Why Wiggins won’t win the Tour de France
British Bradley Wiggins reacts after wearing the yellow jersey. AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau
Bradley Wiggins will be under siege throughout this year’s Tour de France. The Team Sky rider, seemingly favoured by a time trial heavy parcours, will have to be at his very, very best if he is to even make the podium, let alone ride away with the yellow jersey.
In fact, it is his time trialling ability that might prove his downfall. Far from being the strongest climber in the group, Wiggins will rely heavily on the solo discipline to make up any time he may lose in the mountains. His rivals are keenly aware of this and will attack him relentlessly on the climbs.
Relying solely on the time trial to make up lost ground is fraught with danger. Cadel Evans attempted it in 2007 and 2008 but came up short as Carlos Sastre and then Alberto Contador held onto slender leads to claim outright victory.
Wiggins may face the same scenario, and as brilliant as he is against the clock, how sharp will he be coming into the stage 19 time trial? Will his power have been blunted from three weeks worth of trying to limit his losses through the hills?
Make no mistake, this will be a hard Tour for Wiggins. While he goes into the race as favourite and in career best form, the likes of Evans, Nibali, Schleck, Sanchez, Gesink and Menchov will all try to put time into him on the mountains, and all of them are capable of doing it.
He will have strong support on the climbs – Richie Porte and Michael Rogers are both class acts and in form – but Wiggins will still have to turn himself inside out to stay with the true mountain men.
And it must not be forgotten that Evans and Menchov are more than handy time triallists themselves. Nibali and Sanchez are no mugs either. Give any of them more than a couple of minutes coming into stage 19 and they will fight tooth and nail to defend their lead.
Forget the time Wiggins made up on Evans at the Dauphine time trial, that won’t happen here. Not after three weeks of racing.
Another distraction, and one that has sent the media into overdrive, is the Mark Cavendish conundrum.
Despite the near hysteria, it is not the first time a team has had to support both a sprinter and general classification hope. Even this year we have Team Liquigas with Nibali and Sagan, Team Rabobank with Gesink and Renshaw, Team Lotto-Belisol with van den Broeck and Greipel and Team Garmin with Hesjedal and Farrar.
While it is probably more of an issue in the media than within the team, it is nevertheless distracting and is one more thing that Wiggins will have to block out.
Wiggins is under enormous pressure to succeed. As well as his own hopes and dreams, he carries the expectations of his nation, a nation that craves success, yet often has to settle for second best. Can he take them that one step further?
Or will he just become another Andy Murray? Nearly there, but not quite.
Cadel Evans didn’t handle the pressure well when he went into the Tour as favourite back in 2009. Visibly grumpy and mostly out of sorts, his riding suffered.
Can Wiggins blot out the pressure and focus on the job at hand? He will need to, because when it comes to the mountains, that outside pressure will be the least of his worries.