Doubt has arisen over Chris Froome’s confidence in Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, as the three-time Tour de France champion failed to clearly endorse his boss during a pre-season media gathering in Monaco on Friday.
Brailsford has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as controversies have rocked Team Sky and British Cycling following revelations of Bradley Wiggins’ TUE use and the ‘mystery medical package’ couriered from the UK to France for his use at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
Brailsford's initial attempts at explaining the story away - he claimed that Simon Cope, who delivered the package, was on his way to visit Emma Pooley and that Wiggins couldn't have been treated with the contents on the bus as the bus had left while he was still on podium duties - were swiftly debunked, and he admitted to shortcomings in his handling of the situation as he found himself giving evidence in a parliamentary hearing last month.
It was at that hearing that he finally revealed the contents of the package, explaining that the Team Sky doctor, Richard Freeman, had told him it was the decongestant fluimuicil, though British Cycling have thus far been unable to produce documentary evidence to substantiate that claim.
According to UK daily newspapers, Froome was non-committal when asked on Friday if he felt confident in Brailsford’s explanation.
“I don’t know any different,” he said. “We’ve all been told what was in the package. To be honest, all this stuff it doesn’t really … I’m a bike rider, I’m focused on everything else.”
Froome remained non-committal when asked – on multiple occasions, according to the Telegraph – if he felt Brailsford would have credibility in addressing Sky’s detractors at the upcoming Tour de France.
“That’s not really for me to say,” he responded, tellingly switching the focus back to his personal situation and his own credibility.
“I’d like to think when I get up there and say ‘believe in what I’m doing', that when I stood on the podium in Paris and said ‘these are yellow jerseys that are going to stand the test of time’, that I’m not going to do anything to dishonour these yellow jerseys, that I actually meant what I said and I’m asking people to believe in that.
"My values haven’t changed,” he later added. "I’ve always been very focused in terms of my stance on doping, my stance on riding clean, showing people that it is possible to win the Tour de France clean, to win multiple Tour de Frances clean. That’s what I’m going to continue to do going forward.”
When asked directly if he personally still had faith in Brailsford, Froome echoed comments given to Cyclingnews in October in the midst of the controversy, complimenting Brailsford but stopping short of offering a resounding endorsement of him as the right man to lead the team forward.
“Dave himself has put his hand up and said he has made mistakes,” said Froome. "I think if you look at what Dave has actually done, the team he has put together, I think we’ve got a great group of guys with values in the right place.”
In October, Brailsford received public support from the powers above him, as Graham McWilliam, chairman of the Team Sky board, said the team had the full faith and backing of the corporation. In light of Brailsford’s appearance in front of MP’s – and he may be recalled to give fresh evidence – Cyclingnews has asked McWilliam if his stance remains the same, but he declined to comment.