wiggins initially tried to insinuate that he would work for Froome in the future, but behind the scenes, tensions flared and according to Yates, Wiggins even threatened to quit the race while in yellow.
The relationship between Wiggins and Froome soured from that Tour onwards and the pair couldn’t even be in the same room as each other, let alone the same roster.
We all know what happened next. Froome got the nod for team leadership in 2013, and won the race four times, while Wiggins picked off other targets as his motivation for grand tours waned.
Froome’s career hasn’t been without controversy either. He was eventually cleared after exceeding the therapeutic threshold for an asthma drug at the Vuelta in 2017, while the UCI would later reform its protocols after the British rider had a TUE fast tracked in 2014 ahead of the Tour de Romandie.
Froome is still kicking around in the pro ranks at the grand old age of 37 having come through a life-threatening crash at the Dauphiné in 2019. Away from the peloton, he has multiple business interests including Factor, and is likely to race the Tour de France this summer.
106 – Christian Knees
A hugely respected domestique, Knees moved over to Sky at the start of 2011 after Milram shut up shop. He would finish his career with 20 grand tour starts and 19 finishes — an incredible feat for a rider of any generation.
He raced just three Tours for the British team with starts in 2011, 2012, and 2017, and although he didn’t win a great deal as a bike racer, he garnered a reputation as a hard worker who dedicated his services to others.
Knees eventually retired in 2020 and took up coaching as well as a DS role at Ineos Grenadiers, where he remains to this day. Like Eisel, he’s just made for the job.
107 – Richie Porte
In 2012 the young Australian was in his first season at Sky after moving over from Bjarne Riis’ Saxo squad at the end of 2011.
Porte and Sky couldn’t have hoped for a better start in 2012 with the Tasmanian winning his first stage race on the team at the Volta ao Algarve, and then providing vital teamwork at races such as Paris-Nice, Romandie, and the Dauphiné. He was pivotal again at the Tour de France, often the last Sky rider with Wiggins and Froome in the mountains, and driving the pace at several key points, including on the climb to La Blanche des Belles Filles where his work helped to distance the likes of Samuel Sanchez, Maxime Monfort, and Andreas Klöden to reduce the maillot jaune group to just eight riders.
When Froome took over as the team’s primary GC leader in 2013 Porte moved up a rung on the ladder.
Porte later branched out, first as a GC candidate at Sky and then at BMC Racing. At one point he was pound-for-pound the best weeklong stage racer on the planet but his best result came at the 2020 Tour when he finally cracked it and made it onto the podium behind Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič. Without bad luck and crashes, especially during his time at BMC Racing, he probably would have achieved a grand tour podium much earlier.
The Australian is now back at Ineos Grenadiers, where he has settled into the familiar role of an experienced domestique. Married and with a young family, he’s set to retire at the end of the season. A move back to Australia is on the cards in 2023.
108 – Michael Rogers
Rogers is the third rider on the list who moved to Sky after the collapse of HTC, and he was certainly the most accomplished in terms of stage racing credentials who made the switch. He was integral when it came to tapping out Wiggins’ preferred pace in the mountains, often setting up the malliot jaune group before Porte took over.
At the end of 2012 things started to become a little more complicated. In the wake of the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong’s and US Postal’s doping practices, Sky panicked themselves into an unrealistic and frankly absurd zero tolerance policy that left a chunk of staff out of jobs.
Rogers left for Saxo Bank at the end of the year, and while the team claimed that the two incidents were unrelated Rogers was forced to defend his previous relationship with former coach Michele Ferrari, stating that he’d only used the doctor for training purposes and that doping never came up in conversation. Rogers would also state that the move from Sky to Saxo Bank was purely a financial decision.
A positive test for clenbuterol followed but he was later cleared by the UCI because there was a “significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat.”
He would then win three grand tour stages in one season in 2014 but a heart condition would ultimately end his career in 2016.
After retiring, Rogers moved into management, first at VirtuGo, and then within the Dimension Data ranks when Bjarne Riis took on a role there in 2020. That gig ended with Riis leaving and Rogers taking up a role at the UCI where he is now the head of road & innovation.
109 – Kanstantsin Siutsou
Like Rogers, Cavendish, and Eisel, the Belarussian jumped from HTC at the end of 2011 and linked up with Dave Brailsford’s team for the following season. He lasted four years on Sky but just two stages at the Tour in 2012 due to a crash that left him with a broken leg.
He came back and raced his final Tour de France the following year before concentrating on the Giro and Vuelta as his career moved in another direction.
He had a year at Dimension Data followed by 18 months at Bahrain Merida. However, time on that team was cut short due to the rather unfortunate inconvenience of a whopping four-year doping ban after testing positive for banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO).
The ban ends on September 4, 2022 in case you’re interested. At the time said that he was “looking to process, and my liberation” but that talk quickly died down. According to his Instagram account, he’s now a co-founder of Velotooler, an app that matches bike riders with local mechanics.