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Vuelta a Espana

Froome says Sky doesn’t have unfair financial advantage

The four-time Tour de France champion was asked about Cannondale-Drapac’s looming sponsor problems and ended up defending his own team.

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ELCHE, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome shrugged off suggestions that Team Sky has an unfair financial advantage over its rivals.

The Vuelta a España leader said Monday he laments Cannondale-Drapac’s looming sponsor problems, but said pushing innovation is part of the cycling game.

“Yes and no. It is in some ways ‘unfair’ the support we have in general at Team Sky compared to other teams,” said Froome, who gestured quotation marks with his hands when he said unfair. “If you take that away, what do teams have to strive for? Why are you working harder? To win more races? To take that away, it’s almost as if we are becoming communists.”

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Froome’s comments came as Cannondale-Drapac revealed that it is facing a $7 million budget shortfall for 2018. Team management freed riders from their contracts, and said they have two weeks to try to save the team from collapse.

Froome expressed his sympathy with the team’s dire straits, but brushed back suggestions that teams should have budget limits or impose salary caps to try to equal the playing field.

“So everyone is going to be the same?” he continued. “We should all ride the same bikes. We should all have the same equipment sponsors. We should eat the same rice and porridge each morning. Where do you draw the line?”

The contrast between Team Sky’s resources and what other teams can offer was in full display Monday morning in Elche, Spain.

Froome spoke to a handful of journalists before a morning training ride from inside Team Sky’s posh “Race Hub.” The rest-day morning media allotment marked a rapprochement with journalists after deciding not to hold similar access during the Tour de France.

Team Sky brought the Formula 1-styled paddock-area trailer to the Vuelta for the first time. It takes staffers about three hours to unfold the expanding trailer each evening at the team hotel parking lot. Once fully set up, the two-level space provides a fully operational kitchen, a private dining area where riders take their meals as well as meeting and lounge areas. So far, it is the only team inside the peloton to utilize an amenity like this.

In 2015, Team Sky brought a luxury camper van to the Giro d’Italia that was meant to be used by team GC captain Richie Porte. Officials quickly ruled that all riders must sleep inside the allotted team hotel.

Team Sky sport director Nicolas Portal also pushed back the idea that the team’s financial muscle — estimated to be as high as $30 million a year — is the main reason for its success.

“It is not this motorhome that is helping us. We do not win from this type of stuff. We are winning because of the hard work,” Portal said. “It’s a shame that all the teams do not have the same budget. Every team decides how much it pays its riders. On average, maybe all of our riders are even paid less than on other teams. Some teams pay their riders a lot more than us.”

The disparity between team budgets within the WorldTour is a common lament among team managers, especially those that have less sponsorship backing.

Cannondale-Drapac manager Jonathan Vaughters often pointed out that his team budget was half of Team Sky’s.

“If another big team comes along with even more money than Sky, I don’t think [Sky principal] Dave [Brailsford] would say that is unfair,” Portal said. “Because you have a good project, a big sponsor is interested in signing on. I don’t think it’s unfair.”

Froome added that it was a “huge shame” that the American-backed team might fold at the end of the season. A crowd-funding effort might help the team shore up its finances.

“I do think it’s a huge shame that Cannondale are in trouble for next year,” Froome said. “But certainly the way they rode yesterday, I haven’t seen Cannondale ride like that for ages. I think they can take a lot away from that. They put their faith in Woods. He didn’t win, but it was an amazing performance. I’d like to see more of that from them.”