Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has admitted that the team “learnt a lot” from an eventful two days in the Pyrenees that saw team leader Chris Froome take the yellow jersey in dominant fashion before being put on the back foot a day later by his rivals.
Froome currently sits one minute 25 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the general classification after the Tour’s first mountain test.
However he lost his valuable teammate Vasil Kiriyenka on stage nine after the Belarussian failed to finish inside the time limit, a loss attributed partly to the searing heat and partly to his efforts on the previous stage.
Sky’s second GC option and strong mountain domestique Richie Porte also suffered a terrible day, losing almost 18 minutes and slipping from second to 33rd overall, while Peter Kennaugh was lucky to emerge with just superficial injuries from a crash in the opening hour of the stage.
“You always learn more from adversity than you do from success and I think we learnt a lot from yesterday,” Brailsford said at a press conference held by the team on the Tour’s first rest day in Saint Nazaire.
“Unfortunately I’m not going to spell it out,” he added. “We’ve learnt some lessons about how we’re going to race and our strategy going into the rest of the race…about a different way we could have ridden, and a different way we could have handled that situation.”
Sky collectively decided to deploy offensive tactics on the first day that the race visited the high mountains, setting the team to work early on on the Col de Pailheres before Kennaugh, Porte and Froome dropping Sky’s GC rivals on the final summit finish to Ax 3 Domaines.
It was a bold and intentional display, however the aggression may have played its part in their difficulties the following day, with Froome the only rider able to counter the repeated attacks from rival teams Garmin-Sharp, Movistar and Saxo-Tinkoff.
“Yesterday there was an angry peloton who threw everything they had at us,” Porte said, adding he attributed his time loss to “a bad day.”
“I think it was a special day,” he said. “It makes for great viewing at home; it was absolute war. That was the first time this year that I’ve really been put to the sword by the other guys.”
“It left me feeling very comfortable knowing that Richie was in second place and we did have that second card to play,” said Froome, who spoke concisely but confidently. “Obviously it does make it clear that we are here for me to look at the GC and that’s our only goal at the moment. But from my side I think it’s a huge shame that we don’t have that second card to play, and for Richie.”
“If you want to be aggressive and take it on this early in a race, then I think you run a risk,” Brailsford added. “Maybe one of the reasons why we haven’t been so aggressive in the past is that it runs with an element of risk. There’s a safer strategy, which is that you rely on time trials to give you your advantage and then you defend in the mountains, which is pretty much what we did to win last year.”
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