Are Sky already a team divided?
Teams in the Tour de Fance don’t break down – they simply crack. On the first day of road racing, most held it together, but there were worrying signs from Team Sky.
At greater than 50kmph and heading into the final section of the race is usually a good place for everything to either come together or fall apart. Here’s a run-down of the action:
Orica-GreenEDGE got their lead out train in great shape heading into the last section of the race and I wonder if this was just a practice round for them to form up under race pace conditions as anyone that has been watching cycling for long enough knew that Spartacus was going to launch an attack.
He has no other choice. Cancellara is arguably one of the greatest riders of the current generation and he knows that he is not going to win a bunch sprint, so off he went.
Peter Sagan and Evald Boasson Hagen went with him. The stage has a classics feel to it and with the uphill sprint it certainly favoured the three riders that went for the break.
Of the Orica-GreenEDGE riders, Simon Gerrans was the most likely but he was not in the most ideal position to go with the final break-away. I don’t believe GreenEDGE ever targeted this stage as the won to look for the win. Stage three is the first stage that they will set their sights on. Goss won the intermediate sprint ahead of Griepel and Cavendish so there are some promising signs for the Aussie team.
The crash that involved a bystander could have been avoided. I believe it was a cameraman that was a bit too close. This is very disappointing for the riders that are involved as it is costly.
The Tour de France is an amazing sporting event and cycling is one of the few sports in which spectators can really get close but the safety of the riders is of paramount importance and the media and spectators lose sight of that. They are there to watch and report – not to be involved in the outcome.
Are Sky a united team and is Wiggins a capable leader? I have already raised my concerns about Wiggins being able to lead the team, control the team and handle the media pressure. He did not seem very cool and calm at the Stage one media conference of the Dauphine and I really wonder if he can control Cavendish and the other riders.
Late in stage one Team Sky looked like two teams: those hunting for the stage win and those supporting Wiggins. Chris Froome had a puncture and Rogers crashed which certainly compounds the problems but if you are there for yellow – your entire job is to protect the general classification contender. Evald Boasson Hagen set off with Cancellara and Cavendish also went to try and support.
Wiggins had to burn a match or two just to keep pace as he did not have enough support. If Cavendish is not at the Tour de France for Stage wins or the Green Jersey then why take him?
I understand you don’t leave the World Champion at home and there is plenty of money involved with stage wins but if the ultimate goal is yellow then Cavendish is not the guy you take. He is not a support rider. He is a sprinter and sits in for 99.9% of the race and then jumps like a jack in the box.
He is used to being number one and if he sees that Wiggins, like at Beijing, is not up to it – he will sit at the back of the bus and keep quiet – not how he operates.
Contrast this with BMC. They simply shut up shop and got around Cadel and rolled through comfortably, led by Hincapie and Burghardt – who was apparently smacking it at 74kmph at one stage.
The prologue highlighted that when the time trial course is not very technical, Wiggins is very good. He lost his entire time (7 seconds) to Spartacus through the first time gap which was the most technical section of the course.
In the head-to-head with Evans, Wiggins lost one second to the Australian in the technical first section but was 10 seconds faster in the final three kilometres.
I think everyone agrees that Wiggins is the superior rider in the time trial but I wonder if Sky will protect Wiggins enough on the flats and support him in the climbs but a team cannot generally support a rider on the descents.
It becomes much like a time trial in that the individual bike handling skills really become a dominant factor. Wiggins will take time off Cadel in the time trial. I know this, you know this and Cadel knows this.
So where does Cadel look to take time – simple – in the climbs where he can and on the descents where his far superior bike handling skills come to the fore.
Wiggins will have to work on the descents and he does not corner like Cadel, so he will have to power up through many of the corners which will burn energy that Cadel is not using.
This is where bike handling and efficiency of power and energy become important – especially after 2.5 weeks of racing. Wiggins has shown he can time trial at a 1 week race. Let’s see how he looks and feels after nearly 3 weeks.
Cadel is simply the more complete bike rider. To win the Tour you need to be competent in multiple facets of the sport. Cadel has continually proven his ability at a Grand Tour with two seconds and a first (Wiggins Best is fourth).
Cadel time trials well, he climbs well, he is one of the top descenders in the pelton (from his days mountain biking) and he takes risks – he knows how to move through the bunch and get into ‘striking’ position.
Wiggins is a better time trialer, likely to be an equal climber but is nowhere near as good at descending or moving through the bunch.
The other key points are:
Cadel knows how to deal with the media and the pressures of the Tour (mainly media) – he constantly refers to the team and keeps things pretty simple. Wiggins has not mastered this art yet – it may have something to do with the poisonous ways of the British media who hound their sports stars.
Cadel also has a team that will be around him all the time. He knows this, he trusts this. I wonder if Wiggins feels the same.
Final comment on Sagan and Green – Sagan is gun. He is having a year most cyclists dream about their whole lives.
He also placed in the top five at the Belgium classics, so what a year he is having.
Thoughts and comment are, as always, most welcomed.
Until next time, Clip in!