Steven has three professional victories to his name and has shown in single day Italian races he can ride with the best and win when it counts. “It has been difficult and frustrating at times because of how some of the teams I have ridden for have operated. Some times I have felt like I'm banging my head against the wall and so I'm really looking forward to working ‘with’ people rather than ‘for’ them. Hanging together as one big team on and off the bike.”
“With Discovery I used to really really look forward to going to a race and a lot of that was because of the fun you had at the dinner table and in and around the race. Speaking the same language makes a huge difference to morale so that part of being with Sky will be really good.”
Steven then explained that many of the guys going to Team Sky all live in and around the village where he is based in Italy so they see each other all the time, training together and going to airports and so on. “All these things you do for each other makes that bond between riders better and everyone gets on. That I think will make a difference in the racing where you’ll be willing to try that little bit harder for your mates as opposed to someone you don't really know or may not even like”.
Asked what goals he’d like to have in 2010, Steven is aware what he gets to pursue will depend on the goals of the team as well. “I have to sit down with the team and find out what they are going to want from me but I'd like to get in the Tour de France team as well as in the classics like the Tour of Flanders. I’d like to do well for me or the team in a race like Paris Nice too. I want to do the big races. I have shown I can win at certain levels but would like to really really step up and get stuck in among the bigger races because I feel like that is the next step for me.”
For Steven, Team Sky has been the food for his motivation over the last year. “What has kept me going this year is one, the Worlds and two trying to put myself into a good position for next year in a team where they are aiming to give every rider the best chance to be the best they can be. That is every athlete’s dream, a team that puts everything into place so they can do the best job they can.”
Before the Worlds though, there is the little matter of the Tour of Britain, a stage race where he was second last year. Asked about his goals for this year’s race, one he only found out he was riding on Wednesday, he says it’s hard to say. Steven has certainly had good form of late, as has his Barloworld teammate Geraint Thomas.
“Sure, I am going quite well so I'll start out with an ambition of doing a good overall but if for some reason I miss a split and lose a bit of time I'll then switch the focus and either play a team role for someone else in the team or go for stages. The field seems stronger this year with riders like Edvald Boasson Hagen and Italian champion Filippo Pozzato and I think they have an eye on the road worlds too and so will probably race pretty hard which will make the Tour of Britain a good race and an exciting one to watch.”
After the Tour of Britain, Steven is hoping to get selected for the Road Worlds and doing a good team job there. It’s an event that has helped him focus and train hard for the end of the season and helped keep him going.
His next big goal will then be the Team Sky training camps and looking ahead to his programme for 2010 where he hopes he can finally fulfil the promise he has shown already on the road and move on to do well in bigger and better races.
For a 24 year who has only been in the Pro Peloton for under two years, Chris Froome from Kenya, now racing with a British licence is certainly making a name for himself. Having been a part of the GB set up since 2008, Chris has come to learn just what is great about the Great Britain cycling team and knows things will be different with Team Sky after riding for a couple of smaller teams, first Konica Minolta and then Barloworld.
“It's been a fair season” he says of 2009. “From an experience point of view, it has been good. Getting to do the Giro was good but from a results point of view, I haven't had much. I have had a few top 10s but nothing that spectacular. I think this year has been full of instances, like the nationals, where I have been there or thereabouts but haven't had anything to back it up so hopefully with Team Sky things should fall into place a bit more.”
“I find such a huge difference from when I go from my pro team to being with the British set up at training camps and that. The vibe is different and the fact everyone is so positive and so driven from staff to riders. It's such a delight to be around and should make a big difference to me next year.”
Chris admits he is looking forward to all the science and technology that he has seen when with GB and the things which on a smaller team you don't get. “Things like a nutritionist and psychologist. I have never really had the opportunity to work with such people before” he says.
Chris is also upbeat about getting a race programme that is structured and given to the riders early enough in the season for them to prepare properly. “The fact its potentially a ProTour team, they should know what their race programme is going to look like for the whole year at the start of the year whereas at Barloworld, because it was relying on wild card entries, you don't really find out until the last minute what you’re doing which means you can’t really plan the season that well.”
