ARGELÈS-GAZOST, France (VN) — Team Sky stands behind its decision to bring a team solely supporting Chris Froome to the Tour de France. Despite losing its captain, its plan B, and so far, going winless, general manager David Brailsford said that supporting only one man is the way to win.
“Not many people can win this race,” Brailsford said. “If you got one of the guys that you think can win then my thinking is, let’s go and try to win it and do everything we can to try to win it. If that doesn’t work, then it’s pretty unlikely that anything else will work, so you go all for plan A if you want to win.”
For the last two years, Brailsford left home 2012 winner Brad Wiggins in favor of Froome. In 2013, Wiggins had a knee problem after the Giro d’Italia and was unable to race. This year, he won the Tour of California overall and the British time trial title but wasn’t given a place with the men in black for the Tour.
Instead, Sky built a team around Froome. The Kenyan-born Brit did not race Tirreno-Adriatico due to a back problem and crashed in the Critérium du Dauphiné, losing his lead days later. But he won the Tour of Oman and Tour de Romandie. Early season problems aside, he and Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) looked the strongest on paper, and Brailsford gave Froome the green light to race as captain.
“We won this race twice, and we’d like to win it for the third time,” continued Brailsford on Thursday at the start in Pau. “If you want to do something other than winning, you can change the team, change the nature of the riders in your team.”
Sky came to the Tour in 2012 with a multi-pronged team and a lofty goal of winning the green and yellow jersey. It came close, just missing the green but taking the yellow and six stage wins. Brailsford said that the goal put the team “under a lot of pressure” and said that he believed it was not “sustainable.”
“You then think about the likelihood of winning, if you feel you can, then you then take away the elements, the safety net, and try maximize your chances of winning,” Brailsford said of 2013 and 2014.
“Any day of the week, if you gave me the choice of coming here with a rider who can win the Tour de France, the biggest race, or slightly jeopardizing that a bit because you were scared of not winning and you just wanted to salvage something out of the race — I’d always go for the win.”
The overall win slipped out of Sky’s grip when Froome crashed three times in just over 24 hours. The third fall, before the pavé began in stage 5 to Arenberg, forced him out with fractured bones in his left wrist and right hand.
The team shifted leadership to Richie Porte, who sat second overall, but saw that plan B fly out the window when the Australian, complaining later of a chest infection, was left behind in the mountains. Since, the team has fought for stage wins and — though it came close with Geraint Thomas, Vasil Kiryienka, and Mikel Nieve in escapes — it failed.
Brailsford stood by Sky’s all-for-Froome plan with only three days left in the 2014 Tour. “Put me in the same place before the Tour, with the same info,” he said. “I’d make the same decision.”