Dave Brailsford had clearly been practising his lines. Standing beyond the finish line at Val Thorens, basking in a seventh Tour de France victory in eight years, the Team Ineos manager repeated the same phrase no fewer than five times: 'Strategy prevailed over chaos, and teamwork over individuals.'
It was a triumphant mantra, and one issued as something of a rebuke to what he perceived as criticism directed his way over the past three weeks.
"A lot of people make judgements very early in the race," he said. "Half-way through, they're calling it. Two thirds of the way through, they're saying, 'We're not strong enough, we don't know what we're doing, etcetera, etcetera.'
"But in the end, despite it being a glorious race, strategy paid off over chaos and teamwork paid off over individuals."
Question marks hovered above Team Ineos until Bernal took yellow on Friday. As Brailsford noted, some felt the team as a whole were a long way short of their previous omnipotence. Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon were hugely disappointing and Wout Poels not quite his usual self, although Dylan van Baarle did rise to the occasion.
Then there was the obvious leadership dilemma, with 2018 champion Geraint Thomas to be balanced against the precocious Egan Bernal. Both were given equal billing, and there were moments of tactical confusion when Thomas countered attacks from Bernal in both the Alps and Pyrenees.
"Everyone was asking, 'Who's the leader?' And we kept saying, 'They'll work together, they'll work it out together,'" Brailsford said.
"Having two guys was always going to be an advantage, which it proved to be in the end. It was teamwork over individuals, and that's what paid off at the end of the day."
As for the strategy over chaos, Brailsford at once hailed the 2019 Tour as "one of the most exciting and unpredictable races", but took pride in his team stamping their authority on it in the end.
The 2019 Tour will go down as Sky/Ineos' seventh in eight years but it was different to the ones that went before. Firstly, they didn't dominate the race in the same way as we've become accustomed to. Secondly, they had two joint leaders for the first real time, and no indication of a preference until the last minute. Thirdly, Julian Alaphilippe flipped the race on its head, depriving them of their customary second-rest-day yellow jersey and redefining the tactical complexion of the race. Then there was Thibaut Pinot, who looked just as strong and well supported as either Bernal or Thomas until injury ruined his chances.
"Credit to Julian Alaphilippe - he died every day for that jersey and held onto it for way longer than anyone expected. He brought a whole new dimension to the race, which we hadn't seen," Brailsford said.
"Thibaut Pinot also made the race, and it was a real shame to see him pull out, very sad actually, because he deserves a lot of credit - what he did in the Pyrenees was fantastic. But in the end, you have chaotic scenarios, but strategy prevails in the end."
Egan Bernal will become the fourth rider to win the Tour de France for Brailsford. With Chris Froome now 34 and Thomas 33, Bernal is surely the future of the ream.
A Tour champion at 22, the Colombian has the world at his feet.
"He's incredibly talented, obviously, but his maturity is beyond his age," Brailsford said when asked to describe Bernal.
"For a 22-year-old, he's so poised, he's a calm guy, he handles himself well, speaks very well, has massive respect for everyone. He's kind, generous, but he's also got that little winning instinct in him. It's just an absolute pleasure to be able to work with him."
Brailsford clearly feels Bernal already has the maturity to handle what he predicts will be a life-changing experience.
"When you're that age, you have to stop and remind them to think about the moment - not the future – and to enjoy the here and now," Brailsford said.
"He's made history, done something no Colombian has done before. He's going to be a national hero, and it's just going to be an incredible experience for him. The thing for him now is to adapt quickly, because it's going to be a big change to his life. We'll help him with that, we've seen a few of our guys have big chances to their lives now."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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