PAU, France (AFP) –
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford defended his team’s tactics Monday as Mark Cavendish was left with only the final stage to the Champs Elysees in Paris to try and win this Sunday.
Cavendish, who won a stage earlier in the race to take his tally to 21, lost his chance of contesting a bunch sprint when Sky and other teams failed to chase down a breakaway that went all the way at the end of stage 15.
In doing so, Brailsford also reaffirmed Sky’s commitment to winning the bigger prize of the yellow jersey.
With Bradley Wiggins in the lead and Kenyan-born British teammate Chris Froome second at 2min 05sec, the Londoner is on the cusp of creating Tour de France history for Britain.
Two hilly stages in the Pyrenees will be contested in succession after Tuesday’s second rest day.
“With the Pyrenees coming up it made sense to conserve our energy or share the workload and others teams didn’t want to share,” said Brailsford.
His decision left a six-man group to go to the finish unhindered, Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo taking his fourth career win on the race after a two-up sprint with American Christian Vande Velde.
With Cavendish’s personal ambitions again shelved, Brailsford said he could understand if people said the Manxman — who had won 20 stages from five previous participations — was on the wrong team.
“Certainly. It’s a logical conclusion that people would question this Tour,” he added.
“When you come into this race knowing we could try to win the race and with the position we find ourselves in at the moment, you have to clarify.
“Mark’s situation as an individual rider, would he be getting him more opportunities with a dedicated team around him? Looking at this Tour the answer would probably be yes.”
But, he added: “He knew what the situation was coming into it. He’s a very strong team player, but he is an ambitious guy too. I think he’s still got opportunities and we’ll try to take those.”
The most likely chance for Cavendish to claim win number 22 is now on the 20th and final stage to the Champs Elysees in Paris, where he has won the past three years.
“Certainly Paris will be a sprint stage,” said Brailsford.
Wiggins, meanwhile, was keen to put the dilemma into perspective, saying the fastest man on two wheels had been “fantastic these last two and a half weeks”.
“He’s been so committed to my cause — to the yellow jersey — and he’s a great champion and a great friend,” he said.
“Obviously there is still the stage to Paris for him and we’re going to lay it down in Paris for him and try and get him the win there.
“He’s also got the Olympic road race… that’s his main objective this year, so it’s a shame that he hasn’t had the chance to race for more stage wins but in the end we’ve got a difficult task on our hands to try and win the yellow jersey.
“So far, he’s played a big part in that. We’ve seen him going back for bottles and, yesterday, he tried really hard to get over that first climb with us… he’s also been an absolute gentleman this week.”