Dave Brailsford may be the hottest ticket in British sport right now, he may be expecting a knighthood before the year is out and he may have appeared to have achieved everything in cycling after steering Team Sky to a historic first Tour de France win and then replicating Team GB’s golden success at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 once more in London.
But the General Manager of Team Sky and Performance Director of British Cycling insists he has barely started. Although interested in working with other sports – and other sports such as rugby, football and other Olympic sports are queuing up for his services – he has an ever bigger goal to achieve.
The 48-year-old Welshman has revealed to Sportsmail that his big dream is to turn Team Sky into one of the greatest sporting teams in the world, matching the likes of Barcelona, the New Zealand All Blacks and the LA Lakers to the point of enjoying a similar iconic status.
Brailsford, who has left all the plaudits and post-Olympic celebrations behind to get straight back to work at the Vuelta a Espana which starts today in Spain, wants to become a Tour de France serial winner as well as, in his other role, continuing his Olympic success gained in Beijing and London at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I want to build one of the best sports teams in the world, if not the best, and I’m talking all sports,” Brailsford explained last night, on the back of 12 cycling Olympic medals in London, nine of which were gold.
“That’s the next great challenge. What are the criteria in becoming a Barcelona or a Real Madrid, a New Zealand All Blacks, a Ferrari, a Lakers and so on? How do the very best go about their business? What do they all have in common?
“Obviously, first and foremost, it means results. Yes, we’ve won the Tour de France and we did it ahead of schedule, but we need to win it again and again and again. We believe we have the tools and the riders to do this. But there’s more. It’s also to do with our whole, attitudinal approach to everything connected to us, including connection with fans and media. We want to be straddling sport. We want to become the model sports team, a point of reference for not just cycling but world sport to follow in terms of innovation, technology, team building and pushing the boundaries.”
In doing so Brailsford has a big, personal ambition too. “I want to become the best Performance Director in world sport, and that’s part of my challenge,” he added.
“It’s gone well so far but we’re still nearer the start of the process than the end. My heart and passion is with cycling although I’d be interested to work with other coaches from other sports in terms of performance to keep me fresh and interested. It could mean a few days a month working in a traditional team sport or another Olympic sport, although I can’t stress enough what a great job so many Olympic Performance Directors have done.”
The other reason why Brailsford will not turn his back on cycling is because of the pool of talent he currently enjoys on the track which, he believes, despite the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton retiring, will be better than ever for Rio.
The emergence of double gold medallist Laura Trott, double gold medallist Jason Kenny plus the likes of Dani King, Joanna Rowsell, Jessica Varnish and Phillip Hindes has left Brailsford full of optimism.
“I’d say in all my years with British cycling this current crop moving forward to Rio is the best of the lot, and that really is saying something,” he explained. “Laura Trott will become, if she isn’t already, a massive Olympic star, and Jason Kenny may have three golds, but he’s 24 still and can go on to match the greats. They, and the others, are re-energising me because their energy, purity and magnetism enthuses me and all my coaches.
“After Beijing the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, tried to stop a British success repeat by reducing competitors to one per country per event, but we still repeated our success in London. I don’t know what they’ll try next but there will be ten opportunities for gold in Rio and we’ll be aiming for the lot.”
As for the old guard Brailsford is far from done with. He believes Tour de France and Olympic time trial winner Bradley Wiggins has another win in him, and has plans for record, Olympic gold medal-winning Hoy as well after his likely retirement following the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“As long as Brad maintains his motivation and fitness he has at least two years left in him on the Tour and I’d expect him to go out and try his damndest to defend his yellow jersey,” he explained.
“And we’d be nuts not to use Chris in a mentoring, motivational way from now on and after he quits racing. This means taking him with us for world cups and championships and using his amazing racing experience for the benefit of those coming through.”
Today Brailsford will begin the Vuelta with Tour de France runner up Chris Froome as Team Sky’s lead man. It is the 27-year-old’s big chance to win a first major Tour, and the next step for Brailsford on his journey to world domination.