At the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Dave Brailsford cut a quiet and focussed figure. At the finish line and with his rider Juan Antonio Flecha on the top step of the podium little of the Sky boss’ demeanour had changed. His arms remained folded, and eyes fixed firmly on the podium as he talked to reporters. Occasionally he’d break from statue, hugging and congratulating one of his riders as they crossed the line. Every one of them greeted with a bear-like embrace and beaming grin.
"I’m super happy for him," Brailsford said as Flecha stepped onto the top-step of the Omloop podium for the first time in his career.
"He’s been knocking on the door for such a long time and he was getting the reputation for getting to the end and not being able to finish it off but he showed everyone today that he was super strong. He was strong and did a fantastic job."
Flecha signed for Sky after serving at Rabobank for four years and despite numerous placing in the Classics, lacked the big win to join Oscar Friere as one of Spain’s true one-day superstars. That 'nearly-man' tag over-shadowing a career that includes a Tour de France stage win.
"He’s a confidence guy," Brailsford explained. "He needs the right environment to do what he can do. I think a lot of people think we’re a cold and faceless, business like team and I think if you ask the riders inside what it’s like you find it’s not like that at all."
Brailsford and his Sky team had come in for criticism from some quarters within the sport for their racing tactics in the Tours of Qatar and Oman but Brailsford let his riders do the talking today.
"You come in with a certain intention. You plan it and then you try and put it into action. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but with the team of riders we’ve got I always thought we’d be strong in these types of races. It takes pressure of everybody."
"I’m not bothered about what other teams say," he added. "Everyone seems like they want to talk about us but I don’t want to talk about any other team. It’s not the done thing as far as I’m concerned. We’re focussed on what we can do and what we can control and race in a way that we want.
"Whatever other teams want to do - if they want to spend time talking about us then congratulations to them - it doesn’t interest us. They might think they’re goading us but I can’t engage in it. It’s petty, let's just ride bikes. I don’t think about anyone else."