As the achievement of winning the Tour de France begins to slowly sink in, we caught up with Team Sky Sports Director Sean Yates for his views on how the race panned out and the part each rider played in reaching Paris in yellow.
Heading into the event as one of only four Brits in history to have donned the famous maillot jaune, Yates is better placed than many to look back at what has been an historic three weeks for Team Sky.
British cycling produced its first Tour victor in the long and prestigious history of the race, but Bradley Wiggins was helped to his goal by an Austrian, a Norwegian, a Belarusian, a German, two Australians and two fellow Brits. With a backroom staff of multiple nationalities, this was truly a team effort.
The day after the race Yates spoke about how the team came together and the role each rider played in a memorable Tour.
“When we picked the team we had to pick someone for every possible role and it was not an easy decision to just pick nine guys,” he admitted.
“Bradley was the team leader and in the end he delivered on every level. What more can you say that hasn’t already been said? This performance has been a culmination of the hard work and the belief which has grown over the last six months, not only in Bradley but as a team.
“He’s grown so much in stature over the last six months. It’s amazing and we’ve not seen the best of him yet. Everything else will follow and it will all sink in over the coming months.”
Edvald Boasson Hagen
“Eddy was like the assassin! His role was similar to the one we asked of G last year. If you need a job done you ask Eddy! That second day in the Pyrenees when we went up the Col de Mende – 9km at 10% - and guys like Rolland and Valverde were all firing off, I said: ‘Eddy, we need this break back by the top to neutralise the move.’ He just got on the front and rode, keeping the gap and gradually pulled it back as we crested the summit. He just tapped out a rhythm the whole climb. He knew what he had to do and he’s a dream guy to work with.
“He also played his role in the sprints with Cav. He was in the breakaway on stage 18 and he could have won a stage. We all love him to bits, he’s fantastic. It says a lot that he’d be a leader in any team but we used Eddy here as a domestique! We built this team and he’s chosen to be part of it. He knows he’s going to be looked after and he knows he’s going to have his chances. But this Tour was all for Brad.
“The objective was the yellow jersey and it was different circumstances for Mark than in recent years where the teams were built around him. He came up with three victories and he would have had more if not for a few bits of bad luck. He went down in the crash on stage four and I’m sure he would have won that too. Despite fewer opportunities he has shown that he is still the fastest in the world and is still unbeaten on the Champs-Elysees. When the boys were in the mountains he was coming back for bottles and helping out everywhere he could. It’s not every day you see the rainbow jersey doing that. His stage wins were the icing on the cake, especially in Paris which really was a dream scenario. We had to do what we had to do to win the yellow jersey and he can now say he was a part of that.”
“Bernie has come in for this Tour team and he’s been great. He’s a leader on the road and a really dependable guy. He knows every trick in the book and it’s great to have someone like that. I’ve done a lot of races in my career but in recent times I’ve only been in the car. You’re not actually mixing it with the bunch, but he knows all the riders, how they are feeling and what their plans are. He’s very vocal and he’s got great leadership skills. It was superb to have him on the pointy end and me in the team car for back up. We could cross-reference between each other and come to a decision about what we should do. The more inputs you have the better the outcome. Especially in the first week he was great and took the weight off the road captain which was Mick.
“All the riders have respect for him. He’s known for looking after Cav and getting him over the mountains but there is a whole lot more to him which I wasn’t aware of before this race. We certainly made the right decision to have him in this team. It was a real pleasure and Bradley liked having him on the team. He was willing to do what he said when we spoke before the race. He said he would do everything that I asked of him and he stuck to his word.”
“Froomey was the reserve GC guy going into the race. We all thought he’d come good at the Tour and you could see his form was picking up nicely at the Dauphine. His season had been up and down but I had a feeling back in February in the Algarve that he would be good come the Tour. He took a superb second place. Up until this year no Brit had done as well as that. Froomey’s day will come. We stuck to our guns and we weren’t swayed in backing Brad. He wanted to take time out of Evans and Nibali in the mountains to make sure of his place on the podium but we had to think about conserving yellow. He backed up his performance at the Vuelta and showed exactly what he can do. It’s all about the mind-set. You have to have the physical attributes obviously, but Froomey was eight kilos lighter in the Tour than he was last March. That says a lot about how far he’s come. He’s on the up and he will only get better.”
“He’s been magnificent for the three weeks. Helping Bradley, keeping him out of the wind for kilometres after kilometre, 100km after 100km. He stayed in the wind so Brad could save his energy for the crucial moments. That was what was so crucial about his inclusion in the team. He rose to the occasion even more after we lost Kosta. He’s a machine! The tower of power! If he’d had a couple of bad days we’d have been in real trouble but he didn’t.
“It’s such hard work riding in the wind for a week straight and he could have been tired when we hit the mountains but he wasn’t and he actually went from strength to strength. We had to give Bradley every possible chance of winning the Tour and to conserve every bit of energy he had that meant bringing Christian along. He knows what his role is and that he’s unlikely to win too many races but he’s happy with that. He’s got a good job and being part of that winning team is what it’s all about. He’s slotted in so well. He went to the ill-fated Pegasus team which never happened and he must have feared his career was over. But it was resurrected and now he’s a member of the Tour-winning team.”
“Richie really came into his own in the mountains. I said to him at the beginning ‘you’re here to ride in the mountains. You don’t need to stress in the stage finishes and be involved in lead-outs and things like that. You just have to chill and if you lose time you lose time. The day will then come and you’ll be a massive help to the team.’ He was happy to be part of this Tour squad and he will win bike races in the future. There’s a lot more to come from him and he will go strength to strength as a bike rider.”
“Mick was the leader on the road as road captain and the only guy who was able to have the role both on the flat and in the high mountains. His form has come on in recent months and his experience was invaluable. He keeps Bradley and the team calm in those mountain situations where we need to stick together. We’ve really evolved together as a team in those mountain situations where we don’t need to panic, we just need to sit together and ride 420-450 watts. We know that if we do that no one can go anywhere and we have that solidarity as a climbing unit.
“One of the turning points was at the Dauphine where we had four guys on the top of the Joux-Plane. They climbed only a few seconds slower than when Pantani went up there in 1996. That showed that all the training in Tenerife had paid off. When I went out there the way they were training was like nothing I’d ever seen. I knew we were onto a good thing and Mick was another integral part of this team. He also knows how to pace the lead-out train in the final 2km so could play a role there too.”
“Everyone in the team was really sad to lose Kosta after he crashed out. It would have made things easier if we’d been able to continue with nine riders but we are such a solid unit we could overcome it. His role was to ride on the front in the medium mountains but everyone stepped up collectively to fill that hole. Everyone played their part right down until the final kilometre of the race.”