Sir Dave Brailsford insists Team Ineos will continue to fly the flag for Britain even as his squad acquires an ever more international imprint.
Brailsford stood in Place de la Concorde at the end of the Tour de France in a Colombia football shirt on Sunday night as he toasted Egan Bernal’s victory – a seventh title from the last eight for his team but the first with a non-British rider.
With Chris Froome 34 and Geraint Thomas – who finished second behind Bernal – 33, Brailsford is already building to the future with a new crop of riders, and there is an increasingly Latin American flavour to his team.
Bernal, the first Colombian winner of the Tour and at 22 years 196 days the youngest since 1909, is the star but there are also high hopes for compatriot Ivan Sosa, 21, and Russian Pavel Sivakov, 22, while 26-year-old Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz, an Ecuadorian, is due to join from Movistar in the winter.
“We very much have a British heart and I think we’ll continue flying the flag with British riders,” Brailsford said. “But the reality is, it’s a global sport.”
The future of Brailsford’s team was in doubt over the winter after Sky announced they were bringing their involvement to an end.
Brailsford was reported to have spoken to potential new backers in South America but ultimately the team remained in British hands as Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the nation’s richest man, stepped in.
However, Brailsford said Ratcliffe has no interest in what passports his star riders have.
“He’s backed the team and he’s not nationalistic in that sense,” he said.
“We are a British team and obviously we have British riders, but ultimately, does it matter who scores the final goal in football?”
Thomas’ second place, 71 seconds behind Bernal, meant a 10th podium finish for a Brit in the Tour, all of them in either Team Sky or Ineos colours.
Though the Welshman fell short in his bid to defend the title he won 12 months ago, Brailsford believes Thomas proved many doubters wrong with his form in France and now wants him to carry it through to September’s World Championships in Yorkshire, where he could target the time trial.
“The worlds could be a great opportunity if he can build up to that again,” he said. “It suits him, the course.
“If he can get back to his time trial, I think he could be competitive. A little break, then a strong finish to the season again.”
Thomas would no doubt benefit from having further targets for the rest of this year, having perhaps over-indulged following last July’s success.
“He’s ridden really well here,” Brailsford added. “Considering that a lot wrote him off after the winter. This whole theory that he can’t win after the first time…
“He deserves a lot of credit for getting himself in the shape he did and having missed the racing he was supposed to have, I think he’s done terrifically well.
“He was very close to winning this, that’s for sure.”