"My thoughts are about what's good for the team and what's right" says Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford
He watched his cyclists ride off to the start of Tirreno-Adriatico‘s stage three in central Italy on Friday. Geraint Thomas stepped off the bus with a smile, having won the stage on Thursday afternoon in Pomarance.
Brailsford turned his attention to a telephone conversation. The discussion could have been about Thomas’s solo win or about an impending, and reportedly damning, independent report into the culture at British Cycling.
“I’ve got nothing to say,” Brailsford told Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews as he headed to the front door of Sky’s bus.
“No,” he said when asked if he was thinking about quitting the British WorldTour team that he started in 2010.
“My thoughts are about what’s good for the team and what’s right. We’re just here to win as many races as possible and do it the right way and that’s my primary concern and that’s what I think about.”
Currently the team is under attack and cyclists like Thomas are left to answer the media’s questions about issues that revolve around Brailsford, Doctor Richard Freeman and Bradley Wiggins.
Watch: Dave Brailsford questioned by Select Committee
If Brailsford did step aside to allow things to cool down, it is hard to imagine how the ship could still sail without its main architect. Brailsford did not have that answer, either.
“It’s not for me to answer that but it’s certainly something that I’ve worked on for a long time. I would say that it’s something personal for me, but it’s Team Sky, it’s a team and there’s a collection of individuals who are all doing a brilliant job and they deserve the opportunity to do their jobs without having to deal with issues that they shouldn’t have to deal with,” he continued.
“I guess I’m part and parcel of this project but, like I say, from a personal point of view, you’ve got to put the team first and the riders first, and think about what is good for them and what’s good for our owners.
“What is going to make people proud.”
Brailsford, 53, looked as fit as ever. Despite the storm brewing at home in Great Britain, he smiled comfortably next to Sky’s black bus.
“I’ve done it a long time. Managing people has never been easy, never has been. There’s always issues. There’s always an issue, it’s always difficult. Over the years, you learn to deal with that and you try to deal with the issues and do the right thing,” he explained.
“I think one of the key things in general is to step back and dispassionately look at the facts. I think that’s important so that you don’t get caught up in the emotion of it all and react emotionally.
“My job is to oversee and think, what is best for the team now, the partners, the riders and Chris [Froome] and think how do we make sure we perform and win races, which is what we’re here to do.”
Brailsford’s name, though, is in the British daily newspapers frequently, not for the team’s performance, but for issues stemming back to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné and Freeman’s actions.
“It appears as though the ship is sailing through the worst of storms with the biggest sporting events like the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France on the immediate horizon that deserve 100 per cent of his attention.
“It’s the most high profile [issue yet]. I don’t think it’s the worst,” he added. “It’s the most high profile, which adds another dimension to it.”
In recent days, more than half of the team’s riders wrote in support of Brailsford staying onboard as principal. Chris Froome, who is returning to Europe from a South African training camp, was notably quiet.
The three-time Tour de France winner has reached out to Brailsford. He kept the chat private and said, “We had a good conversation, that’s it.”
Claudio Lucchini, Sky’s bus driver, leaned out the door to get Brailsford’s attention. Brailsford, who seemed to be enjoying the chat, turned away and climbed on board for a ride south to the stage finish in Montalto di Castro.