• Team Sky's David Brailsford. (Getty)Source: Getty
Team Sky boss David Brailsford has embraced the return of short stages to the Tour de France after his squad enhanced its position on the overall standing by refreshingly choosing offensive over defensive tactics.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
15 Jul 2017 - 5:31 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2017 - 10:09 AM

Brailsford seemed to relish how the 101km race from Saint-Girons to Foix unfolded with his men spread across the road as opposed to controlling affairs with military force from the front of the bunch.

It was estimated that Stage 13 was the shortest included in the Tour since 1989 and it also delighted French fans, who celebrated a patriotic win with Warren Barguil (Sunweb) on Bastille Day.

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“We knew it wasn’t going to be a traditional Tour de France as such and that’s what its proven to be. We’ve got to be on our guard, alert, we can’t make too many mistakes but equally if you get an opportunity you’ve got to take that as well. I am all for them [short stages] personally,” Brailsford said.

“I think they’re becoming increasingly popular. The racing is obviously faster and shorter and of course, the bigger guys are more willing to have a go. Nobody really knows what to expect, so I think that puts the cat amongst the pigeons as it were and makes it a real racer’s race.”

Defending champion Chris Froome did not make any inroads on his six-second deficit to yellow jersey Fabio Aru (Astana), but Sky was arguably looking at a bigger picture with Mikel Landa in an elite break that stayed away.

The sentiment from the team was that Landa’s place in the escape, ahead of Froome, who had the aid of Michal Kwiatkowski in the chasing yellow jersey group, would be advantageous moving forward.

Landa finished in the top 20 of the Giro d’Italia this year, won the King of the Mountain classification and unlike Nairo Quintana, who appears fatigued from his runner-up effort in May, is on point here.

“We defend a lot in races so we know what we don’t like. We have started to think, let’s do what we like least when we’re trying to defend,” Brailsford said. “Of course, when you’ve got someone like Mikel on GC then obviously he can put a lot of pressure on other teams if he’s got the strength to attack and get in a break like he did today. He was there either to move up on GC, or to put pressure on the other teams so they had to chase.”

Race organisers designed a punchier course for the 104th edition reportedly with intention to interrupt the status quo of racing, which has been Sky dictating with defensive strategy over the past five years in which it has won four titles.

That blueprint looked to be failing when the team took the first yellow jersey of the race with Geraint Thomas and then passed it around to Froome. Sky never in that period really deviated from its usual textbook, until Froome proved fallible in Stage 12 and a short race 24 hours later did ultimately demand difference.

Brailsford from the outset of the Tour recognised the course design and that his squad would have to compete more aggressively, which today at least suited it fine.

“I fell in love with the Tour de France because I found it exciting. It was an incredible spectacle and the suspense went on right to the end normally. You didn’t really know what was going to happen and I think that’s what kept everybody engaged,” he said.

“Maybe if one team or one rider dominates it takes that away a little bit. I think these shorter stages in this type of race, we knew coming in it was only going to be a matter of seconds.”

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