after cycling, Brailsford weaves its network into Nice

June 26, 2022 at 3 p.m.

Five days before the start of the Tour de France, one of its most famous faces keeps the mystery of its presence. Dirty hands at OGC Nice, will Dave Brailsford be present on Friday in Copenhagen (Denmark) for the first leg? Five Inos Grenadier members contacted this week have been unable to respond. If he could not rejoin his runners, or if he left by the wayside, the team’s number two, Rod Ellingworth, would be interim general manager. They say Welsh is less present, but it has always been so discreet that it is not easy to notice the difference. Strategic decisions still belong to him: at the end of March he was in the process of extending the contract of Tom Pidcock, one of the jewels of the staff. To date, it maintains control of the XXL budget (about 50 million euros) and the choice of pilots.

But in recent months, its horizon has expanded greatly within the parent company Ineos. Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire leader with a passion for wetting the T-shirt, entrusted him with the petrochemical giant’s competition branch. Promotion to sporting director on December 17, this magnet trophy (seven Tours de France since 2012, eighteen Olympic titles between 2004 and 2012) was dedicated to observing the work habits of the components of the ecosystem. In addition to football and cycling, there is Formula 1 (via Mercedes shares), sailing (British America’s Cup challenge) and rugby (collaboration with the All Blacks). With the idea of ​​building performance bridges.

Alliance of Circumstances with Galtier

In Nice, the bridgehead of a football sector that also includes Lausanne-Sport (degraded to Swiss D2) and the Racing Club of Abidjan (for training), Brailsford sent this message internally: “I don’t know football, but I know how to win. So I will learn quickly and we will win. » Therefore, we had to immerse ourselves in a well-established organization: the president, Jean-Pierre Rivère, and the football director, Julien Fournier, have been together for more than a decade, the second managing the main archives in one daily. Added to this is Bob Ratcliffe, Jim’s brother, who has officially oversaw the football galaxy since the club took office in 2019, never distrusting the men in his place.

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Presented by Rob Nevin, his predecessor, Brailsford gained weight as the Eagles’ results dwindled and tensions between Fournier and coach Christophe Galtier grew. Tensions arising from the differences in recruitment, relevance, and value for money that Galtier questioned. And this directly with Brailsford, feeling in English a desire to play a role. From there, an alliance of circumstances was tied in the spring between the much-respected coach and the newcomer, who had the material to indicate to the big boss that Fournier, and by the way Bob Ratcliffe, no longer really mastered the situation. And so pass the shoulder.

His high rating in the country has made him a natural candidate to restore order in a more cracked house than it looks. A sought-after skill: in late May, British cricket commissioned an in-depth analysis. In the Gym, he was invested during the same period of an audit mission. He already knew the training center well, where some runners based in the region, such as Christopher Froome, sometimes visited the medical sector. Brailsford is housed in Rivère’s office, which only occupies him part-time. There he rubs shoulders with Fran Millar (the sister of the former runner, David), a close collaborator for more than a decade within the Sky team. If the official conclusions of the audit have been delayed for some time, it has already been agreed with the interested party that Fournier’s term would end at the same time as the transfer period. Although, then, a reversal cannot be completely ruled out.

An agreement in principle with Lucien Favre

For the football director, the growing role he held in Brailsford was perceived as a tutelage, and he made it clear that one could not imagine seeing his prerogatives shortened. However, the two men always work together on good terms, especially in the coach’s record. In case of a departure of Christophe Galtier to PSG, now imminent, they led the discussions together with Lucien Favre. Already on the bench between 2016 and 2018, the Swiss gave them their agreement in principle for two weeks.

In the rest of the offices, vagueness prevails. Brailsford has spoken to the heads of the various departments, and now everyone is listening to their lips. “Humanly, it’s fine, but everyone would rather not see it, slips a regular from the site. The time it takes to make decisions rots the lives of some, who do not know what to expect. The atmosphere is leaden, a form of silent terror has taken over. » We are especially concerned about the contracting unit side, many of which are at the end of the contract.

Twice Brailsford was about to stop all operations

The return to prominence of Brailsford, 58, is a surprise. Twice he was about to cease all his activities. In September 2019, two months after Colombian Egan Bernal wore a seventh yellow jersey to Ineos (ex-Sky) in eight editions, he announced that he was suffering from prostate cancer. He was present in the next round, but more discreet than ever; it is true that his runners were behind. Upon arrival, he confided that he had undergone heart surgery earlier this year. Then the hypothesis of his replacement for Ellingworth materialized for the first time.

By adding cycling training to the Ineos empire, Jim Ratcliffe had taken a position: at the first suspicion of doping, he would suspend his support. But the resounding trial that kept the UK in suspense did not push him to decide. Former Sky doctor Richard Freeman has been found guilty of buying testosterone. A forbidden product. The long legal sequence provided fewer answers than questions. Between the lines, this one: was there doping under Brailsford’s nose? And if so, could he have ignored it? The gray areas remain. But their areas of influence are expanding.

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