Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has said he would be open to releasing more data from his riders in the future, and has made a personal plea to UCI President Brian Cookson to implement a wider system of data collection.
Chris Froome earned the British team a third Tour de France victory in four years in 2015, and such was the level of speculation he was forced to stomach, Sky took the step of releasing – mid-race – power data from the Pierre Saint Martin climb, where he had taken a stranglehold on the yellow jersey. Froome then took the extra step of subjecting himself to independent physiological testing after the race, the results of which were made public in December.
Speaking to Cyclingnews and a small gathering of journalists at Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca, Brailsford told of how he recently wrote to Cookson asking him to lead the way in encouraging teams to release power numbers and other data in a clear and structured manner.
“What I wrote to Brian was, for the health of the sport, for the good of sport across the board, wouldn’t it be better if the UCI took a lead and said ‘you know what guys, all of you [teams] should release this data, in this format, at this moment in time’? said Brailsford.
“So that there’s no ‘will they won’t they’, [no] ‘what are you going to do Dave? Are you going to do something or are you not going do it?’ It’s actually all sorted before the season starts, everyone knows what’s going to come, everyone knows what’s expected, and off we go and deliver it, across all teams – not just one rider, one team, but all teams do the same thing.
“It’s like a protocol for it if you like, and [with] that type of thing there’s no question about the judgment about why are we doing it, what we are willing to do – it’s just done. I think those types of initiatives will take us a long way. It’s not just about Sky, or Chris, it’s about everybody and I think that some steps like that would potentially take us in a better direction.”
Team Sky was launched with an express commitment to clean riding and high ethical standards, and as such they have regularly been challenged about the extent to which their actions meet those initial statements.
Brailsford said the team is “constantly looking at ourselves and thinking about how we can play a leadership role in trying to move the sport forward”, and he didn’t just stop at the idea of a system in the mould of a power passport; he would encourage even more extensive measures that might involve all WorldTour teams having live-in anti-doping personnel to monitor them more closely.
“I’d have a group of anti-doping guys who rotate between the teams and are with us 24/7,” said the 51-year-old.
“We spend all this time on the road and it wouldn’t be that difficult for an anti-doping person to be here with us all the time, go to every bedroom, go and see what we’re doing. If someone was cheating, it wouldn’t be difficult [to catch them] – they’d have to have it somewhere, be doing something at some time. If they lived here 100 per cent of the time, they’d find out, surely.
“Get out there, get amongst it. It would be cheaper, and way more effective.”
The ill feeling directed at Froome and the team at the 2015 Tour was more intense than ever, and they faced a barrage of questions, along with a headache over how best to calm things down and engage with the speculative voices.
Brailsford opened up about what it was like to go through the ordeal, and admitted that there were shortcomings in the way he and his staff dealt with the situation in the thick of it.
“I guess its tricky because you’re right in the guts of a Tour de France and you’re in competition mode – fight mode,” explained the Team Sky boss.
“It’s not the same as sitting here and being calm. You’re in a competition, and I’m not sure that moment in time is the most logical time to be thinking how to do PR or whatever. It’s a different mindset.
“Certainly for me, when we’re in it, I’m in it, and I’m not sure I’m the best equipped at that moment in time to be the most engaging, maybe.”