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Tour Notebook, Stage 2: Brailsford hoping for last laugh at Sky; grand tour possible for Sagan?

TOURNAI, Belgium (VN) — Team Sky manager David Brailsford is hoping to have the last laugh this year if Bradley Wiggins manages to win the Tour de France.

Many rolled their eyes when Brailsford suggested a few years ago that a British rider on a British team could win cycling’s most important race.

With Wiggins entering this year’s Tour as a top favorite for the yellow jersey, Brailsford is crossing his fingers the team can live up to his aspirations in just its third year in operation.

“I was derided a bit a few years back when I said I thought we could win the Tour de France with a British team and a British rider. They did laugh at me then,” Brailsford told VeloNews. “I like to think, why cannot you do something? Why not? Why cannot we achieve that? It’s based on reality. It’s based on good research and sound information. I always believed it was possible.”

Since finding the backing to create Team Sky, Brailsford has quickly put things into motion to help realize his once-outrageous goal for the Tour.

After he rode to fourth in the 2009 Tour with Garmin, Brailsford saw Wiggins as the man for the task of carrying the UK’s colors into the Tour. He fell flat in his first year leading Sky, however, only managing to finish 24th. Last year, Wiggins looked strong and won the Critérium du Dauphiné, but crashed out of the Tour with a broken clavicle.

After rebounding to finish third in the Vuelta a España and earn silver in the world time trial championship last fall, Wiggins has been unstoppable so far through 2012.

“Everything has gone pretty much to plan, and perhaps even better than we expected so far,” he said. “Of course, we hope things go to plan for a few more weeks. The team has done its work.”

For Brailsford, Wiggins’ and Team Sky’s success have come in a parallel struggle to compete at the highest levels with a strong anti-doping platform. Brailsford said the team’s success reveals just how much cycling has changed.

“I think that Bradley coming here as one of the favorites says a lot about how far the sport has come,” he said. “It’s important to take that into the story. Right here, right now, looking forward, we know that Bradley is doing it in a very clean, but very sophisticated way.

“That bodes well for the sport. It bodes well for all the youngsters who want to maybe think about a future in the sport, but they wonder if they have to take something. Well, no you don’t, you have to work hard. That’s the sacrifice you have to make.”

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