Asked what the ideal scenario would be if he could choose his race programme now, Chris admits, like most, that he’d love to get a place in the team for the Tour de France.
“I don't know how possible that will be because everyone in the team will want to do it but for me, I really really enjoyed doing the Tour in 2008, more so than other races because the Tour was much more my style of racing I think.”
Chris also says one of the best things he’s looking forward to is going into races with a job to do within a team that he expects will be well structured both tactically and with the riders they choose for a race. He knows though that there is still work to do saying that his climbing is good but he hasn’t yet been able to climb with the leaders and that its something he wants to work on. “Climbing and time trialling are the two aspects I'd like to work on and excel in next year” he says.
Part of achieving that is getting a ride for Great Britain at the World Road Championships where he has put his name forward for the second spot in the Time Trial as well as a supporting role in the road race. He says that an example of how good the initiative is within Team GB, something he expects to see in Team Sky too, was the training camp at the Worlds last month.
“That camp was very very helpful and is a perfect example of how the Federation works. Getting the guys out there a month before and seeing the route and knowing what they are up against. It allowed guys to put their name forward for the race knowing they could then go away and prepare themselves properly after seeing the course.”
The GB training camp came after a training camp of his own in South Africa during July. “I got back from South Africa at the start of August after taking a month off to do some altitude training in South Africa which was perfect for three weeks but then I got ill after possibly over doing the training a little bit.”
“I came straight back into the Vuelta Burgos where I was on antibiotics through the whole race so that didn't go as planned but I ended up with around 18th overall. Since then I have shed a bit of weight and I’m starting to feel really good on the bike now.”
His next race is the Tour of Britain which he says is more of a sprinters event. “We're coming to Britain with quite a strong sprint team so I'll probably be playing a domestique role for them but will be more than happy to do that with the Worlds round the corner. A few days of intensive racing is just what I need now to get myself into good shape for the Worlds.”
Chris last rode the Tour of Britain with Konica Minolta two years ago and will be taking the race day-by-day and goes into it with no pre-set plans. “I’m not sure what to expect” he says “We're going in there with Steve who was second last year so maybe we'll try and get him up there again - that would be perfect for us.”
Perfect too is his opportunity to race with a big outfit like Team Sky in 2010 and the 24 year old knows that while he has already learned some hard lessons in the pro peloton, the time is coming where he has to put that experience to good use and in Team Sky, that time looks like it has arrived.
Another young rider who knows well what it is like in a pro team is GB rider Ian Stannard. He injured his foot last month which prevented him from racing the Time Trial championships in his old stomping ground of Milton Keynes but since returning to Italy, he has been looking after the injury and getting back into training ready for the Tour of Britain next week.
Asked about Team Sky, Ian says it was a logical step to take after having been part of the Great Britain set up for so long. The Olympic Academy rider has ridden for Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner in Belgum during 2008 as well as ISD in Italy this season but admits that Team Sky is going to be a bigger and better set up. “My other teams have not quite been at the level that Sky will be at and I think racing wise and organisationally, it’s going to be really good. Being part of Team Sky is going to help me improve my riding and I'm sure everyone who has joined is really looking forward to it.”
“Because it’s a British team, we'll know what is going on and it’s also going to be easier at the dinner tables where we can enjoy the banter between the riders and staff and that will just make life easier as a bike rider especially when you're away at races.”
“Being part of a really big British team will be quite a special thing. Joining the team has been a goal of mine since I heard about Dave (Brailsford) and Shane (Sutton) setting up a British team. It’s one I have always wanted to be part of. The team has a good group of guys and I'm looking forward to the first training camp. Wearing that kit for the first time will be pretty special.”
Ian’s next event is the Tour of Britain where he says his goals are still the same as they were when we talked a few weeks ago. Getting that first pro victory and also doing enough to get selected for the Road Worlds to ride for GB where he is really up for riding for the likes of David Millar and Bradley Wiggins.
My thanks to the riders for their time and we will no doubt see a lot more of them in the coming week during the Tour of Britain. The story for Team Sky will also continue apace as more riders are revealed and the names of up to 10 foreign riders will be released soon as the squad for Team Sky is announced during the coming days and weeks.