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Brailsford hints at roster reduction for 2019 as Thomas extension seems imminent

Sky will likely boost Thomas's salary for 2019, but that's not the reason why the British team will trim riders from its roster.

HUERCAL-OVERA, Spain (VN) — Team Sky looks primed to ink a new deal with Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, however the team may reduce the size of its roster in 2019.

“We want [Thomas] to stay and I am sure he wants to stay,” Brailsford said. “We are just working out the fine details, and that’s it.”

Those “fine details” likely mean a big boost for Thomas’s salary following his Tour victory, but the added expense is not why Brailsford suggested that Team Sky will be trimming its 30-rider roster going into next season. Rather, the sport’s reduction of roster sizes at WorldTour races introduced this season is to blame, Brailsford said.

“Unfortunately we might be looking at a net reduction in overall roster,” Brailsford told VeloNews. “With all the changes they’re making, you don’t need 30 riders. It’s hard to give 30 riders a full program. We’re working through that.”

Typically active on the rider market, Team Sky has been uncharacteristically mute so far and has yet to publicly reveal one new signing for 2019. There is expected to be at least one or two new faces to join next season, but it’s also likely that a few more names might be leaving. The Thomas deal could be announced to coincide with the upcoming Tour of Britain, where Thomas will race alongside Chris Froome.

Sky certainly isn’t lacking for money and there is no suggestion that changes to the team’s budget is behind its lack of activity. In fact, the team heavily recruited over the past two seasons, bolstering its support for Froome as well as securing promising young riders who can take over during going into the next decade.

“With all teams that are successful, the cost of keeping that team together goes up and up and up, so there’s that,” he said. “We are just trying to make sure with how successful riders are rewarded properly.”

So why the possible trim? Brailsford simply states the team doesn’t need as many riders. Coming into 2018, several WorldTour teams trimmed rosters in an anticipation of the new rules. Sky held steady at 30 as one of the largest rosters in the WorldTour league. Brailsford hinted that might not be the case in 2019.

“One of the unintended consequences of reducing the WorldTour races from nine to eight and eight to seven is that the roster required to fulfill that program is less than it was,” he said.

“So one of the things we are considering is reducing the overall size of the team to fit to purpose,” he continued. “I say that with a heavy heart because I think it’s taking it the wrong way.”

There’s another reason Sky isn’t especially active this season: Brailsford is happy with the team’s current roster.

With the likely extension with Thomas and the continued presence of four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, Sky’s immediate GC future is all but assured. Sky also boasts world-class support with the likes of Wout Poels, Luke Rowe, Jonathan Castroviejo and Michal Kwiatkowski, who is also growing into a grand tour contender himself. And then there are young riders Egan Bernal, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov, all of whom have the potential to win major races.

“We’re very happy with the squad of riders we’ve got,” Brailsford said. “We’re always looking for opportunities,”

With the number of rider agents hovering around the Team Sky bus the past few days, it seems like there might be a few surprises still to come.