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Sky’s Bernal, Castroviejo discuss Tour de France drama

By Andrew Hood • Published
Team Sky rallied around winner Geraint Thomas at the Tour de France. Photo: ©Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Two of Team Sky’s newest and most effective “gregarios” defended the team’s collective strength and questioned the tactics of their rivals.

Egan Bernal and Jonathan Castroviejo, speaking in different interviews over the weekend, offered new insight to what happened inside Team Sky during July’s Tour de France. Castroviejo said winner Geraint Thomas and co-team leader Chris Froome held “mutual respect” all the way to Paris, while Bernal said the team’s rivals waited too long to mount a counter-offensive.

“They are afraid to attack,” Bernal told Mundo Deportivo. “That’s the problem, not Team Sky. Everyone attacked in the final mountain stage of the Tour. I thought, ‘why did they wait so long?’ They should have done it earlier.”

Bernal, who spoke to the Spanish sports daily ahead of his crash Saturday at the Clásica San Sebastián, insisted that Sky’s racing style isn’t as predictable as it might seem.

“It’s not a question of speed or watts. Sensations count for a lot,” Bernal said. “They speak about taking away the power meters. I looked at mine occasionally out of curiosity. No one ever told me to go at this power or be careful not to go above this limit.

“You know yourself and you know your ‘cruising speed’ that you can hold for 20-30 minutes,” Bernal continued. “They told at Alpe d’Huez to climb and leave them at such and such kilometer. What would have happened if I could have only pulled for three instead of eight? The leaders would have been isolated. It could have happened because I was on my limit. [Our rivals] seem more concerned about our race than theirs. They are afraid to attack.

“What did Landa do on the final day? He attacked and put us on the limit,” Bernal said. “It’s true that we had time on him and we had the time trial coming up, but someone could have attacked who was at 10 or 20 seconds.”

Bernal, 21, left the Tour as the revelation of the race. Before his crash, he hinted he wanted to race the Vuelta a España. After crashing Saturday, Bernal underwent surgery for facial injuries and did not know what the rest of his season might look like.

Castroviejo, meanwhile, revealed that Thomas and Froome worked well together to handle what could have been an explosive situation.

“Yes, it was a surprise, but Thomas demonstrated he was a just winner. And for us, there was never an uncomfortable situation or ‘polemics,’” Castroviejo said. “Thomas was intractable and he raced a perfect Tour. And what Froome did the last day I admired a lot because he is noble and humble.

“It’s not easy for a team to share leadership and we were talking about first and second on GC. Even so, there was never any kind of problem,” he continued. “Each one gave in for the good of the team, and the winner was decided on the road. There was mutual respect and ‘good feeling.’ At the first part of the race it was more complicated, but as the race advanced, especially in the Alps and above all in the Pyrénées, the ambiance was much better. By the time we got to Paris, everything was normal.”

Team Sky’s domination of the Tour continues to haunt rivals and officials alike. After winning six of the past editions of the Tour, Sky looks firmly in control of its destiny after recruiting such riders as Bernal and Castroviejo.

Castroviejo joined Team Sky this year after racing six seasons with Movistar. The four-time Spanish time trial champion was tapped for his ability against the clock and his pulling power.

“It looks easy on TV, that nobody ever put us in difficulty, but the day to day is very different,” he said. “It’s very complicated. In the mountains we always have to stay as a solid group and you never know until the time trial. You can have a bad day and lose all the hard work in a bad moment.”

With Bernal waiting in the wings and Froome and Thomas likely returning to next year’s Tour as co-leaders, Sky’s rivals will be scratching their heads all winter on how to unravel the British outfit’s stranglehold on the yellow jersey.

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