Tour de France 2015: How did Team Sky get back on top and propel Chris Froome to victory?

'Sherpa' effect and sheer hard work, explains Alasdair Fotheringham

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The Independent Online

1. History

In the past four editions of the Tour, Team Sky have placed four riders on the podium, and have had three winners – Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in 2012, Froome in 2013 and now Froome again. It’s often forgotten that Wiggins was racing strongly in 2011 until he crashed out in the first week. But for the past four years the team have had victory as their reference point for every single element of the Tour. On the downside, when things do go drastically wrong, like in this year’s Giro d’Italia, Sky look to be at a loss. When it works, though, they seem unstoppable.

2. Signings

As Sky team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said in an interview this weekend, the choice of Froome’s team-mates has been critical – to the point where Richie Porte all but saved the race for the Briton by doing a Sherpa’s job up the Alpe d’Huez. Add in Wout Poels on La Toussuire in the previous stage, Pete Kennaugh and Nicolas Roche across the board, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe for the Classics-like stages of the first week, Leo Konig for the unsung hero work in the early part of the stages and Geraint Thomas for just about everything and it becomes a winning combination.

3. Weaker opposition

If Froome has proved so superior, in part that has been because of a failure of the opposition to come up to scratch. Brailsford described Nairo Quintana as coming in slightly under par – in order to be stronger for the third week – and if Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali were never up to the mark, the French, too, have failed to live up to the hugely increased expectations after their success last year. Froome was arguably stronger in 2013, but if the gaps have been smaller, Sky’s rivals have not known how to take advantage of them.

4. The 2014 overhaul

Brailsford said after last year’s Tour defeat that their winter plan was to “rock the boat as much as possible without sinking it,” and the reappraisal work was carried out across the board. Spearheaded by himself, coach Tim Kerrison and performance manager Rod Ellingworth, the work has brought about a serious overhaul of Sky’s infrastructure. The effect has been notable, and not just in the Tour, with progress in every area of racing, from the Classics, where Wiggins, Thomas and Stannard have shone, through to Porte’s rampant run of success from January to April.

5. Froome himself

Having crashed out of last year’s Tour, the first thing Froome did when returning home was to sit down and watch the race on television. It set the tone for the next 12 months: even after such a disastrous race, Froome was not going to sit at home with all the lights out. That autumn, finishing second in the Tour of Spain confirmed his determination to scale the heights of 2013 and, after an uneven start to 2015 race-wise, by June he was well on track to fight for his second Tour title.