Team Sky got off to a dream start in Australia taking first and second place in their very first race. It was an impressive ride for the new team as they overcame the might and experience of the HTC Columbia lead-out train to take victory.
The seven-man squad did it by coming together at exactly the right point in the race, timing their lead out to perfection. Greg Henderson was the benefactor of perfectly executed tactics as the Kiwi came over the line to show the world of cycling that Sky needs no time to settle in and find their feet.
It was in fact little surprise that today’s Cancer Council criterium in Adelaide ended in a bunch sprint, the surprise was that a new team took on and beat HTC Columbia – the team that proved almost unbeatable in bunch sprints last year – at their very first attempt
The American team looked in control with three laps to go as they put their riders at the front to lead out 2008 winner André Greipel, but Henderson, who was the one to make the call to get Sky to the front, waited a little longer. With first Russell Downing and then Mat Hayman making their move, Sky took back the control.
Matt Goss and André Greipel made one more desperate attempt to get back to the front but the effort cost them dear, and when Chris Sutton started the sprint he blasted past with Henderson on his wheel. Sutton’s lead-out was so good it carried him through to second place.
“It doesn’t get any better than that, they are an unbelieveable team, I don’t think I have ever been on a lead out that was as fast as that,” said Henderson. “In the end my job was pretty easy, I just followed Chris Sutton and the rest of the fella’s.”
“I was on the back and I just yelled ‘yes!’, and it went down the line, ‘yes’, ‘yes’, ‘yes’, like we had practiced in training,” explained Henderson. “When the boys sped up, I thought; ‘wow!, where are you going?’, it was just so fast.”
Afterwards Team Principal Dave Brailsford was pragmatic about the win, having shown that the principals he’s used to such success with the British track team can be transfered to the road. “You’ve got to have a plan, and then the lads execute the plan,” he said. “If it works, great. But without a plan…..”
“It was predictable – not the win but the race, we knew what was going to happen. Credit to Sean [Yates], there’s a great knowledge there.”
Brailsford believes that the knowledge the British coaches have from analysing track sprinting down to the minutest details is directly applicable to road racing. “Some people saying [the team] is all about marketing, flash and razzmatazz and all the rest of it, but we know what we’re doing.”
Greg Henderson takes the kisses after taking his and Sky’s first win of the year
Aussie Mat Hayman on the front for Team Sky – the new lead-out train to beat!
Cancer Council Helpline Classic, 51km
1. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky 1-04-33hr
2. Christopher Sutton (Aus) Team Sky
3. André Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank
6. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
7. Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
8. Jose Rojas (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne
9. Anthony Ravard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondial
10. Manuel Cardoso (Ita) Footon-Servetto all at same time