Team Principal David Brailsford said that yesterday’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage result proved that Sky’s cyclists are not ‘robots’. Under rain showers and over climbs touching 27 per cent gradient, Brailsford’s leader Chris Froome lost the overall lead to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“People get carried away with the whole machine/robot kind of thing and at the end of the day, they are human beings and they showed that,” Brailsford explained. “It’s bike racing, exciting, you have to tip your hat to Nibali. He did a brilliant ride.”

Over the preceding two days, Sky’s Dario Cataldo, Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao kept Froome protected. Up the 14.5km Prati di Tivo climb, they destroyed their competition with an inferno-pace and put Froome in a position to win.

They did more of the same on the way to Chieti. This time it came just one hour before Richie Porte won Paris-Nice over the border in France.

Sky’s work prompted some to refer to them as ‘robots’, cyclists who follow power meters instead their feelings. It is unclear where the comments originated.

The situation was completely different 24 hours later. Froome lost Tirreno-Adriatico’s blue leader’s jersey to a brave move by Nibali. He attacked on the sharp slops of Sant’Elpidio a Mare and rode free with Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), some of the best descenders in the business.

Under dark skies with Froome inside the bus licking his wounds, Brailsford laughed at the ‘robot’ jibes. However, he admitted it was the price of success.

“It’s bike racing, OK, but there’s part of me thinking there’s no point in winning too much,” Brailsford continued.

“Days like today are good because it shows it’s about guys racing bikes, everybody’s human and everybody can have bad days and different days. You can’t de-humanise it. It’s a human endeavour. … What makes it exciting is having suspense, that’s why sport’s exciting. There was suspense all the way.”

Froome now sits second on GC at 34 seconds. His only chance to salvage time is in today’s final stage, a 9.2km time trial along the Adriatic coast in San Benedetto del Tronto. It appears too short to claw back such a deficit.

Lessons

Brailsford said that Sky and Froome could learn lessons from their failure.

“You do learn from these situations. You normally learn more from things that go wrong than those that go right,” Brailsford explained.

“Could we’ve played it differently tactically during the day? We still would’ve had to ride on the front. [Rinaldo] Nocentini was in the front group, which kind of meant we had to ride. [Without him] and had there been bigger time gaps we would’ve let the break go and let the other teams ride. Apart from that, really, I don’t think it would’ve changed much.”

Froome said that he was under-dressed and over-geared. He finished with a short-sleeve jersey and vest, riding on a bike with 36×28 gears.

“There’s no point in trying to find reasons,” Brailsford continued. “Nibali took his chances and credit to him. I think we should credit him instead of looking for what went wrong.”

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Chris Froome tired and over-geared in Tirreno

  • chris t

    “Every single photo I have seen of Froome on a climb, he is always, always, looking down, engrossed in his SRM display.”

    How can you tell what he is looking at? He ALWAYS wears those white sunglasses, so you cant actually see what he is looking at.

    Have you actually watched any of his races and seen him race, or are you just relying on your interpretation of what you think you he might be looking at even though you can’t see his eyes.

    Also, have you ever ridden a road bike. If so, you would know that you tend to look downwards when you’re riding it……!

    In all, a rather daft post

  • Mike

    You have to be capable of producing the big power output before you can ride to it. If you are comfortable riding at 420 watts, then you are comfortable. If your competitors are not they they are either not fit or dont have the ability.
    I dont see the problem with Sky using what is available, a power meter wont help you up a mountain, If someone is faster than you no indicator in the world will make you go any quicker.

    Riders have used power meters for years, and HR monitors, so why not Sky? Ah, I forgot……the British are supposed to be plucky losers not professional winners.

    If we want to ban technology in Pro Cycling then radios would have to go, and skin suits and aero helmets, oh…… and gears on bikes. Get real, the technology is there, and legal, so why should Sky not use it.

  • Prefer Tactics to Doping

    I would much prefer the use of tactics to win the race. Where Froome failed is he either reached his limits or didn’t know what he had left to see if he could catch Nibali on the penultimate stage. Perhaps he should have gone on feel, but if his data told him not too then it would have been a big gamble and he could have blown up and lost a podium place.

    What he can do with his data now is ride at that power and emulate that stage but add an increase to simulate Nibali to see if he can add that gamble to his ride or just up the tempo.

    Personally i prefer the attacks of Contador but at the end of the day the introduction of tactics will make cycling and replace commentary from ‘not normal’ to ‘great tactics’.

  • Ken Evans

    “Froome said that he was under-dressed and over-geared. He finished with a short-sleeve jersey and vest, riding on a bike with 36×28 gears.”—–So use arm-warmers, or put on another jersey, if he needed lower gears he should have changed bikes, or his rear wheel. These are basic matters, and sound rather like excuses. The Sky “machine” should be able to master every situation in the Tour come July.

  • Graeme

    The ‘robot’ comment was one I used on Yahoo over 24 hours ago in response to an interview with David Millar…
    “Dave Millar is right,racing will become more boring when it`s based purely on reading a power output meter and on science. In my opinion technology can spoil certain sports when it goes too far and cycling seems to be a case in point. There should be no radio contact with team cars(like the Olympics) and power meters should be banned. Racing should be based on pure talent and instinct as well as all the other factors. Once you take away the talent and the instinct you are left with robots”….

    I hadn`t seen it written anywhere else but I accept others may have used it before me,so I won`t be suing over breach of copyright! ;)
    My comments may have been a bit harsh and I enjoyed SKY winning and Wiggo being the first Brit to win the TDF last year,but at the end of the day if every team was so meticulous in it`s preparation then the racing wouldn`t be as exciting.
    I would go even further….for the 100th edition of the TDF the organisers should have gone back to a more original concept,where riders have to fix their own mechanicals and mend their own punctures. That WOULD be fun! :)

  • Organised Confusion

    I know where the “robot” tag emanates from – it is from the actions of Froome itself. Every single photo I have seen of Froome on a climb, he is always, always, looking down, engrossed in his SRM display. He needs to try riding on feel occasionally – after all, he is supposed to be a Pro.