Wednesday 20 February 2019

Brailsford takes aim at UCI as Froome row hots up

Team Sky boss says cycling chief Lappartient has a ‘local French mayor’s mentality’

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan celebrates winning yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France at La Roche-sur-Yon Photo: Reuters
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan celebrates winning yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France at La Roche-sur-Yon Photo: Reuters

Tom Cary

Another viciously hot day in the Vendee saw tempers flare as well as temperatures, with Dave Brailsford getting particularly hot under the collar.

Team Sky's principal launched a verbal broadside on the UCI president David Lappartient of which Napoleon Bonaparte - founder of La Roche-sur-Yon way back in 1804 - would have been proud, accusing the head of cycling's world governing body of having "a local French mayor kind of mentality", of failing to understand his responsibilities as president, and of having adopted a "biased" and "nationalistic" view on Chris Froome's salbutamol case.


It was astonishing stuff. Brailsford took a risk with his comments. Team Sky are already deeply unpopular with many French fans, given their stranglehold of this race in recent years, and especially given all the controversies which have dogged them during that period.

So having a go at the newly elected French president of cycling's world governing body was a bold move.

But it was a calculated one. With Froome having been cleared of any wrongdoing in the salbutamol affair, Sky have adopted a more aggressive and confident tone in recent days.

They are trying to get back on the front foot, having spent months fending off criticism - some of it from Lappartient, who effectively accused Sky of cheating back in the spring.

Off the bike, Team Sky have sought to put pressure on the UCI and on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who it is thought may have access to unpublished studies which might well have exonerated Froome several months ago.

On it, despite Froome's fall and loss of time on stage one, they are also about to go on the attack.

Specifically in today's team time trial, which Sky have high hopes of winning. If they do, today could well end with Geraint Thomas - currently seventh in the general classification, 15 seconds off the lead - in the yellow jersey.

Yesterday, things got messy with 2km remaining when a tight right-hander brought down a number of riders, including the yellow jersey of Fernando Gaviria (QuickStep-Floors).

British sprinter Mark Cavendish was caught behind the crash, ensuring the Dimension Data rider was again unable to contest the finale, which was eventually won by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), the world champion taking the yellow jersey from Gaviria.

Sagan is unlikely to be able to hang on to it today, with Bora-Hansgrohe not expected to trouble the top teams in the TTT.

QuickStep could be a better shout, which would put Gaviria back in yellow. But Sky, now that they have rediscovered their bite, will be confident of putting Thomas in yellow.

"I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he started," Brailsford said of Lappartient, who has indeed been the mayor of a small town in Brittany, Sarzeau (with a population of 6,143).

"I thought 'Right, okay, he is new to the job, he obviously doesn't quite understand the responsibilities of a presidential role'. (But) I think he has still got the kind of local French mayor kind of mentality.

"I think if you want to be the president of an international federation, then protect everybody in that international community.

"Don't take a French angle or a nationalistic view. I think he is still learning that, really." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Tour de France, Live TG4, 2.0/ Eurosport 1, 3.05/ ITV4, 1.45

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