Team Sky manager plans step by step preparation for the Tour de France
Dave Brailsford has followed every stage of the Tour of Oman, carefully supervising the team as it gels as a unit early in the season and helping groom Chris Froome as he begins his long road to becoming the team's leader for the Tour de France.
Brailsford and head coach Tim Kerrison watched Thursday's mountain showdown from the roadside, 300 metres from the finish, so they could cheer on Froome from close up in the key moment of the race.
The British team manager is famous for his self-control and marginal gains but he shouted at Froome as passionately and emotionally as the many ex-pat British cycling fans carry union jacks and wearing Team Sky kit at the finish line.
On Friday, Brailsford rode in the Team Sky team car during the stage as Froome and the team responded to Alberto Contador's series of attacks and then beat the Spaniard in the sprint to win the stage and seal victory.
There is no love lost between Brailsford and Team Saxo-Tinkoff manager Bjarne Riis and Froome's defeat of Contador is making the Tour of Oman especially satisfying.
"It doesn’t matter how long I've been involved in the sport, it still gets me jumping up and down. And I'm glad I'm still feeling that," Brailsford confided to Cyclingnews as he analysed Froome's performance and development during the race.
"For where Chris is at the moment, he showed he's in good shape and has the confidence to take it on in the final. That's a good sign. He's got the self-confidence to attack and go for it," Brailsford pointed out with pride.
“He's had a consistent winter. He's done a lot of good basic training back to back. He's had the consistency and that's the platform you need to build a good season."
The step by step plan
The Tour of Oman will soon slip into the distance as the bigger races appear on the horizon, but the six-day February race will be remembered as Froome's first professional stage race success and his first step towards victory in the Tour de France. That is also Team Sky's plan: preparing Froome with incremental steps of responsibility and hopefully success.
"You build towards the big races by doing it step by step," he explained. "If you come out with some positives from here, it carries on into your training, it goes into the next few weeks, when you're training hard and then you take it to your next race. You build momentum."
"We're starting from zero again this year and it's going to be hard to replicate last year. The key thing is to build the team. We've got new riders in the squad and it's always a bit different with a new group. But being in a position to win overall is a very positive thing."
Brailsford does not have the same close relationship with Froome as he has with Wiggins. That, like Froome's Tour de France leadership ability is a work in progress. However, Brailsford knows the team can head home to Europe on Saturday night knowing that Froome has passed his first test of leadership.
"Chris has a lot of natural but perhaps quiet self confidence," Brailsford explained looking up the road ahead.
"What he needs now is time to practice the leader's role. The more you do it, the more you get used to it and the more you get better at it. If you are calm and confident, you make the right decisions. I think he just needs experience but he's got the ability, that's for sure, so he's a very exciting prospect."
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