Team Sky’s stage racing dominance has been one of the features of the season to date, but directeur sportif Nicolas Portal has insisted that there are “no secrets” behind the British team’s success.
Sky have picked up where they left off at the end of their 2012 campaign and have already claimed overall victory at the Tour of Oman, Paris-Nice and Critérium International in the new season.
“We have no secrets, we follow our own path,” Portal told Biciciclismo, though he acknowledged that Sky’s success has not been universally popular. “But they are not comments from other riders, we don’t feel some thing special in the peloton. We’re following the best path we can, which is our own. We always have. We don’t have secrets.”
Sky’s startling level was highlighted starkly by their control of the final stage of Critérium International. After Vasil Kiryienka strung out the peloton on the lower slopes of the Col d’Ospedale, Chris Froome powered clear to claim the stage and overall victory, while Richie Porte jumped away from the chasers near the summit to complete a one-two for Team Sky.
“During Critérium International, some French journalists told me that the team was riding too strongly. But I said, [Jean-Christophe] Péraud was only 15 seconds down on Porte, is he too strong too? It’s not a big difference, just a few seconds in the last three kilometres,” Portal said.
While Sky’s “marginal gains” philosophy and training camps at Mount Teide are the subject of much interest and scrutiny, Portal said that the team’s recruitment policy was a hugely important part of its success.
“We simply have good people. The hardest job is to get the most out of every rider in every situation,” Portal said. “I think that cycling is much cleaner now and much truer. Everything is more normal now. Yes, we have a strong team but the others are too and it will much harder from now on because everybody is preparing for the Tour.”
Sky’s hopes at this week’s Tour of the Basque Country are carried by Richie Porte and Sergio Henao, and both riders finished in the leading group on stage 1 to Elgoibar, won by Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge).
“We have two options. Richie certainly has more possibilities because he is stronger in the time trial. Sergio is very good and is progressing in the time trial in every race that he does. So we want to help them both go well in the general classification.”