Sky signs Australian triathlon coach Shaun Stephens

Shaun Stephens leaves Australian Institute of Sport for Sky in 2013

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LONDON (AFP) — Sky has appointed Australian Shaun Stephens as performance coach for the 2013 season, the British-based outfit announced Wednesday.

Stephens was head coach of the Australian triathlon team at the London Olympics, where the British track cycling squad, under the guidance of Sky principal Dave Brailsford, won seven gold medals.

The 37-year-old Stephens will leave his current roles as head coach and program manager at the Australian Institute of Sport and Triathlon Australia to work full-time alongside Sky’s head of performance, Tim Kerrison.

Sky had a successful 2012 season, with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France and Chris Froome finishing second, 3:21 behind.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to work as part of the Team Sky program,” Stephens said. “I have watched their outstanding performances with interest over the last three years and have been impressed by how they have assembled their team and introduced innovative performance strategies to cycling.”

“I’m looking forward to contributing to the team and bringing in new ideas through my sports science and coaching knowledge of triathlon,” he added. “I believe it is Dave Brailsford’s vision of introducing a diversity of skill sets… that has given Team Sky a competitive advantage over other teams.”

Brailsford said of Stephens’ appointment, “The team has taken tremendous strides since the appointment of Tim Kerrison, who came from swimming, and we hope that with Shaun on board we can maintain our position as the world’s number one cycling team.”

“It is incredibly exciting to be bringing fresh expertise into the sport, and further reinforces this team’s desire to break new ground in the field of performance,” he added.

Stephens’ appointment came following three recent departures from Sky after Brailsford re-emphasized the team’s zero-tolerance approach to doping, including past doping connections, following the Lance Armstrong scandal.

American Bobby Julich left Sky on October 25 after revealing he had taken EPO during his racing career, and four days later Steven de Jongh also left his role as sporting director, after admitting to having taken performance enhancing drugs during his career as a rider.

Sean Yates announced his retirement from professional cycling on October 28, leaving his role as senior sports director, but refutes reports that the team forced his departure.

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