The extracellular matrix of tendon is mainly composed of discontinuous Type-I collagen fibrils and small leucine rich proteoglycans (PG). Macroscopic tendon behaviors like stiffness and strength are determined by the ultrastructural arrangement of these components. When a tendon is submitted to load, the collagen fibrils both elongate and slide relative to their neighboring fibrils. The role of PG glycosaminoglycan (GAG) sidechains in mediating inter-fibril load sharing remains controversial, with competing structure-function theories suggesting that PGs may mechanically couple neighboring collagen fibrils (cross-linking them to facilitate fibril stretch) or alternatively isolating them (promoting fibril gliding). In this study, we sought to clarify the functional role of GAGs in tensile tendon mechanics by directly investigating the mechanical response of individual collagen fibrils within their collagen network in both native and GAG depleted tendons. A control group of Achilles tendons from adult mice was compared with tendons in which GAGs were enzymatically depleted using chondroitinase ABC. Tendons were loaded to specific target strains, chemically fixed under constant load, and later sectioned for morphological analysis by an atomic force microscope (AFM). Increases in periodic banding of the collagen fibrils (D-period) or decreases in fibril diameter was considered to be representative of collagen fibril elongation and the mechanical contribution of GAGs at the ultrascale was quantified on this basis. At high levels of applied tendon strain (10%), GAG depleted tendons showed increased collagen stretch (less fibril sliding). We conclude that the hydrophilic GAGs seem thus not to act as mechanical crosslinks but rather act to promote collagen fibril sliding under tension.