Tour de France: Brailsford raises curtain with British Academy stars

“It’s box office time,” declared Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford as he introduced Chris Froome and his supporting actors and crew ahead of this year’s Tour de France.

The British team enter the race with a genuine favourite in their ranks with Froome – the winner in 2013 – looking somewhere near his best after a win in the Dauphiné last month and Brailsford has assembled arguably Team Sky’s strongest line up for the race in their short but successful history.

He was quick to play down such notions at the team’s pre-race press conference in Utrecht, instead choosing to play on the Britishness of the squad and the strength of their collective spirit – an element that will need to be displayed throughout the race if they are to maintain Froome’s challenge.

“Honestly it’s dangerous to compare teams year on year. The courses are different and what we need to do is think whether or not we’ve put the best possible team out in the best possible shape to deliver our strategy, and I'd say absolutely.”

Froome will be supported by Leopold König and Richie Porte in the mountains while Peter Kennaugh, Wout Poels, Nicolas Roche and Geraint Thomas will ride across all terrain for their leader. Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard add further steel to the team’s core.

“Each one of these guys has warranted their place on the team and what I do like about the team is that from a British point of view, we’ve known these guys since they were juniors and they’ve grown up together and been through the British Cycling academy together. To think that they’ve come all the way through the system and here they are, it’s quite a story,” Brailsford said.

Brailsford was also asked about the team’s motorhome - or lack of – after the UCI ruled that team’s must all stay together in hotels and the manager was quick to point out that his thirst for legal and technological advantages were at the core of his ethos. However the motorhome debate – at least at the Giro d’Italia - seemed more of distraction than a benefit at times.

Brailford will be well aware that the group of nine that he has assembled must improve on a tally that has seem them win two Grand Tour stage wins since the end of 2013.

“All the best riders are here and all on form. There’s a lot of expectation and anticipation but we’re looking forward to getting started. The guys are in great shape, it’s a super team but it’s been very difficult to get the final selection right, as always, for what we believe will be out strategy but one thing is for sure, we have absolute confidence in this group. Who knows what will happen but what I do know is that 100 per cent, this group will pull together and leave everything out there on the road.”

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