Team Sky may be a big budget team, but they’re not the biggest. And,writes Anthony Tan, who can argue with a man who has matched ambitionwith substance?
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

In the Tour de France press room, fellow Anglophone journalists tend to
stick together. After a few years, you see the same old faces each
July, smashing away at their keyboards in order to file copy before
deadline, under great big tents that in the height of a typical French
summer, act like greenhouses.

Now with this thing called the
Internet, it seems like you're filing all the time. I tend to associate
the Web with the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Like that ravenous
fuzzy blue figure, the Web likes what it gets, but devours copy as if
it were going out of fashion.

So while you see people you recognise, because everyone's so bloody busy nowadays, you don't actually meet them per se.


But last July, and most likely because one of the outlets I was writing
for was taken over by a UK-owned publishing company a few years back, I
ended up meeting – and quite often, wining and dining – with a bunch of
British journalists, one of whom was Brendan Gallagher from London's Daily Telegraph.

A great raconteur (and co-author of Bradley Wiggins' autobiography, In Pursuit of Glory),
which comes through in his prose, Brendan and a bunch of other hacks
from Great Britain including Richard Moore (who often works for the Guardian), Ellis Bacon and Daniel Friebe (two chaps from Procycling) spent many evenings that Tour waxing lyrical about the expected birth of Team Sky in 2010.

And why shouldn't they? Who was I to tell them to shut their gobs and stop rubbing it in?


After all, if you don't count Barloworld riding the Tour in 2007 (which
technically speaking, was British-based but was more a hodgepodge of
British, South African and Italian interests), the last British team to
ride La Grande Boucle was ANC-Halfords in 1987. That year,
Malcolm Elliot's third place on a stage was their best result, and
inexperience led to abandonment with just four riders making it to
Paris.

Undoubtedly, Team Sky is very, very different.

Which brings me back to Brendan, and a recent Telegraph
article in which he wrote: "The quest to produce our own Tour winner is
being launched in the teeth of a fierce recession and there will be no
change out of £35 million in the first year which involves one-off
start up costs and buying key riders out of existing contracts."


I don't know about you, but that "£35 million" caught my attention.
That's $63M in our money. Or around double most teams' ProTour budgets.


One, I wanted to know if that figure was indeed correct, and
two, I wanted to ask Dave Brailsford, the principal figure behind Team
Sky, if they're trying to 'buy' a win at the Tour de France, as some
claim.

Brailsford, whose calm demeanour belies a fierce
intensity within, was in Australia recently during the Santos Tour Down
Under, so I waited a few days to muster my nerves, then hit him with
these questions.

"Well, I think if you look at the top teams
in the [ProTour] league table, I think we're about fourth [largest in
terms of budget]," Brailsford said, who would not provide me with an
actual dollar sum – but is nevertheless thinking of doing so to the
UCI, to dispel what he says is a false belief by outsiders that they're
rolling around in the Queen's money.

Big shock.


"There's this fallacy that everybody thinks we've got this huge budget.
We haven't got the biggest budget – it's fact. It doesn't stack up; I
don't see how we can buy our way into the Tour de France if we're got
the fourth-biggest budget – I don't think that's right.

"We
definitely didn't want to start and grow – we wanted to go into the top
echelon of the sport – but what's wrong with that?" he asked
rhetorically.

"If you want to compete at the highest level, what's wrong with that? I call it ambition."


Nothing wrong with that at all, Mr. Brailsford. Sooner rather than
later, I just hope in Australia, ambition can be matched with substance
like Team Sky, and we too have an team fronting up to the start line at
the Tour de France.