Let’s get into battle, says Brailsford as Sky launch attack for hat-trick

David  Brailsford, general manager of Team Sky (Picture: Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images).
David Brailsford, general manager of Team Sky (Picture: Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images).
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Sir Dave Brailsford has laid down the gauntlet to the rest of the 
cycling world, insisting anything they throw at them, Team Sky will be ready to meet.

The mastermind behind British cycling’s rise to the top of the sport is in fighting spirit as he prepares to win a third straight yellow jersey.

Sky line up in Leeds today ahead of the three-week odyssey through Yorkshire and into France with the defending champion, Chris Froome, in their midst.

But Brailsford says the notion of defending a title shows weakness, and that his team are viewing the challenges ahead purely as a glorious chance to claim a hat-trick of Tour de France titles.

A whole host of rivals are out to knock Sky from their perch, from general classification contenders like Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Rui Costa, to the world’s media, who are looking for any signs of vulnerability in the dominant squad’s armoury.

Brailsford’s message is ‘Bring it on’.

“We’re about trying to win, and have been for 15 years,” said Brailsford, who transformed track cycling in Britain before breaking new ground on the road in the greatest race of all.

“You’ve got to be up for the fight and sport is an environment where people challenge you.

“The harder it is, the better it is for us. We want to get out there and fight because we want to win.

“A defensive team that is worried might not be as successful. Sport’s not about having a defensive mindset, it’s about wanting to fight, wanting to win, wanting to test yourself.

“You cannot win all the time, but if you want to win big, massive events, you’ve got to be willing to have big, massive losses as part of that process.

“This is what I live for, this is what the team lives for – let’s get into battle.

“As with all situations, you try and take control of what you can control. You want to be pro-active not reactive.

“We think about our competitors but don’t worry about them. We think about how we’re going to beat them and you build around that.

“I think the challenges are invigorating.”

With all the interest surrounding himself, his team leader and the rest of the Sky squad, the ‘home’ team at Yorkshire’s Grand Départ have exuded confidence and a transparency from the moment they arrived at their Rudding Park base near Harrogate on Wednesday.

They have been open with the media and welcoming to fans, something they hope to continue over the next three days in Yorkshire and then into London.

They look a team comfortable in their status as the men to beat.

This confidence and positivity comes from the man at the top – Brailsford.

“I don’t tend to get nervous,” Brailsford told The Yorkshire Post.

“Pressure is a figment of your imagination, it’s not a real thing so, for me, once you’ve sat back and thought about pressure and why people feel pressure it’s because they think about the consequences of what could happen.

“That’s not going to help anyone in a competitive environment. What you want to think about is the fight that’s in front of you, so now is the time to think about the process of analysing and getting ready; are we focused, are we dialled in?

“Between now and the start of that race what can we do with every single minute, every single hour to make sure we’re ready for that fight when it starts?

“The outcome will look after itself. If you worry too much about the outcome and what might happen then you’re not worrying enough about the pressure.

“So no, I don’t feel pressure. I’m excited, I’m not nervous. It’s an opportunity, not a threat.

“The fact that it’s here in Britain, starting in Yorkshire, is a privilege really so how could you be nervous or feel pressure about that?”

When he started out on the journey to Tour de France glory, Brailsford concedes he could never have envisaged an occasion like this weekend.

He said: “I remember sitting down when we started to think about a road team seriously and thinking about our aims and ambitions, and we thought ‘Could you imagine if it would be possible to get a cyclist famous enough that some young guy would actually stick a poster of them on the wall instead of a footballer? Would that be possible?’

“We thought that would be a bit of a stretch, but we’ll go for it anyway.

“And now I’m pretty sure that people would have pictures of the country’s leading cyclists on the wall; they are household names and the biggest race coming here as well is the stuff of dreams.

“But it just goes to show what, with a good strategy, good planning, good teamwork and some real ambition, can be achieved.

“In the same way we have been successful over the years at the Olympics and the Tour de France, Yorkshire’s team have been successful in bringing the Tour here through a great plan.”

The posters that now adorn those walls are likely to be of Sir Bradley Wiggins, the most decorated cyclist in British history.

He has seven Olympic medals to his name – four of them gold – and two years ago he became the first Briton to win the yellow jersey.

But he is not here this weekend racing the Tour de France on home soil.

The man who does lead the challenge over the next three weeks for Britain may not have the star billing of Wiggins, but in 29-year-old Froome, Brailsford believes the nation have an alternative hero who youngsters can aspire to emulate.

“Chris is a fantastic role model, he’s got a great personality and he’s a great champion,” said Brailsford.

“When you’re looking for role models in life, what do you look for?

“You look for people with good morals and ethics, how they deal with challenges and handle life. Can you emulate them and do they set a good example to youngsters?

“Chris sets a fantastic example for the young people of this country to model themselves on.

“The thing about cycling is it’s a sport of great suffering and they make it look easy, but it’s not.

“It’s a sport of great suffering and hardship, and it takes a special character to compete in the hardest race in the world and win it and then come back and try and do it again.

“Chris is already a role model and the more people that get to know Chris Froome the man, the better.”