Sir Dave Brailsford admitted he could not guarantee there would be no repeat of Sunday’s Team Sky collapse during the Tour de France but insisted his riders are strong enough to support Chris Froome.
Froome retained his overall lead of one minute and 25 seconds to closest rival Alejandro Valverde on a thrilling stage nine on Sunday, but that was the only positive for Sky on a day when their squad appeared to crumble on the Pyrenean climbs.
Froome was left all alone by the top of the first of five categorised climbs as Richie Porte and Vasili Kiryienka were dropped - Kiryienka later eliminated for missing the time cut - while Peter Kennaugh was caught in a scary crash.
It was a far cry from their dominant all-round performance a day earlier, and left huge questions over the prior assumption that Sky’s was the strongest squad as the race resumes today.
Asked if there would be a repeat, Brailsford said: “I haven’t got a crystal ball. It’s a valid question. We’ve got a team of committed riders, we’re leading the race, we’ve got some time trials and difficult stages to come and we’ll try to manage our racing the best we can for the rest of the race.”
However, he insisted there was no question over the quality of his remaining eight-strong unit.
“I’d put it to you that the day before our team was good enough to put a minute or so into our opposition.
“On (Saturday), the opposition were defensive and we went on the offensive and then they went on the offensive and put us under pressure. Now we have to figure out what we do if that situation rises again.”
While Porte has vowed to get back to his best, and Kennaugh insists he has no lasting damage from his dramatic tumble down the hillside, nothing can be done to address the loss of Kiryienka.
Brailsford attributed the Belarusian’s struggles to the intense heat in the Pyrenees, which has affected several riders after a season played out to date in much cooler climes.
After those first mountain skirmishes over the weekend, today’s stage 10 from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo is a much flatter affair, and could give Mark Cavendish the chance to move level with Andre Leducq on 25 career Tour victories, which would be good for third all-time.
The general classification battle is expected to ease off on the flats, although Sky’s rivals will again try to force the pace to limit their recovery time.
It will resume in earnest when the road ramps upwards again, and Geraint Thomas has promised to be ready to support Froome as he continues his recovery from the cracked pelvis he suffered on the opening stage.
“For sure the other teams will see us as vulnerable and they will try to take the race to us,” the Welshman said.
“I’m up for it. We see it as a fight. It’s like with the track and the Aussies who we’ve always had a rivalry with.
“Coming up to the London Olympics we turned it around when it mattered. I’m confident we can do the same here.”