Dave Brailsford has insisted he will not quit as head of Team Sky despite the intense scrutiny about the way he has managed the Tour de France winning team and, in the past, British Cycling.
Brailsford has become embattled in recent weeks and months as more and more details of the way the team and British Cycling were allowed to operate.
Serious questions have emerged about the way Dr. Richard Freeman worked while at Team Sky and nobody, including Brailsford, has been able to fully explain what was in the mysterious jiffy bag couriered to Team Sky and Dr. Freeman to treat Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. UK Anti-Doping and MPs on a British Parliamentary Committee have investigated the case but not yet managed to get to the bottom of it all.
Brailsford has not spoken to the media since Team Sky's training camp in Mallorca in early January. He was reported to have secretly followed Team Sky at Tirreno-Adriatico from the team bus on Wednesday and Thursday. After Geraint Thomas confirmed Brailsford’s presence at the Italian race, Brailsford seemed ready to come out of hiding on Friday and defend his actions of the past.
Cyclingnews saw him speaking on the phone behind the Team Sky bus at the start of the third stage. He initially refused to comment but then changed his mind and spoke to Cyclingnews and Cycling Weekly at length. He admitted that it has not been an easy time as team manager, but again refuted any wrong doing, both during his time at British Cycling and at Team Sky. He denied he had been hiding and that he intends to continue in his role at the helm of the team.
"Of course I'm not hiding. I'm fine in myself and I've got confidence in my team," Brailsford said, confirming had no plans to throw in the towel and quit.
"No," he said when asked directly if he would quit his position at Team Sky. "My thoughts are about what's good for the team and what's right. We're just here to win as many races as possible and do it the right way and that's my primary concern and that's what I think about.
"I'm disappointed that anything from the past, I'm not saying that there was any wrong doing, but that the current guys within the team get any reflection from something, which has nothing to do with them. I'm very disappointed they have to do that. On the other hand, we've got to move forward. Personally, I'm fine."
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Chris Froome refused to back Brailsford publicly on Tuesday, while other riders, including Thomas, tweeted their support. Yet Brailsford played down the idea he has problems with his team leader.
"We had a good conversation, that's it," was all he would say about Froome.
Brailsford did concede that it is one of the most challenging periods of his 20 years in elite sports management, but said there had been worse moments.
"It's the highest profile. I don't think it's the worst. It's the most high profile, which adds another dimension to it. When the media decides to round up…" he began.
When it was pointed out that there were outside investigations, from UKAD and Parliament, going on into the team's practices, he added. "I've got no gripe with the media. The media are doing a job, like the UK Anti-Doping is doing a job. When you think about it, if there's any issue at any time, you've got to establish the facts. Once you've got the facts, then you can establish whether there was any wrongdoing.
"I welcome the fact that [UKAD] are independently looking at it. It's not me giving my view, which would to a certain extent be perceived to be biased, it's an independent view and then the facts can be established and then the people can make the right decision about what to do going forward.
"My job is to oversee and think, what is best for the team now, the partners, the riders and Chris, and think how do we make sure we perform and win races, which is what we're here to do. On a personal level, I've been through a lot over the years and it's important to make sure that you can look at yourself and say that there has been no wrong doing. I'm confident of that."
Team Sky without Brailsford?
It is has been suggested that Sky would end its involvement in the team if Brailsford stepped away. Team Sky is arguably Team Brailsford and would not be the same without him. He seems determined to fight through the controversy, at least for now, but also hinted the team was bigger than one person and that the wider interests of the team come first.
"It's not for me to answer that but it [the team] is certainly something that I've worked on for a long time," Brailsford said. "I would say that it's something personal for me but it's Team Sky, it's a team and there's a collection of individuals who are all doing a brilliant job and they deserve the opportunity to do their jobs without having to deal with issues that they shouldn't have to deal with. I guess I'm part and parcel of this project but, like I say, from a personal point of view, you've got to put the team first and the riders first and think about what is good for them and what's good for our owners.”
"What is going to make people proud? When I started years and years ago, cycling in Britain when I was riding, there was hardly a sport to speak of. Now we've got millions of people riding bikes. It's a massive sport and I'm proud to have played a part in that. Team Sky and British Cycling have been a part of that and hopefully it will continue to do so in the years to come."