Sky's The Limit, By Richard Moore

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The Independent Culture

Is it possible to win the Tour de France without doping? Over the years, few riders seem to have tried, but Dave Brailsford was convinced that it could be done.

Hailed as a genius after he masterminded British Cycling's astonishing medal haul at the 2008 Olympics, the following year he turned his attention to the road and Team Sky was born, with the stated aim of winning the Tour with a "clean" British rider within five years. Richard Moore, whose excellent Heroes, Villains And Velodromes chronicled Britain's success in Beijing, was given generous access by Brailsford and Team Sky, but this is not an authorised book – and is all the better for that. His well-informed, pacy account of last year's debut season has the twists and turns of a thriller, because things did not go to plan.

The team had been built around Bradley Wiggins, a double gold medal-winner in Beijing and a surprising fourth in the Tour the following year. But despite Brailsford and his staff deploying the same obsessive attention to detail as they had to the track team, they soon learnt that road racing has infinitely more variables, plus a venerable – and in some cases murky – set of traditions that can seem impenetrable to newcomers. The central problem when it came to the Tour, though, was that Wiggins didn't seem to have the legs for it. Perhaps fazed by all the attention – "I ended up my own arse a little," he reflected afterwards – he trailed in a disconsolate 24th. This year may be different. Wiggins seems in good form, last week achieving the biggest road victory of his career in the Dauphiné Libéré. If he is on the Tour podium in Paris in five weeks' time, reading this will have helped you understand what a huge effort it took to get him there.

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