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June 08, 2018
Team Sky have lost the crowd.
In their relentless pursuit of success only in terms of numbers, races won, Grand Tours won, Team Sky have lost the crowd. Ever since they threw Bradley Wiggins under the bus after winning the Tour de France in favour of Froome they've been slowly shipping water, only now at an increasingly alarming rate.
They face a summer of discontent with most of the cycling establishment hardening their stance against them for a variety of their own reasons. Some principled, some not. With almost no support among cycling fans, the situation for Team Sky is turning seriously negative.
While Froome was surrounded by a strong contingent of British rides with the likes of Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas, Team Sky's predominantly British fan base could overlook the money came from the Murdoch's and Froome from Kenya.
Team Sky's inability to understand that cycling fans care about the British riders, not the team is costing them dearly. Cycling isn't football. It isn't tribal, its personal.
Everyone of a certain age remembers Eddy Merckx, Marco Planini, Tom Simpson. Their exploits are revered, passed down from generation to generation, their triumphs, failures and failings in equal measure. Nobody remembers the team or the sponsor. With the possible exception of Peugeot, who can't have been very happy about Tom Simpson going and dying with Peugeot plastered across his chest.
Nobody will remember that during Froome's great ride to win the Giro d'Italia team Sky got his hydration schedule right, but everyone remembers when Tom Simpson got it so horribly wrong.
When Bradley Wiggins crossed the finish line in Paris to become the first British rider to win the Tour de France he put to rest one of the longest running hurts in modern sport. High up on Mount Ventoux the spirit of Tom Simpson could finally rest in peace knowing that his life's ambition had finally been realised, and his sacrifice had not been in vain. A great wrong had been finally put right.
Team Sky never understood we weren't supporting them, we were supporting Wiggins, and what he was attempting to do. Because, for reasons unknown, these things matter. When Wiggins crossed the finish line he became a national hero, when Froome crossed it nobody really cared because it didn't resonate with something bigger or something close to people's hearts.
Team Sky have only one option left if they are to survive, they have to show that ruthless streak so predominant in the past again and chuck Froome under the bus.
Then go out and find themselves a hero. Cycling needs heroes. Tom Dumoulin is a hero because he didn't win the Vuelta, but boy, did he try. Simon Yates's social media following has gone through the roof because he didn't win the Giro. But one day he will, and it will be all the sweeter for what happened this year. And we, the fans, will be sitting in our armchairs cheering his every pedal stroke because it gives us something to believe in, and we all know how much it hurts.
You don't get to be a hero because you got everything right, you get to be a hero when you get it all wrong but still come back for more, and maybe one day win. Or die trying.
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