Dave Brailsford has admitted the stress on his health as a result of running Team Sky and now Ineos Grenadiers may force him to step down from his role as team principal.
Brailsford was a reclusive presence on this year’s Tour de France, in which his team’s best-placed rider was Richard Carapaz, third overall in Paris to winner Tadej Pogacar. The 57-year-old has been treated for both cancer and heart issues in the past two years, with his heart scare coinciding with this spring’s hearings relating to Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor who was eventually found guilty of ordering banned testosterone for an unnamed rider.
Brailsford declined to discuss Freeman when speaking to the Guardian after this year’s Tour but he did admit his personal wellbeing had very much moved to the forefront of his mind. “If I do have any further health issues, I won’t be able to continue,” he said. “I’m pretty clear about that.
“I’m trying to look after myself but I’m here to help other people, to lead and support other people. If the moment comes when you’re trying to support yourself more then it’s time to get out.”
Brailsford maintained that he was “as hungry as ever to win,” but said that “maybe I deal with it all better.” He added: “When you have what you think are life-threatening moments twice in the space of two years, you wonder what will happen. The cancer one was scary but manageable, but the heart issue felt different, way more scary. Then you start asking the question: ‘how long will my health last?’”
Brailsford, however, dismissed the suggestion that his recent health problems had been caused by the stress of the Freeman investigation. “It’s a stressful job, that goes with the territory,” he said. “Not only in the last year, but over the last 10 years I think. When you’re successful like we have been, you get a lot of questions asked. Coming to France in the past, and the challenges we’ve had – it’s part of the job, and it takes some resilience to deal with that.”
For the second year running, Brailsford’s team has failed to add to its tally of Tour de France overall wins. He said: “When we came into the race, we knew we were up against what we thought was going to be two very strong contenders in [Tadej] Pogacar and Primoz Roglic. We felt, off the back of the week-long stage races [we had won], with the guys in form, that we’d be able to have a multi-pronged attack. But that first week Geraint [Thomas] crashed, there were crashes for the other guys and that changed the dynamic for us totally.
“We never got into the flow of it from there and it changed the opportunities for us. Roglic crashing out also changed the dynamic of the race so it ended up being a very different race than we expected.”
On the other hand I’m very proud of [Richard] Carapaz,” Brailsford added. “He’s the first Ecuadorian to finish on the podium of the Tour, he’s ridden with such heart and commitment.
“This is our 34th Grand Tour and we’ve won 12 and I don’t think that’s an accident. There have been two Grand Tours this year. We have won one and finished third in the other. We have won more stage races this year than we have ever won, so I’m not sure where any pessimism is coming from.”