Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has hit back at a question hinting that Chris Froome has not yet gained significant time on his Tour de France rivals because of increased in testing for mechanical doping.
Brailsford sat alongside Froome during questions from 50 or so journalists early on the first rest day in Andorra on Monday. Froome gave polite answers to every question but, as is often the case, Brailsford did not hesitate to interject and give his opinion too.
When a British journalist said that a 'French friend' had suggested to him that extra bike checks – including x-rays – had somehow acted as a deterrent, Brailsford hit back at any kind of Chinese whispers journalism.
"Finding an engine in a bike is a pretty simple thing to do in this day and age," Brailsford said bluntly, raising his voice.
"The technology used to beam the [television] pictures up to the satellite is a lot more complex, and used on a day-to-day basis, than finding a bloody motor in a bike. You just need the right tech to find it. It's binary, you've either got an engine in your bike or you haven't.
"If your friend is asking about thermal imaging or whatever, tell him to get one himself and come and have a look. Froome's bike has been tested more than everyone else's, we get tested every day. We actually had an email from the UCI saying thank you for being the most cooperative team out of everybody when it comes to bike checks and mechanical checking.
"If someone is stupid enough come here with a motor in their bike for sure they will get caught. I think the whole debate about bike testing is something we need to reconsider because there is so much testing now."
More surprise team tactics
Brailsford is happy to fight Froome's corner, often saying the things that the mild-mannered yellow jersey avoids saying. He again called out their rival team for not sharing the work of chasing breakaways during stages.
"I'm surprised that some of the big teams think they can sit on our wheels and then try to win the Tour," he said. "If they think that we're going to ride a very hard tempo and then Chris is going to attack at the end, then that's good. It can be the best strategy but we could also counter attack from within our own team too. That's going to keep our rivals guessing and we'll use that to our advantage."
Brailsford seems confident that Froome can win a third Tour de France but is aware it could be a close race all the way to Paris.
"I think it's going to be a tight race and I've not seen anything to change my mind. The time trials will be critical, as will the stage to Ventoux, then the final block which will be pivotal in whole race," he predicted.
"I think it's going to be a good battle. We've seen Chris attack and two others, we've perhaps seen skirmishes but it's been a compact race. At end of the day, only one team is controlling this race and nobody has managed to make a big attack. It's up to the other teams to start a battle, otherwise we'll continue to control the race as we want to."
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