Dave Brailsford, the Ineos team principal, has ploughed on through a storm of criticism to toast a seventh Tour de France win in eight years with Egan Bernals victory
On a corner of the Place de la Concorde on Sunday night Michal Kwiatkowski dropped his bike, sat down on the cobblestones and tucked into hot pizza and cold beer.
The former world champion, also winner of the Milan-San Remo and the Amstel Gold Race, went unnoticed as jubilant Colombian fans swarmed around the Ineos teams bus and gazed adoringly at his teammate Egan Bernal as he waved from the top step of the podium on the Champs lyses.
Watching on, the teams billionaire owner, Jim Ratcliffe, could enjoy the first fruits of his 40m investment in cycling, only four months after Team Ineos had been created. It had been a gamble worth taking.
Ratcliffe and the Ineos team principal, Dave Brailsford, are kindred spirits, both knights of the realm, both maligned by the media, both questioned by the establishment over their ethics and both pursued by an army of trolls and sceptics.
Brailsford has become the Houdini of cycling. Little more than a year ago, after a damning report by the DCMS openly questioned his credibility, his stock had fallen so low this newspaper described his promise to win the Tour de France clean as an empty pledge, while others called for his resignation and the revoking of his knighthood. Undaunted, he has ploughed on regardless. Brailsford now seems to accept that haters gonna hate, whether you win or lose.
Seven Tour wins in eight years, with four different riders, would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago, when Team Sky first rocked up at the Tour de France. Now a Brailsford-led Tour success is almost regarded as routine and, as the 2019 Tour ended, Bernals victory barely raised eyebrows. It is almost as if Jiffy bags, salbutamol investigations and mystery testosterone deliveries never existed.
Holding court in a Colombian football jersey in the Parisian dusk, Brailsford was bullish. Tough times dont last, he said, but tough people do. You cant do this job without a thick skin. In sports management you need to be resilient and decide whats important to you and what you are prepared to take on board. It takes me back to my upbringing in a Welsh slate mining village. They were tough guys, those miners, and you learn good values from them which have stood me in good stead.