As Big Ben chimed at midnight on New Year’s Eve, most of us will have raised a glass – or few – to welcome in 2012. For Team Sky, it marked the beginning of the British squad’s most important 12 months to date.
And while millions of Britons were nursing hangovers the next morning, it was a regular day in the office for Mark Cavendish, who went for a 70-mile training ride in Essex, his girlfriend Peta Todd’s home county and the Manx Missile’s adopted training base through the off-season.
RCUK will speak to Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and neo-pro Luke Rowe on Wednesday ahead of the 2012 campaign, with Sky beginning their season at the Tour Down Under in Australia on January 17-22.
The year 2012 marks a unique opportunity for Cavendish, who will start the Olympic road race as favourite after winning the test event, over a shortened course, last August. Before all that, however, the world road race champion will return to the Tour de France looking to add to his 20 stages wins and claim the green jersey for a second successive year.
Cavendish’s public stock rose considerably in 2011, which ended with the 26-year-old being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year with 49% of the public vote.
The former HTC-Highroad supremo officially became a Team Sky rider on January 1 and wasted little time in posting a photo of himself in his rainbow jersey, straddling a brand new Pinarello Dogma 2.
Sky fans will likely have to wait until the Tour of Qatar in February to see the sprinter in action, with Britons Geraint Thomas and Alex Dowsett joined by Mathew Hayman, Danny Pate, Michael Rogers, Christopher Sutton and Edvald Boasson Hagen, who signed a new three-year deal before Christmas, in the Tour Down Under Squad.
Signing for Sky ensures Cavendish’s training plan and race programme can be tailored specifically towards the Tour de France and Olympic road race under the watchful eyes of long-time mentor and coach Rod Ellingworth, the mastermind behind Project Rainbow Jersey, the three-year plan to deliver Cavendish to World Championship gold.
For Wiggins, the Tour de France is the primary aim in 2012. He started the 2011 race in the best condition of his life having won the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race, but crashed out with a broken collarbone on stage seven.
Wiggins’ years at the head of the peloton are numbered, but the 31-year-old will take heart from Cadel Evans’ performance in 2011, when the 34-year-old Australian became the oldest Tour winner in 88 years.
Wiggins won his first Olympic medal, team pursuit bronze, at Sydney 2000 and the Ghent-born rider went on to claim a further five medals, including three golds, in Athens and Beijing. London, however, will see Wiggins move away from the track and target the time trial, fought out over a 27.3-mile course starting and finishing at Hampton Court Palace, Surrey.
Any rider who contests the time trial is also required to take a place in their nation’s road race team, with Wiggins bringing an experienced head – and a powerful engine – to Great Britain’s five-man squad.
And so while Cavendish and Wiggins have their year mapped out, Rowe, a product of the British Cycling Academy, is venturing forward on new ground in 2012.
The Welshman was ninth in the road race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and claimed his second ZLM Tour title in 2011. As is customary among British riders, Rowe also has a strong track background and already has three national madison titles to his name, with Adam Blythe (2008), Mark Christian (2010) and new Sky team-mate Peter Kennaugh (2011). But the switch from Academy rider to pro will see Rowe focus on the road, coached by Ellingworth.
“I just want to become part of the team and tackle each race and do my job for the team,” Rowe told VeloUK. “I think the team will expect me to find my feet over the first few months, then towards the back end of the season, maybe I can get a chance to shine.”
There’s little time for Cavendish and Wiggins to find their feet – but plenty of opportunity to shine. While Team Sky boasts a multi-national squad, with riders hailing from Colombia to Canada, 2012 will be judged by the success of their British riders.