Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford was happy to see former Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer at the start of stage 15 in Pamiers but admitted to Holczer that he'd been right when he had warned him that creating a successful professional team is extremely hard work.
With team leader Bradley Wiggins struggling in the mountains and now totally out of overall contention, Brailsford has seen how months of hard work count for virtually nothing. While other teams are fighting for the yellow jersey, a place on the podium or a minor jersey, Team Sky can only hope for a stage victory.
Brailsford admits that the biggest thing the team will take home from the Tour de France will be a lot of harsh lessons learnt about the hardest and biggest race in cycling.
"You can plans as much as you like but there is nothing like doing this race and then going back and reflecting on what you didn't know and learning from it. Even after two weeks, I'm not afraid to say there's a lot we didn't know," he said.
"I'm a novice at this race but I've got a smart group of people around me who learn really quick. Would we change the way we approach things? How we get the best out of people? Certainly not. It's like the Olympics Games, the first one blows you away but by the time you've done three or four, you just take it on. I guess it's the same here. You have to do the hours and we're doing them.
"Last year Brad got fourth and so it was right to go for that again. We're going to evaluate for next year on the basis of this year. However I do think the long term goal of this team is to develop young British riders and see if we can win this race. It's a dream. It might happen, it might not. But it gives us the mission.
"This year Geraint Thomas stepped up and performed at the Tour. I'm confident he did that because he's in the right team environment. If we can do that with Ben Swift, Ian Stannard, Pete Kennaugh and others, and not let our heads drop, absolutely we can create a great team."
Not giving up on Wiggins
Brailsford has often ridden in the lead team car during stages and has seen Bradley Wiggins suffer on the climbs. Brailsford is not certainly giving up on him.
"Bradley is not going as well as we hoped he would do but you've just got to stand there and take it on the chin. There's no point in making excuses," Brailsford said.
"I don't think he's potentially going as well as he was last year. I don't know what the reasons are. We've got some ideas but after the race we'll sit down, debrief and have a look at it. There is a kind of grieving process but we've got to get through the race first before we decide where we next year.
"One of the things I've learnt in the 12 years I've been doing the Olympics programme is that you think something is going to happen but the body gives you a nasty shock. And it's excruciating when it happens. But that's sport. If you want to try and win the big prize and be the hero, you have to accept that you can also lose. If you're not willing to walk the tightrope and face that excruciating pain then you shouldn't get up there."
Keep on fighting
Brailsford has called on the Team Sky riders to fight on and look for stage victories. It is always difficult to get in the attack that sticks in the mountains, that stays away and perhaps means a rider can fight for the stage victory.
"When you're back is against the wall, what do you do? Do you quit? Or do you keep on fighting? What we've talked about is keeping on fighting. You've got to give 100 percent. That's all you can ask of the guys.
"Now, rather than 12th place or whatever, I'm more concerned about the attitude in the team. We'd very much like to win a stage, we've been trying for a few days. We'll keep trying at that. And we've got to keep your head up, keep morale up and keep on going. There's still a week left in the race.
"Nobody wants a lukewarm hero and so if Brad has the legs and is up for it, then in the coming days, I think he would like to get up the road and go down fighting than just riding and getting 20th. That's our goal for the rest of the Tour."
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