Team Sky’s ‘balancing act’ is manageable
The Sky Pro Cycling team faces an enormous challenge at the 99th edition of the Tour de France, which starts on June 30 in Liege, Belgium.
This seems an obvious statement to make given the amount of physical and mental energy required by every team in the peloton to complete the 23-day, 3497km journey.
But Team Sky directeur sportif Sean Yates and his staff may have to execute arguably the most difficult race plan of any outfit.
The Sky plan is expected to be bifocal and seek to balance Bradley Wiggins’ dream of overall success with the green jersey hopes of Mark Cavendish. It would be a bold move, but both Wiggins and Cavendish have displayed strong form recently.
But will it be as difficult for Team Sky to manage their efforts as some pundits are predicting?
Maybe not. Why? The 2012 London Olympics.
The Olympic men’s road race is surely Cavendish’s to lose. On his home soil, the largely flat route has Manx Missile written all over it. The 27-year-old may elect to leave the Tour early in order to prepare.
This scenario seems the most likely, Cavendish having already completed the Giro d’Italia this year. History shows that the Manx only concentrates on one Grand Tour per year. It is hard to see this trend changing in an Olympic year.
The sprinter’s Tour trajectory is likely to have already been decided. Should he choose not to stay for the Tour’s duration, he could be left to fend more for himself during bunch sprints.
This is because Team Sky’s rider selection could instead be targeted at helping Wiggins in the general classification. A balancing act would cease to exist.
Cavendish has proved more than capable when things get messy in a sprint finish. Comfortably the fastest man in the peloton, he would still be capable of winning stages without a purely sprint-based approach by Team Sky.
But leaving the Tour de France is easier said than done and we will have to wait until July to see what transpires.
Even if Cavendish makes it to the finish line on the Champs Elysées, past Tours have shown that it is possible for a team to achieve success for two team leaders.
Australians Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen rode together for Davitamon-Lotto (now Lotto-Belisol) in 2006. Evans finished 5th overall (later elevated to 4th after the disqualification of Floyd Landis), and McEwen snared 1st in the points classification.
So the Wiggins/Cavendish leadership duo is not unlike anything seen at the Tour before. In fact, many teams head to France with hopes in multiple jersey competitions. That said, Wiggins and Cavendish each have very high hopes in their respective classifications.
Team Sky would be disappointed with anything less than a podium finish from Wiggins. The 32-year-old has shaped his season around the Tour and took out his second successive Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month – the race widely considered the best indicator of pre-Tour form.
Barring premature departure, Cavendish is a strong chance of finishing in green for the second time in as many years. It is hard to argue with his tally of 20 stage wins at the Tour.
With or without the sprinter from the Isle of Man, the so-called “balancing act” required of Team Sky is in fact a readily manageable race plan.
Tim Renowden is on holidays. Kit Harvey is on hand to fill in and give us his thoughts and opinion on cycling.
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