Team Sky’s decision to control media access during yesterday’s second rest day at the Tour de France has backfired spectacularly, with many mainstream outlets focusing just as much on an extraordinary outburst by Sir Dave Brailsford against a cycling journalist as they are on Chris Froome’s thoughts on the final week of the race.
Ahead of the team departing on a training ride, Team Sky set up a mixed zone at their hotel near Le Puy en Velay and invited broadcast media along to speak to race leader Chris Froome. Journalists from print and media outlets also turned up at the hotel, hoping to grab some quotes.
Among them was Barry Ryan of Cycling News, who was told by Brailsford in front of other reporters that he was unwelcome there. The website says he was told: “You're not invited. We have invited the people we want to speak to. You've been writing shit about me."
Brailsford was apparently unhappy with a feature Ryan wrote before the Tour de France and which was published by Cycling News under the heading, Strong and stable? Dave Brailsford's year of saying nothing.
In response to Brailsford telling him to leave yesterday, Ryan asked what it was he thought was incorrect in the article and was told: "I'm not getting into that. It was opinion, you write shit.
“We make ourselves available, we answer all the questions and you write this shit.”
Cycling News says that Ryan suggested to Brailsford that his attitude was similar to that of Johan Bruyneel who barred Belgian broadcaster Sporza during the 2009 Tour de France.
At the time, Bruyneel was manager of the Astana team in which Lance Armstrong was making his comeback and which also had that year’s overall winner, Alberto Contador.
Brailsford asked: “Are you accusing me of running a doping programme as well?”
Ryan’s response was: “Well, UK Anti-Doping are investigating that ...”
In reply, Brailsford told him, “You can stick it up your arse” and departed.
Besides being reported on in outlets including the Daily Mail, the Independent and the Guardian – whose William Fotheringham had previously noted that it was almost unheard of for a race leader not to give a press conference on the first rest day – yesterday’s incident also got attention on social media.
Among those to share their thoughts was Jonathan Vaughters, whose Cannondale-Drapac team has Rigoberto Uran in fourth place, just 29 seconds off the race lead.
If I refused journos that wrote sh!t about me,at one point or another, to press conferences,I'd be talking to myself. Kinda do that anyway..
— Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) July 17, 2017
,Others such as Fred Dreier, editor in chief of US-based publication VeloNews, drew parallels with the sport’s past.
— Frederick Dreier (@freddreier) July 17, 2017
Danish commentator and journalist Bryan Nygaard – press officer at Team Sky in its early years – had a suggestion.
Brailsford and Cyclingnews should get a room. The awkwardness is getting equally embarrassing for both parts.
— Brian Nygaard (@nygaardbn) July 17, 2017
Meanwhile, Owen Gibson, head of sport at the Guardian – whose Marina Hyde wrote a particularly scathing piece on the Team Sky boss a fortnight ago – tweeted a link to the Cycling News article, with the words: “Not sure Dave Brailsford is doing himself any favours here.”
One effect of Brailsford’s outburst is to send people off to check what exactly it is that Ryan wrote that could have offended him so much.
Essentially, it’s a summary of many of the stories that have built up over the past year and which have been extensively covered in the specialist and mainstream media.
Those include the therapeutic use exemptions issued to Sir Bradley Wiggins ahead of his participation in the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France and 2013 Giro d’Italia, as well as the contents of that mystery Jiffy Bag.
There’s also reference to the UK Sport-ordered independent review of British Cycling, which described the management of the national team at the time Brailsford led it as “untouchable” in its report published last month.
Those stories, of course, have given rise to questions to which many people – not just journalists, but also fans, people within the sport and even a House of Commons Select Committee – are still awaiting answers.
And that, of course, is the other effect of Brailsford’s outburst yesterday. By seeking to exclude those who might ask awkward questions, he’s ensured thanks to the ensuing coverage that those questions are fresh in everyone’s mind again.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.