Sky team boss Dave Brailsford has admitted his team has learned some harsh lessons at the Tour de France as team leader Bradley Wiggins continues to perform well below expectations.
Wiggins came into the race hoping to do better than his fourth place finish last year, on what was then his first real serious campaign in the race with American outfit Garmin.
Ahead of Tuesday’s tough 16th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau, Wiggins was sitting in 23rd place at 17min 44sec behind overnight leader Alberto Contador of Astana.
Wiggins said before the Pyrenean stages two days ago he was absolutely exhausted, and Brailsford does not know why.
“Bradley is not going as well as we hoped he would do but you’ve just got to stand there and take it on the chin. There’s no point in making excuses,” Brailsford said.
“I don’t think he’s potentially going as well as he was last year. I don’t know what the reasons are. We’ve got some ideas but after the race we’ll sit down, debrief and have a look at it.”
Brailsford, who helped orchestrate the successes of the record-breaking British track team at the past two Olympics, admits Sky will need some more experience on the world’s toughest bike race before expecting real results.
By that time he is hoping the likes of 24-year-old Welshman Geraint Thomas will be ready to challenge for the race’s yellow jersey.
“You can plan as much as you like but there is nothing like doing this race and then going back and reflecting on what you didn’t know and learning from it,” added Brailsford.
“Even after two weeks, I’m not afraid to say there’s a lot we didn’t know.
“It’s like the Olympics Games, the first one blows you away but by the time you’ve done three or four, you just take it on. I guess it’s the same here.
You have to do the hours and we’re doing them.
“Last year Brad got fourth and so it was right to go for that again. We’re going to evaluate for next year on the basis of this year.
“However, I do think the long term goal of this team is to develop young British riders and see if we can win this race. It’s a dream. It might happen, it might not. But it gives us the mission.”
He added: “This year Geraint Thomas stepped up and performed at the Tour. I’m confident he did that because he’s in the right team environment. If we can do that with Ben Swift, Ian Stannard, Pete Kennaugh and others, and not let our heads drop, absolutely we can create a great team.”
“One of the things I’ve learnt in the 12 years I’ve been doing the Olympics programme is that you think something is going to happen but the body gives you a nasty shock.
“And it’s excruciating when it happens. But that’s sport. If you want to try and win the big prize and be the hero, you have to accept that you can also lose.
“If you’re not willing to walk the tightrope and face that excruciating pain then you shouldn’t get up there.”
© AFP 2010