Brailsford attacks 'fluffy, PC' critics after Froome triumph

'Winning is a brutal game,' says Team Sky principal in the wake of bullying allegations

Dave Brailsford, Team Sky principal, Chris Froome
Dave Brailsford, Team Sky principal 
(Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As Team Sky celebrate a fifth Tour de France triumph, their boss Dave Brailsford has lashed out at what he regards as the softening of the ethos in British cycling.

Brailsford was in Paris on Sunday to see Chris Froome stand on the podium in his fourth Yellow Jersey but in an interview on the way back to Britain with the Daily Mirror, he addressed recent allegations of bullying within British cycling.

The claims were made by Jess Varnish, who was dropped from the world-class performance programme last year and subsequently accused former-technical director Shane Sutton of directing sexist language towards her. That prompted an independent review into the culture of British cycling, the outcome of which was a pledge by the sport to undergo governance reform including more emphasis on athlete welfare.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The saga has clearly irked Brailsford who said: "What we have got to be a little bit careful of is getting a bit too PC about it all. Then all of a sudden the coaches, a bit like a teacher in a classroom, can't do anything. If we get too fluffy, then we might as well accept we just go for participation rather than winning."

Declaring that the review had simply allowed people the chance to "air grievances from the past", Brailsford pointed to the astonishing transform of British sport since the 1996 Olympic Games.

"When we set out, we won only one gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. For a nation of 60-odd million people, that's not great. To go to what happened in Rio 20 years later is a phenomenal transformation. We were the gallant losers, and somebody had to come along and say: 'We are going to change this now'."

Pointing out that "winning is a brutal game", the Team Sky principal said: "We need to recognise that the system we have is world class and we should be doing everything we can to keep that… Let's not go too far in the other direction or we will lose the very essence of what it took to win in the first place."

Few people know about the brutality of what it takes to be a winner than Froome, and in hailing his achievements Brailsford said he always put success before celebrity.

"I'm proud of Chris Froome. He's a great ambassador for the sport, and this is the greatest victory I've been involved in. It's not a popularity contest – you have to look at the sporting achievement and Chris is right up there with the greats."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.