Dave Brailsford has hit out at scepticism towards Tadej Pogacar’s victory in the Tour de France last year, describing comments made by Pogacar’s rival Primoz Roglic, and his Jumbo-Visma teammate Tom Dumoulin as “emotional, illogical and not very rational”.
Pogacar pulled off one of the most extraordinary coups in Tour history, dramatically overhauling the race leader Roglic in the final time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles to secure overall victory in Paris – but reactions from Roglic and Dumoulin in the immediate aftermath revealed their disbelief.
“I cannot understand it,” Roglic said in the behind-the-scenes film Code Yellow. “If you can ride so hard, then every stage you have to be [riding] with one leg …”
“Pogacar, [who] rides his bike like a miner,” Dumoulin said. “I don’t understand how this guy … could have been a minute and a half faster.”
“You’ve got to be very careful,” Brailsford said of their comments. “That was the most excruciating of experiences, I’m sure, for that team. If you take a step back – tough experience, emotional reaction, illogical, not very rational, pure emotion coming out. Then are they all going to calm down, consider, reflect and really gather themselves?
“It would be unfair to really hold somebody to account about comments made in the immediate aftermath to be honest. It was a brilliant performance, and I guess it was one of those scenarios. I would cut them some slack. I wouldn’t take anything they said afterwards, in an emotional state.”
But Brailsford also pointed to the climate of suspicion that has long followed his own team’s successes, particularly in its incarnation as Team Sky, some of which lingers even now, as the fitness-to-practice hearing for the former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman demonstrates.
“For many, many years we got heavily criticised, and questioned – our trust and integrity was questioned, dramatically really and pretty violently at times – when our performances were above expectations, to the level that people were questioned as well,” Brailsford said.
“But having been through that experience, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions myself. We are in a business of pushing people’s performance. We’ve got a young crop of guys, performing like nothing we’ve ever seen. To immediately jump down that road would be totally unfair, given the experience we’ve been through. So I wouldn’t draw that conclusion.
“I think the sport’s changing anyway. You’ve got your Pogacars and your Jumbo-Vismas and Roglic. There’s a broader range of riders now, and it’s interesting to see different teams approach the challenge of trying to win races overall.”
Brailsford said he hoped Ineos Grenadiers would become a more “opportunistic and adaptable” team this year.
“People respect us for winning and we have a lot of great fans but when it’s more open, there’s more excitement, uncertainty and suspense and more teams involved, the essence of racing really comes to the fore. We’ve thought long and hard about it. Is it Germany or Brazil, dare I say? Maybe it’s preparing like Germany and playing like Brazil.”
However, Brailsford’s vision of “samba cycling” did not seem to extend into women’s racing as he declined to commit to the creation of an Ineos-sponsored women’s team, despite the expected launch of a women’s Tour de France in the summer of 2022.
“At this moment in time we haven’t got a plan, but that’s not to say we won’t have,” he said. “We changed halfway through the  season to Ineos which was a big undertaking and then halfway through last season we changed to Ineos Grenadiers, which was a big undertaking.” He added however, that the launch of a women’s team was “a topic under review”.