Sky’s Murdoch explains his love for two wheels

James Murdoch holds a UK and a US passport, but even dual nationality is not enough for his patriotic needs when watching cycling, a sport he has loved since his youth.

Murdoch, as chairman of British Sky Broadcastingin 2008, approved the creation of Team Sky, the professional cycling outfit run by Dave Brailsford whose members keep winning Olympic medals.

There are 12 Team Sky riders in the games, representing the UK, Australia, Colombia, Austria and Norway.

The strongest link is with the British team, because Brailsford also runs the GB cycling team that on Wednesday won Olympic gold and bronze medals. Both Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome are Team Sky members.

“I’ve been interested in the sport since growing up in New York, and as a teenager I put my own bike together and went on bike rides in New Jersey,” Murdoch said in an interview with the Financial Times this week.

“Easynet [a broadband company he bought in 2005] had a deal to support British cycling, so Dave Brailsford came to us with his big vision,” Murdoch said. “When he approached Jeremy [Darroch, chief executive of BSkyB] and then Jeremy came to me, I have to say I was a pretty soft touch on that one.”

Success, as they say, has many fathers, and nobody at BSkyB is quite sure whose idea it was to get involved in supporting cycling, but it was Murdoch who championed the concept of BSkyB being supportive of environmental and public health issues in the UK, which fitted well with supporting Team Sky.

Murdoch has rarely spoken of his love of cycling, but he told the FT it began in his teens and was nurtured by a high school English teacher who was also an endurance rider.

“I took part in very amateur club races when I was a kid and did pretty badly but I just loved the sport.”

He said he was inspired by the legendary French cyclist Laurent Fignon and then by Greg LeMond of the US, the first non-European to win the Tour, in 1986.

Murdoch lost touch with cycling at college, but when he moved to the UK in 2003 to run BSkyB, his wife bought him a new bike – “maybe she thought I needed the exercise” – a handmade Roberts built for him by the famed south London bike maker.

In recent years he has ridden in several “sportifs”, open entry races in Europe including taking part with his friend Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone, in the Maratona dles Dolomites.

He never misses watching the Tour on television, however, and flew to Paris to be with the Team Sky riders for their triumphant finale last month.

He described the British performance in the Olympic time trial as “an awesome display from Bradley and Chris”, but also praised Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian Team Sky rider who won silver in the men’s road race.

“For these games, my Team Sky passport is probably more valid than my British one,” he said.