Sky's team principal Dave Brailsford speaks to the press at the 2014 Tour de France presentation
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Team Sky has had "no formal information at all" about Tiernan-Locke case
Sky manager Dave Brailsford is unconcerned by the relative lack of time trialling at the 2014 Tour de France and is confident that Chris Froome has the wherewithal to deal with the vagaries of the route, which includes a stage on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix in the opening week.
Officially unveiled in Paris' Palais de Congrès on Wednesday - having been liberally leaked in the press over the past 10 days - the route of the 2014 Tour has just one time trial, on the penultimate day, and arguably features more potential springboards for attackers than either of the past two editions of the race, which were largely controlled by Sky.
"To win the Tour de France, you need a specific strategy for that particular Tour. You can't just have one and keep applying that," said Brailsford, clearly a latter-day adherent of Heraclitus' adage that a man can never step into the same river twice.
"If he's on the same form as this year, Chris can be as good a climber as anybody, so the mountains are an advantage to us. But it is a long time trial [54km between Bergerac and Périgueux], and there'll be some big gaps as fatigue will be an issue. You need to get there in good shape. Everybody will be looking for enough time to take to the time trial, so people are going to have to go on the offensive and that will make for a great race."
While the Yorkshire start may be an auspicious point of departure for Sky, the first truly turbulent waters of the 2014 Tour will be traversed on stage 5, as the peloton rattles across the pavé from Ypres to Arenberg. Froome has already voiced his unease at the prospect of tackling the cobbles, but Brailsford had no complaints about their inclusion.
"I don't think it's too dangerous, otherwise we wouldn't do Paris-Roubaix, would we? So why not put it in a Grand Tour?" Brailsford said. "Of course, there's the risk of a puncture and crash, but it's the same for everyone. A race is a race and it's up to us to prepare as best we can."
Brailsford name-checked Geraint Thomas [a strong performer at Arenberg in the 2010 Tour], Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bradley Wiggins as Sky riders with the capacity to act as Froome's oarsmen on the cobbles, but he also stressed that he has no qualms about the reigning champion's ability to look after himself amid the cut and thrust of the pavé.
"Don't forget that Chris rode the mountain bike race at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. He's a mountain biker of decent level, and he's ridden Paris-Roubaix in the past too," said Brailsford, who ruled out the prospect of Froome riding the 2014 Paris-Roubaix as preparation. "A 'classic-style' stage in a Grand Tour is nothing like a one-day race. Not at all, they're two very different things."
Brailsford was coy on Bradley Wiggins' participation in next year's Tour. "It's too early to speculate about anything," he said, although he did acknowledge that Sky may have stretched itself too thinly by trying to win both the Giro d'Italia and Tour in 2013.
"This year, we wanted to have a good Giro and a good Tour de France, but perhaps next year, that might be different. Maybe we'll go and do more races in the United States for instance. We have a big US partner [21st Century Fox], so that might change our strategy, but it's all to be decided," he said.
"Maybe by creating two Grand Tour teams this year, we diluted the team a little bit. Maybe we'll put all of our best riders in the Tour team [next year]. But we don't know yet, it's not even November yet."
The Tiernan-Locke case
While Brailsford begins planning for the 2014 Tour, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's status with the team and within the sport is yet to be defined. On the day of the world championships road race, Sunday Times' journalist David Walsh, who was embedded with Team Sky in 2013, reported that Tiernan-Locke had been asked by the UCI to explain irregular blood values dating back to September 2012, when he raced for Endura.
Last week it was reported that Tiernan-Locke has been granted an extension to the initial 20 days he was given to present his case to the UCI, although it remains unclear as to when his new deadline might be. Brailsford did not shed any further light on Tiernan-Locke's status and the progress of his case when he was asked about the matter by Cyclingnews.
"It's the same as it was really. He's part of a process in trying to establish the facts. Once the facts have been established, then we'll follow the due process that comes out of that. You've got to work on facts, that's important, and you've got to give people a chance," Brailsford told Cyclingnews.
But does Team Sky have the facts? And if so, does the team support Tiernan-Locke's attempts to clear himself before the UCI?
"The team's had no formal information at all," Brailsford said.
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