Should Cadel be worried about Bradley Wiggins?
BMC's Cadel Evans of Australia, negotiates a curve during the fourth stage of the 64th Dauphine cycling race, a 53.6 kilometers individual time trial between Villie-Morgon and Bourg-en-Bresse, central France, Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
With the Tour de France now looming over the peloton, Cadel Evans vs Bradley Wiggins is a common thread of discussion. Should Cadel by worried by the surging Wiggins?
I think so, yes. If Wiggins is at 100 percent now and Evans improves, as he will, they will be quite evenly matched.
But Wiggins says he’s not at 100 percent yet, and he has a super team. Unless a miracle of inspiration happens between now and the Tour, Evans doesn’t.
Team strength counts in any Tour de France, but particularly in this one. There are lots of stages on which good riders could try and ambush the race, Tommy Voeckler-style, and get a lead that cannot be ignored by the favourites.
The favourite’s teams must be wide awake to this and they will have to work extra hard to control things.
Then there will be the times when Evans has to attack. He can’t leave this Tour to the time trials.
On their Criterium du Dauphine form the combined strength of Ritchie Porte, Chris Froome and Mick Rogers for Team Sky will be difficult to evade. Wiggins can just stick behind them and take out Evans when Team Sky drag him back to heel. The Australian really has his back against the wall, or it looks that way now.
But there is a glimmer of hope for Evans. Well, two actually, but they are both conditional.
He says he’s not, Team Sky say he’s not, but if Wiggins is on top form now he will struggle to hold that for another five and a half weeks.
The other factor, a bigger factor perhaps, is Wiggins himself. Will he cope with the pressure of being his country’s biggest hope ever of winning the Tour de France, of having a route that suits him like no other ever will, of not having the searing attacks of Alberto Contador to contend with, and the fact that he is at just the right moment in his career to win the Tour?
Tour 2012 has the hallmark of an all or nothing situation for Wiggins. He has to win this one or he won’t win at all.
In truth it’s not quite like that, but the hype will be about that scenario, and it will pile on Wiggins’ head between now and the Tour.
The thing is, Wiggins is a very emotional person. He doesn’t come across as such, apart from the quite rare times when he lets his chimp out of the cage.
The chimp is what British Cycling and Team Sky’s mind engineer, a psychiatrist called Steve Peters, calls the emotional side we all have. Our chimps are irrational, they get distracted by things we can’t control, like how fast a rival cyclist is. Chimps are bad, and must stay locked away.
That’s the Team Sky way. They deal with logic and the certainty of training, sound equipment, good nutrition and ticking off all of the factors that must be in place to win a race.
The Tour de France is no different, except it is. It’s a huge deal and Wiggins know it.
He’s steeped in the history of cycling, and he knows how big being the first British bike racer to win the Tour will be. Maybe not in the country as a whole, but inside cycling, and Wiggins is steeped inside cycling.
He grew up reading then hearing the stories, and particularly stories about the British bike racer who died trying to win the Tour de France, Tom Simpson.
Wiggins was born in Ghent, Belgium, where Simpson was based. As a child he lived in the same apartment block as one of Simpson’s daughters, and when he was a young amateur he raced in Belgium, helped by the man who helped Simpson, Albert Beurick.
It’s an emotional and very charged story, so charged that Beurick, who died recently could hardly speak about Wiggins without choking up. He reminded him so much of Simpson.
It’s all part of Wiggins’ chimp, and it has to stay locked away like all the other emotions he invests in his life and in bike racing.
It will be a strain. You can hear it in tweets like; “Need to get my press conference head on start playing the game, remember key messaging and avoid taking the bait #robotmode”
And he admits the whole press thing puzzle him. He finds it difficult not to react emotionally to questions, to just answer what’s being asked and not look for hidden meaning or react emotionally.
If the chimp stays locked away Wiggins will win the 2012 Tour de France, but if he gets out who knows what will happen. He might lose, or maybe chimp power will propel Wiggins to the biggest victory margin for years.
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