Get used to it: Sky is all over this Tour
2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins leads a new era of clean cycling. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET
Team Sky has put the fear into its opposition, and they don’t seem to be losing their nerve. David Millar woke up in his hotel room on Monday morning, opened the curtains to reveal a shocking sight, which he shared with his Twitter followers:
“Swept opening my curtains to find beautiful blue sky, and… The Deathstar.”
Of course, it was Team Sky’s team bus, parked outside the Garmin-Sharp rider’s hotel room.
“I’m still half asleep. Climb back into bed trying not to imagine them ripping us to pieces on every climb. All I wanted was blue skies.”
And so the winner of stage 12 summed up the feelings of many other riders and fans towards the most dominant team in this year’s Tour de France.
The black uniforms and shiny helmets, the impassive faces of the stormtroopers Eisel, Knees, Boasson Hagen, Rogers and Porte as they slowly choke the oxygen out of their rivals…without wanting to stretch the visual metaphor too far, I can see Millar’s point.
Even the team’s biggest problem only reinforces its dominance: having the top two riders in the race arguing over leadership is surely the most wonderful problem for any directeur sportif to have, although dinner at the team hotel might be awkward.
Frank Schleck virtually admitted as much to CyclingNews after stage 14:
“I think Froome and Wiggins are the strongest. I really believe that they are not beatable,”
In that case, I doubt Dave Brailsford will be too worried about a few awkward silences over the soup.
When riders of Frank Schleck’s talent are admitting defeat before the Pyrenees, and David Millar is jokingly comparing you to the Galactic Empire, you know you’ve put the fear into the peloton.
Any pre-Tour speculation about how Sky would cope with supporting the contradictory ambitions of Mark Cavendish and Wiggins has been melted away under the team’s laser focus on the GC, and then been squelched into the tarmac by the unrelenting tempo of its five super-domestiques.
The team is even belying its arch-villain status by demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship and respect for its competitors, holding up the race to wait for an agitated Cadel Evans after “tack-gate”.
Chapeau to Wiggins for his stance, particularly when Pierre Rolland shot off the front chasing the title of ‘Least Popular Frenchman of the Year’, and Wiggins had to calm the worries of teams concerned they were losing time to Europcar’s villain (who really should be made to grow a twirly pantomime moustache as punishment).
It shows that Wiggins, as single-minded as he is in pursuit of overall victory, is not willing to sacrifice the respect of the peloton and the fans to get it. He doesn’t want to win dodgy. A positive message to send in a week where he has had to repeatedly defend his character in the press.
So it can be hard to know what to think of Sky. We want to back the underdog and anyone-but-Britain, but can’t help admiring the strength of this team, partially driven by Australians.
The urge to treat Sky as the enemy has overcome many, judging from Mick Rogers’ reports of being booed by Australian fans (if this is you, you’re a flaming galah).
One-sided dominance can often deaden the excitement of racing, and there has been a certain plodding sense of inevitability about this Tour since the first time trial, but we can’t blame that on the team doing its job too well. It’s the others that need to improve.
It looks like we need to get used to the idea that Sky will be riding into Paris victorious, even if we’re not quite sure yet who will be wearing yellow. If that happens, the British will be as happy as the Australians were in 2011.
Unless someone finds a tiny thermal exhaust port in that Death Star, quicksmart.
Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. A former A-grade club athlete, and now a keen recreational cyclist and roller racer, he once rode very slowly up Mont Ventoux. Tim tweets about sport at @timehhh_sp.
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