Dave Brailsford has once more defended his Tour de France selection after Bradley Wiggins criticized his former boss for leaving both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas at home.
In an interview conducted by Sporza at the start of stage 17 of the race, Brailsford said that his decisions were based on facts and data and that he would make the same Tour selection again if given the chance.
Wiggins, who a couple of weeks ago backed Brailsford’s decision to base the team around Egan Bernal and leave Froome and Thomas at home, began to change his tune after Bernal started to lose time in the mountains and on his Eurosport podcast, the 2012 winner went even further, saying that Brailsford would have been sacked if Ineos’ poor Tour de France performance had come in football.
“It’s hard to stay on top every year and this year they’ve just not got it right. I don’t know what’s happened there. For a team that’s performance orientated and such planning that goes into their seasons, it’s just not worked for them for one reason or another. Had it been football, Dave Brailsford would be out,” Wiggins said.
“That’s how football works but Dave has been here before and they’ll restructure and re-plan and come back next year with a full line-up. With the world going back to normal, that will help.”
The team pulled Bernal from the race on the morning of stage 17 with his Tour de France officially over and Brailsford has not been able to explain in detail as to why his team have been collectively off the pace – especially in both the Dauphine and the Tour – but he tried to play down Wiggins’ criticism when talking to Sporza.
“He’s got a lot to say for himself, Bradley. He’s a funny guy,” Brailsford said. “I know him very well so I can take it with a pinch of salt. Funnily enough he was in agreement to start with when I took those decisions and now he’s not.
“Listen, I like Bradley. He was brilliant for us. He’s entitled to his opinion but I would never judge myself by someone else’s narrative. He’s on telly, he’s a pundit. I’ll judge myself by looking in the mirror and making my own decisions, and listen to the people around me that I trust. He’s a funny guy but I’m not concerned with what Bradley thinks.”
Ineos came into the Tour as not just the defending champions but also team that has won the race every year bar one since 2012. This edition has been akin to their lukewarm performance in 2010, when Wiggins himself fell apart when leading the squad, and they had to pursue stage wins. Brailsford admitted that the responsibility for this year’s showing completely rested on his shoulders but that time was needed for him and his backroom staff to analyze where they had gone wrong.
“We’ve won it seven times in eight years and every now and then you need a kick in the balls and that’s what we’re getting right now,” he said.
“We’ve pulled Egan out today which was an agreement. He started off really well, which was great but then he had that phase where he didn’t perform at his normal level and he had a couple of days where he was really empty. Then after the rest day we thought lets monitor that but yesterday he had a bit bit of pain and he didn’t feel himself at all.”
Brailsford was specifically asked if there had been a problem with the team’s preparation given that they finished first and second last year and came into the race with a squad that should have done better.
“I don’t know if something went wrong but I think they’re separate issues. I think that Egan was in really good shape. Obviously he’d been back in Colombia during lockdown and the other guys have been more in Europe.
“It’s important to go through everything when you don’t perform to the level you hope for so you can understand where do we change where and what do we need to do to improve. You also have to respect the competition. We’ve won this race many times but every now and then you’re going to lose it.”