Sky want to fo­cus on cy­cling

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

DUESSELDORF: It is fair to say that Team Sky boss Dave Brails­ford will be happy to talk strat­egy, gear ra­tios and Chris Froome’s form for as long as any­one is lis­ten­ing over the next few weeks.

It would be a ‘com­fort zone’ for the 53-year-old who has found him­self, and the team he has built into the most for­mi­da­ble rac­ing out­fit in the pelo­ton, mired in con­tro­versy over jiffy bags, ther­a­peu­tic use ex­emp­tions (TUEs) and even a sup­posed ‘cul­ture of fear’ in Bri­tish Cy­cling.

Quite sim­ply, Team Sky have had bet­ter years.

In March Bri­tish MP Damian Collins, chair­man of the De­part­ment of Cul­ture Me­dia and Sport select com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing a de­liv­ery to Bradley Wig­gins at the 2011 Cri­terium du Dauphine, said Team Sky’s cred­i­bil­ity was in tat­ters over its fail­ure to prove that the pack­age de­liv­ered to the race was le­gal de­con­ges­tant Fluimu­cil.

The saga, which be­gan when a Bri­tish news­pa­per claimed last year the “jiffy bag” or­dered by for­mer team doctor Richard Free­man con­tained the cor­ti­cos­teroid tri­am­ci­nolone, has dragged on and ex­posed holes in Team Sky’s med­i­cal record keep­ing.

Brails­ford, who was grilled by MPs over the mys­tery of the de­liv­ery, has ad­mit­ted that his team, well-known for its painstak­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail had been guilty of “process fail­ures” but came back fight­ing, in­sist­ing that there was no ques­tion, or proof of any wrong­do­ing.

All that in the wake of Wig­gins and Froome be­ing caught up in the Fancy Bears hack­ing at­tack on the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) med­i­cal files – leaks high­light­ing Wig­gins’ TUEs for tri­am­ci­nolone be­fore win­ning the 2012 Tour de France to treat asthma and al­ler­gies.

With UK Anti-Dop­ing (UKAD) con­tin­u­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing in a sport that has be­come a source of Bri­tish pride, Team Sky’s rid­ers, headed by Froome, will roll off in Duesseldorf tomorrow un­der a cloud.

And with the world’s me­dia fol­low­ing their ev­ery pedal stroke there will be no hid­ing place.

Brails­ford ap­pears re­signed to some try­ing days ahead.

“When we go to the Tour de France ev­ery year, ever since we started, it has been a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment for us as a team to go there and win the race, so I ex­pect no dif­fer­ence in that sense,” he said in the build-up.

“From an in­ves­ti­ga­tion point of view, we will wait for the out­come of that, but I am very con­fi­dent there is no wrong­do­ing.

“As far as the Tour goes, we are very fo­cused on the race.”

In their pre-Tour news con­fer­ence, Brails­ford was grilled by the me­dia over the team’s cred­i­bil­ity.

“I’ve been in­volved in this sport a long time, and I’ve tried to do it ab­so­lutely in the way that I’ve al­ways thought it should be done,” he said.

“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in this sport, proud of this team and proud to be sit­ting here and to be get­ting ready for the race.”

It has been a mixed year on the road too.

Team Sky’s hopes of win­ning the Giro d’Italia for the first time were scup­pered when joint lead­ers Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa were both brought down in a crash caused by a po­lice mo­tor­bike on stage nine.

There is plenty of room for op­ti­mism though with Froome backed by a for­mi­da­ble line-up – in­clud­ing Paris-Nice win­ner Sergio He­nao and fel­low climb­ing aces Landa and Mikel Nieve.

Trusty side­kick Thomas will also be at Froome’s call as will Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski who in March claimed Team Sky’s big­gest one-day tri­umph by win­ning Mi­lan-San Remo.

That tri­umph was over­shad­owed by the furore sur­round­ing the team’s med­i­cal prac­tices and Sky can only hope the fo­cus in the days ahead will be on Froome’s bat­tle for the yel­low jersey. – Reuters

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