‘Are you going to have a rant about this Sky carry on, on that site of yours?’ enquires Viktor.

‘Damn right!’ says I.

Sylvain Calzati
Sylvain Calzati.

All pro cyclists demand respect, it’s easy to forget that even the guy who finishes stone last in any pro race has to be pretty good to get a pro contract in the first place; but the two French riders just signed by Sky leave me a tad puzzled.

Sylvain Calzati won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2004 and took a stage win in the ‘real’ Tour in 2006, that apart, his palmares are sketchy.

A team can’t be all winners; that’s why you have riders like Michael Barry and Matt Hayman, beasts of a boys.

Nicolas Portal is a puzzler too, Caisse D’Epargne don’t employ duds, but he missed most of 2009, due, I believe, to a heart problem.

Both choices seem strange; it looks awfully like they are struggling to fill the roster to me — or maybe I’m looking at it in too simplistic a fashion?

At VeloVeritas, we thought that the “Astana stays Pro Tour; Bert goes to Garmin; Brad goes to Sky” master plan was a done deal — but it seems that JV, over at Garmin just wouldn’t play ball.

Word is that Sky offered him £2 million to release Bradley; but Vaughters wasn’t having it.

The saga isn’t over yet — Astana don’t have their licence yet, but neither do Sky; apparently this could be due to something minor.

Nicolas Portal.
Nicolas Portal.

The bureaucrats at the UCI go over every piece of paper with a magnifying glass and a simple bank sort code in the wrong place can stall documents from clearing.

However it’s hard to blame them for being ‘picky’ after Coast, Linda McCartney, H20 and all the rest.

Interestingly, on a standard UCI Pro Tour contract, it’s possible for a rider to buy himself out of a two year contract, after one year for 60% of his second year salary — this has happened this year and is relatively common place if a rider ‘blooms’ and begins to get bigger results — and offers.

This suggests that Bradley’s contract with Wigan (sorry, Garmin) must have additional clauses in it.

The failure of Sky to nab Brad or Cav is a major glitch in their game plan, albeit le Tour seems to be distinctly non Brad and Cav friendly, anyway.

The Tour (and anything that Chris Hoy rides) is the only race that Joe Public understands and which gets serious media attention.

The colour photos of the two Britons which appeared in the Guardian on a daily basis during the Tour gave way to minimal Vuelta and late season classic coverage, never mind photos.

The Milk Race was a classic example, whilst crowds were big; the real major media interest didn’t come until Bill Nickson triumphed.

Simon Gerrans.
Simon Gerrans.

The story at the time was that the Milk Marketing Board were wringing their hands when Bill won it, they were going to pull the plug because they were tired of all the dour foreigners with unpronounceable names who kept topping the podium — when ever-smiling, ‘boy next door’ Bill won it, they had to keep it going. [Ironically, the Liverpool man’s win ushered in the era of even more unpronounceable names winning the race; six Russians and a Pole in consecutive years, interrupted only by American Matt Eaton in 1983 – Editor.]

Mark Bell takes the win in Blackpool in front of big crowds.
Mark Bell takes the win in Blackpool in front of big crowds.

Boasson Hagen is a great talent, Lovqvist too, and Gerrans must win a hilly classic, soon.

I think too that some of the British riders have good rides within them; Froome has the bravado and class to win moyenne mountain stage in a Grand Tour.

Steve Cummings should go back to quality rider who win two serious Italian races in 2008.

But the Tour’s the thing and if ‘Wiggo’ could wear that maillot jaune — even for one day — then Rupert Murdoch’s millions would be well spent.

Who knows, maybe the money men in Kazakhstan will get bored; JV will figure that he can’t ‘raise’ Brailsford any more and Sky’s two mil will pay a big chunk of Bert’s salary at the satnav squadra; then Brad will return home to Man U (sorry, Sky) — it’ll almost be a shame when it’s all sorted out!