Team Sky took another step forward in their progression as a team after helping Bradley Wiggins to victory at the Tour de Romandie.
The Brit overturned a nine-second deficit on the final time trial in Crans-Montana to take overall victory - the team's fourth at WorldTour level - battling back from a dropped chain out on course to win the stage.
The success mirrored that of Paris-Nice in February where the 32-year-old dug deep on an uphill time trial to take the win, making him the first man to win both events since 2001.
Even more impressive was the way the team pulled together to defend yellow throughout the race, controlling proceedings for the majority of a combined 676 kilometres in Switzerland on behalf of two different race leaders. Despite burying themselves for the cause Richie Porte and Michael Rogers also finished up fourth and fifth overall respectively.
With time gaps so slender following an early prologue, and with no mountaintop finish included in the parcours, it was no surprise to see the team come under a barrage of attacks.
Unwilling to rest on his laurels, Wiggins admitted the race is another significant step heading towards July.
“We’re getting close now. It’s all looking really good at the moment and we’re ticking all the boxes," he said.
“I think the performances speak for themselves. I’ve got an incredible coaching team behind me now and we’ve really found the right balance. In everything; my home life, the way I train now, the amount of effort I put into what I do and my professionalism on the bike. That’s becoming really consistent now.
“As a team we are performing consistently week in week out now which is the main thing. Without a strong team you are nothing.”
Sports Director Sean Yates has been in the team car for the team’s three stage race victories at 2012 and has seen the riders go from strength to strength when it comes to meeting a challenge head on.
He said: “The plaudits are deserved. It’s the same scenario as Paris-Nice and you have to have a guy to deliver and that was Bradley. This is a tougher race than Paris-Nice and Bradley’s profile is rising. The amount of people wanting to topple us is increasing and you need a team to deal with that and the situations that are thrown at you. We have a fantastic team here and everyone played their role and delivered big time.”
Whether it be chasing down breaks, setting a tempo on the climbs or pacing Wiggins back to the bunch following a stage one puncture, Yates believes the race as a whole stands out as one of the team’s best achievements.
“I said in the Algarve on stage three which Richie [Porte] won that it was a great team performance. Similarly this race throughout, particularly on Saturday, was a fantastic team performance out of the top drawer.
“It’s not the Tour de France but we’re talking one of the biggest races and we’re at the forefront. We’ve won and we’re winning stages. You can’t ask any more. When you sit back and look at the results, the boys deserve a lot of credit.”
Yates was also happy to see the team stay calm on the crucial final stage when Wiggins dropped a chain, revealing: “We could see it was just a question of getting him sorted out and getting back on track and down to business. Obviously it was not ideal, far from it, but we dealt with it in an efficient manner.
“Initially I think there was a surge of adrenaline from Bradley which is only natural but then he settled back down into the rhythm of the race and obviously came up with the result at the end of it.”
Team Principal Dave Brailsford was on hand to see Wiggins clock up the result - his sixth win of the season – but was even more satisfied to see the team developing a race-winning mentality across the board.
Despite paying tribute to the performance of a team which on and off the bike is “becoming a well-oiled machine,” Brailsford is keen to push on and continue to target big results.
“I’m very happy and pleased with the week in Switzerland. Now it’s about moving on to the next one,” he said.
“There was a lot of discussion pre-race about Bradley and Mark riding together. Obviously that has been a positive and I think when you see Mark riding on the front up a second category climb it tells you more than any words can.”
Brailsford also feels that victory in Romandie can provide a boost to the squad heading into the first Grand Tour of the season – the Giro d’Italia which kicks off on Saturday in Denmark.
“Going into the Giro it’s good that Mark and Geraint were here,” he continued. “Geraint worked really hard, topped off by a great start with the prologue. We know he is going superbly well on the track but I think you do need time to transfer and get your road legs back. This couple of days here will just set him up nicely for the Giro.
“I think we’ve got a strong team and morale will be high. This is a win for the entire time, not just the guys in Romandie so I think it boosts everybody. I think they will start the Giro this weekend in a very good place.”