Brailsford: ‘It was all about putting a smile back on Egan’s face’
Ineos Grenadiers team principal Sir Dave Brailsford was at the finish of the final stage of the Giro d’Italia to celebrate Filippo Ganna’s stage win and Egan Bernal’s overall victory.
“I’m thrilled, absolutely delighted with the way the race panned out,” Sir Dave Brailsford said in Milan. “Egan obviously went aggressive to start and the critical stage in Tuscany where Filippo drove into the gravel was just amazing.”
Brailsford was quick to praise the work of the whole team, all of whom were ready to put the hammer down when demanded and keep cool heads under pressure.
“What I really like about it was after the second rest day, the question of how strong is the team and can you actually stay calm in your mind and strategize, and really not get caught in that impulsive ‘go with the opposition’ and measure resources, and they did that beautifully. And I’m so proud.”
Bernal has worn the pink jersey since his stage 9 victory, and though he lost time to some of his key rivals on stage 17, that brief fade in form was the only wobble in what was a well-controlled Giro.
“Every single moment is a moment where the winner suffers,” he said of Bernal’s apparent weakness after the first rest day. “It’s how you manage it that’s important. If you’re over managing, you respond too much to it, you go downhill, as you well know. You have got to stay calm.”
There was a marked difference in the team’s response in the last few mountain stages. While Bernal tried to follow Simon Yates (BikeExchange) on stage 17, only to need pacing to the finish by teammate Dani Martinez, stage 19 saw the team maintaining a steady pace, managing his lead without burning too many matches.
“In those moments like yesterday when you knew logically when Caruso went, if you stay together as a group and don’t react too quickly, then they’re going to manage the situation,” Brailsford said of stage 20. “But to do that as a young guy, when the second guy’s going up the road, that takes some real, real maturity.
“Egan started it with a bang,” he continued, “And then the team finished it off, every single one of the riders. It feels like a very much a team victory this one, which is just fantastic.”
The 2021 Giro d’Italia is Egan Bernal’s second Grand Tour victory after winning the 2019 Tour de France, but each win has had a very different character. The then 22-year-old stood on the final podium in Paris with a yellow jersey he’d only worn for two days, having arrived in France to support defending champion Geraint Thomas. Coming into the 2021 Giro, his form was very much in question after a 2020 plagued by back issues, and no racing since March.
However, Ineos Grenadiers had a plan this time around, and it involved attacking, entertaining and simply enjoying the race.
“It was all about putting a smile back on Egan’s face, putting a smile back on everybody’s face,” Brailsford said. “And of course, you suffer in this sport and there are difficult moments. But ultimately, we love racing and that effervescence of it all is just paying dividends. We are loving it, loving life.”