We asked our three British neo-pros to reflect on 2017 - their first year with Team Sky.
Jon Dibben: My best moment of the year would have to be my win in the Tour of California’s time trial. It wasn’t really a race I’d massively targeted but I knew the form was good and it all came together for a really good performance on the day. That’s my big highlight looking back. I’ve always enjoyed time trialling - and I think you do have to enjoy it. It’s a bit of a weird one, just going out by yourself on your time trial bike and putting yourself on the limit.
Owain Doull: Doing the Tour of Britain this year. We had a special team there. G, Kiry, Kwiato, Elia - all massive riders - and Tao who is one of my good friends. It wasn’t even a goal before the race to take on the GC but I was always at the front, I did a good time trial as well and I ended up finishing ninth overall.
Tao Geoghegan Hart: Crossing the line at Strade Bianche to discover that Kwiato had won. It was my first WorldTour race so I was pretty nervous before it and didn’t know what to expect - especially with that race. That was pretty cool.
JD: The Tour of Guangxi. It was very late into the season and everyone there had obviously had to train a bit longer than they may have wanted to to finish the season, but once the travel was over, we had a really good group of guys there and it was a good laugh. The racing wasn’t too complicated, the roads were big and well surfaced, we got stuck into the action and we were always laughing around the dinner table.
OD: Again - the Tour of Britain. I just really enjoyed it this year, racing on home roads. Obviously I’ve done the race a lot in the past but this year racing for Team Sky made it a whole different beast, with the amount of support the team gets out on the road. It’s pretty special. On the last day the weather in [Owain's hometown] Cardiff was pretty horrendous and beforehand I was a bit worried about how many people would turn up to watch the race. But it blew me away. There were so many people out on the road supporting the race and cheering everyone on, even in that bad weather.
TGH: We had a good group at the Tour of California. We were relaxed and really motivated to get good results for Elia [Viviani] and [Ian] Boswell. I had an opportunity too [Tao finished eighth overall]. That was a really nice race to be at.
JD: Tour de Suisse. The terrain was brutal, it’s really not where I’m at my strongest - in those high mountains. There were a couple of time trials, but we had four days up in the mountains and everyone at the race was saying how hard it was. The riders make the race and for those four days in the hills it went full gas every day. That was tough.
OD: Tour de Romandie. I’d done a big block of Classics racing, which I was really happy to do and super happy to have made the team for, but it was one race after another after another. Then we went into Romandie and I was still feeling the effects of what had happened to me at the start of the year [appendicitis], and with the weather and the general parcours, I found that one of the hardest races I did all year.
TGH: Racing wise, the Tour of the Basque Country [Pais Vasco] was my hardest of the year. On quite a few of the days my role was to do the first part of the race before the break went and there were two or three days in a row where it took over an hour and a half for the break to go. That’s part of the race no one sees. It’s a cliche you hear a lot in cycling: ‘Oh it’s dead hard and aggressive’, but it was eye-opening there for me just how hard it was to control the race and make sure we got the scenario we needed in terms of no big team getting up the road. And that was pretty much my job done, two hours in. Looking back at some of my numbers afterwards I was like, ‘Wow’. It surprised me how hard you can go in those first two hours.
Kwiato was the most impressive and inspiring person I raced with this year.
JD: I’m going to say Kneesy [Christian Knees]. Obviously I didn’t know him before coming to the team and then I did all of the Classics with him. He’s an experienced guy and that’s how I saw him before the race, but you quickly realise how enthusiastic he still is for all of those races and in those races you’ve got to risk your body - put your body on the line to get through gaps, go hard through corners, and he was there leading the charge, taking all the risks.
OD: Kwiato. He’s a really cool guy anyway, but it’s amazing to ride with him. I only raced with him a few times - the Ardennes at the start of the year and Strade Bianche, but I picked up more at the Tour of Britain. It’s how he goes about a race, how he approaches it, and how he always wants to win, all the time - it doesn’t have to be with him, but with someone. He was the most impressive and inspiring person I raced with this year.
TGH: I learnt a lot racing the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes with [Michal] Golas and Kwiato, just seeing how they work together. I did a big block with those guys - about 12 race days on the trot, all in the space of three weeks. They’re big races - maybe the most important block of the year for Kwiato - so it was cool to see that. He’d already won Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, so he was really on the money.
JD: A year ago I was living in Manchester. I was part of British Cycling, doing track and road, a mix, and now I’ve moved down to France, training in the sun and the hills. In China we had a 212km stage, with 7km neutral. That’s the level you have to be at - rock up, knock out a 212km stage. That’s definitely been a big change. Then there’s the level. You know it’s the WorldTour so it’s going to be hard, but then you see it, the level it takes to win at those races. It’s impressive.
OD: Coming from a track background, where you’re aiming to peak once or twice a year, and you don’t race that much to here, where you race a lot more, was perhaps the biggest difference. I had almost 70 race days this year and obviously every race you do, from January through to October, with the Tour of Guangxi for me, you turn up and you’re expected to do a job and be at a level where you can support your teammates. That consistency is important. I think I’ve been pretty consistent across the board, but that’s the biggest step up - having that consistency.
TGH: The size of everything. For example the camps, with all the staff there, and learning all of the new staff and riders. There’s so much more in everything. The attention to detail. I remember in Mallorca, at December camp, I was amazed at all of the small things that had been thought of. You think, ‘Oh I need this’ and somebody has already thought of it, or it’s already there. There’s always an infrastructure around these small things that make it easy as a bike rider.
JD: I’ll look towards the sharper end of the races and try to progress everything I’ve done. Also, with Danny and Elia both leaving - our two sprinters - we’ll have just one sprinter on the team, in Kristoffer [Halvorsen], so hopefully there’ll be some opportunities for me to get stuck into some sprints in some of the smaller races.
OD: The Classics. After doing them this year, I realised the scale of it, and how big they are, and also that if you want to be competitive, or want to get further into those races in the future, you have to put the work in. Every year you train, but until you go to those big races and see the level you have to be at to be competitive in them... It’s quite inspiring. So that’s the big one for me next year.
TGH: I’d like to ride a Grand Tour. We will see when race programmes are decided, but I’d like to aim for the Giro. It’s still quite an aspirational goal, and the feeling I get is whenever it’s your first one, it’s difficult to get in just because you are such an unknown quantity after 10 days. But one of my goals this year was to show I can consistently deliver, not have bad days, and that’s also a part of being a GC rider.
Tao Geoghegan Hart
They said it how it was and you need that sometimes to make that step forward.
OD: I can’t think of one specific thing someone told me, but from the start of the year a lot of people have said being a neo-pro I’ll be given as broad a mix of races as possible to learn about most disciplines and before coming here I thought, ‘Ah I know about most races,’ but after doing this year I realised it’s true - you learn so much.
TGH: It was at the Tour de Yorkshire, with [Luke] Rowe and [Ian] Stannard. I was going into Yorkshire as the only climber there, so on the last day all those guys were supporting me. They said it how it is - if I made a mistake during the stage they just told me. At one point I casually stopped for a nature break and Luke said, ‘Come on, say you’re going to do it, we’re going to support you 100%’, and as a young guy four months into my first season, it was hard for me to get my head round them working for me. They said it how it was and you need that sometimes to make that step forward.