Brailsford: We want to be the world's best team

Sky boss says belief in Froome has rocketed because of 2014 struggles

Back in 2010, when Team Sky entered the sport, Dave Brailsford declared that their objective was to win the Tour de France with a clean British rider and encourage a million people to take up cycling in the UK. Having achieved and surpassed those goals, Brailsford has said the next target for his team is to keep improving and to be considered the world’s best by 2020.

Speaking during Team Sky’s media day at their winter training base at Alcudía in Majorca, the British team’s manager stated: “The whole idea for us is that you’ve got to get better. That’s whole point of being involved in sport. You’ve got to have it in your DNA to improve. That means that by 2020 we’d like to be considered as indisputably the best and most consistent cycling team in the world.”

Brailsford explained that achieving this will require Sky to continue to be successful in the grand tours but also achieve more in the Classics. “The Monuments are an area that are obviously lacking and we’d like to get one of those on our palmarès. From that point of view there is an opportunity there to be become a more complete team from a performance point of view,” he said.

He added: “The quest to stay ahead is something that we really thrive on, we want to challenge the status quo, which I think we did when we arrived – we don’t want to be just another team, so we will continue to disrupt and challenge, you have to keep asking questions.”

Brailsford acknowledged that Sky’s marginal gains have been adopted by other teams and that those teams have caught up with the British outfit. But he insisted, “Our challenge is to stay ahead of the game. We spent some time thinking about what it is that we in the backroom staff actually enjoy as a group. After a lot of discussion, we came back to the idea that we love that process of development and continuous improvement. Winning is the outcome but it is striving for that outcome that really motivates us.”

Brailsford explained that the task of improving has been fired by the arrival of new members of the backroom staff, including former British Cycling coach Simon Jones, who is looking after performance support and innovation. “You get to a point when a group of people who’ve worked together over a certain period of time get aligned, and before you know it you can all be coming up with the same solution to a problem when there might have been discussion, a degree of tension between us four or five years earlier. You realize that you need a couple of disrupters, people who will play devil’s advocate, who are going to ask questions and challenge us, and that’s what we’ve got now,” he said.

Evidently, Sky’s roster of riders has been spiced up too, and Brailsford described the team’s new arrivals as adding to the sense of a fresh start. “It does feel like the end of one chapter and the start of another, and that’s what happens with sports teams,” he said. “If you look at Manchester United under Alex Ferguson, there were four or five iterations of teams with different generations of players, who were all brilliant. It’s quite interesting how you transition from one group to another, and maintaining a high level of performance as you do is a very difficult thing. For me, it was that little bit that Alex Ferguson was the world’s best at.”

Brailsford described Sky’s first chapter as being about Bradley Wiggins, the Tour de France and the 2012 Olympics. Now, he says, a new generation is about to pick up the baton. “We’ve got the likes of Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Richie Porte, Ben Swift and Luke Rowe maturing and coming into the prime of their careers, and that’s really exciting for us.

“The first part of the story was very much about having Bradley involved and we’ll see the final bit of his contribution at the end of Paris-Roubaix, which will be a brilliant thing. But it does feel like a fresh start, and I think the great thing about it is it provides new opportunities. We’ve seen it before at British Cycling where we’ve had big, big characters, and it’s not until they step aside that other people step up,” he said.

Chris Froome has, of course, already stepped up, succeeding Wiggins as the Tour champion in 2013, and Brailsford asserted that Froome’s status as Sky’s top man increased in 2014 despite the setbacks he’d suffered. “You’d be surprised how high the regard for Chris Froome is as a leader, they’ve got massive respect for him,” said the Team Sky boss.

“It’s the little things that he does, like communicating well with them. And when he’s hanging on by his fingernails and suffering on the climbs like he was at the Vuelta, you can’t believe the impact that has. When the lads watch someone suffer like that it does wonders for the team. Their belief and respect for him goes through the roof.”

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