David Brailsford joined the Team Sky camp on the eve of Paris-Roubaix, in Belgium today. The team manager had spent the last few months focussing on the Track World Championships in Denmark with Team GB but ahead of Roubaix called on his team to perform to their best ability in the squad's first ever 'Hell of the North'.
"From a team's perspective what do we want from this weekend? We only ask for one thing and that's that the lads do their best and if they give their best we're happy with their best. That will be enough to make them competitive. If every one of these guys gets off their bikes and says I couldn't have done any more that's success and the rest will follow. That's genuine and that's how we try to work," he said.
"In terms of the actual riders and the performance so far, if we take the past as a predictor for the future, and you look at the recent results, you'd expect a very strong performance at the weekend. That makes us very happy."
Sky has had a successful start to their debut season within the professional ranks. They've been victorious in eight races and last month won a wild card place in the Tour de France, where they'll hope to propel Bradley Wiggins to the top of the overall.
"From my perspective if we take a broader look at things in this moment in time we're very happy and I know that our partners are very happy with the progress of the team and the performances and the results. To that end I think we're going into this weekend in a really good place," he said.
"I think across the board everyone has committed themselves really well. It's been about the riders, trying to give these guys voice, to try and make it a team for them and while its a very easy thing to say it's a difficult thing to do. So we're working hard to try and stick to our values."
Balancing track and road
Team GB was beaten into second place during the recent world championships, although the performance was a marked improvement on their 2009 medal tally. However, Brailsford believes his personal role is to oversee success on both track and road and that neither should be compromised. "One of the challenges of my role is that I've been preoccupied with the Worlds in Copenhagen. But the important thing is to have team who I trust, can delegate to and rely upon to work in the way I want to move forward."
With the Worlds out of the way, Brailsford and his management team of Steve Peters and Shane Sutton can turn their gaze back to the road, where Scott Sunderland has been leading the team. "Now that the Worlds are out of the way Steve, myself and Shane have hit the ground running. Shane is in Spain right now and from now on we'll be getting some much more hands-on time."
Brailsford believes that managing his track and road commitments is possible due to the structure within their set-up. "Quite honestly, you have to focus on one thing or the other and if you try focus on two things at once you end up diluting and neither is optimal. So I put all my focus on the track for a couple of months."
Asked if riders such as Michael Barry or Juan Antonio Flecha cared if the track team were successful and if they needed full-time support from Brailsford, he said "That's true, they don't give two hoots but you've got to be careful, my job is to create a structure that allows the riders to perform regardless of my presence. The executive of a major company isn't in everyone's office. You've got to have strong senior and middle management.
"My responsibility is to come in and look at the working practices, are the riders getting what they need. I not going to coach or train them but I'll will sit down with them and discuss how we can make it better."
Brailsford confirmed that James Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, is likely to attend the race on Sunday. News Corporation owns Sky and has heavily invested in cycling. Murdoch is yet to join the team at a race but is rumoured to ride in a team car during the race.
"He may well visit the race as part of the team. He's a keen cycling fan and I think it's race he'd enjoy. It'll be his first race."