Friday Group Ride #126

With Team Sky’s dominance of the Tour de France through the first 12 stages, the question seems not to be can Bradley Wiggins win the general classification, but rather, what other honors can this team cram into its collective palmares. Chris Froome currently sits second overall, and Mark Cavendish, relatively quiet in the points competition, no doubt with an eye on the Olympics, remains in reserve to hunt stage wins later in the race when the road flattens out again. If you think of Wiggins’ TT win, Froome’s stage 7 win, Cavendish’s Stage 3 win, plus holding the top two GC positions, any further demonstration of power would just be cruel to the other racers.

But you know, it’s a cruel sport.

Wiggins must be the favorite to win the remaining ITT and, in fact, the overall, though if someone has a clear picture of how either Cadel Evans or Vincenzo Nibali can claw back time against the side-burned Briton, I’d love to hear the scenario. The truth is, as strong as the current maillot jaune has been when necessary, it is the class of Froome, Michael Rogers and even Richie Porte that have proven the difference.

Anytime a rival dares attack, Sky has responded calmly, almost casually, with superior talent. Even when Tejay van Garderen escaped up the road to slingshot Evans, who himself made a brilliant move to get away from Wiggins’ group, Sky snuffed the move easily.

So the question, our question, remains: What else can Sky take? Can Froome stand on the second step of the podium in Paris? How will he play the loyal lieutenant and vanquish Sky’s GC rivals at the same time?

Can Cavendish win another stage? Two more? Will Richie Porte or Michael Rogers be given opportunities to nab wins for themselves? If Sky are vulnerable in any way, what is it? If they are not, what is the limit of their potential success here?

 

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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17 comments

  1. peter lin

    How likely is it for several teams to work together to attack Sky? If a couple of teams work together to attach Sky, they could crack. Hard to see any single team crack Sky when the whole team is working together so well.

  2. DanL

    Sky’s got crippling power right now — just ask Cadel or his short-term helpers Leipheimer and Moinard on that Stg 11 attack. Tejay might have had a little more luck on his own that day, but like Froome he’s following his orders, for now.

    So this sedate Cav is the same guy who was unleashing “13-incher” tweets last year, right? Instead we have these c-bombs and Wiggo/Froome WAG tweets to entertain us — the world-champ is the quiet one all of a sudden? Despite any noise, Sky still clearly has its full focus on a Wiggins win, and if he falters like in the Vuelta then hopefully they will have learned to quickly unleash Froome instead.

    In the end, I’d expect the Sky big-3 to win at least 1 more stage each — plus maybe polka-dot for Froome and a 2nd stage including the Champs for Cav. I don’t think they’ll give EBH/Porte/et al any freedom — this “UK Postal” squad is just too methodical.

  3. Mike

    “What else can Sky take?” Hmmm … a better first question might be “What have SKY been taking?” or an answer to the first might be “Why change to something else when what they have been taking is working so well!” All this in keeping with the some recent inferences by Paul Kimmage! While I do not really believe there is PED use in the mix, this is (sadly) where we seem to have come when we see any exceptional performance (e.g., Lance Armstrong and others … and, how can Wiggo now climb so effortlessly/with such great ease … none of his prior years on the road would preview what we are now seeing … not even his 4th place in 2009 … he worked MUCH harder to get that place). Of course, there has, in the past, been reason to be cautious in our assessment (many exceptional performaces have been super-charged) … but, I believe, we need to have some hope that what we are now seeing (SKY, Sagan, etc.) is all natural. Hope springs eternal! Regardless … this is an outstanding Tour de France!

  4. Mike

    Drew — Probably so (though maybe a bit too good?!). While I truly don’t think PEDs are in play with SKY, there have been several “busts” this tour. As we all know, PEDs aren’t going to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. That being said, there seems to be, as Robert Millar points out in a recent article, a healthy query on the “intertwit” regarding extraordinary performances. However, as Millar also suggests, yea or nay, there surely is great sport afoot!

  5. Nick

    It seems like the only two ways to beat a team that has the depth and commitment to its leader that SKY does is to either have a comparable team to rival them, or to have somebody who can attack and attack and attack while also ride a good TT. I’ve never been a Contador fan, but I’m actually looking forward to the Contador vs. SKY throwdown. I know Froome can keep up with Berty’s accelerations, but Wiggins won’t be able to (and doesn’t have the interest in) keeping up with attacks. Wiggo just watches it go up the road and then lays down a cloud of diesel smoke as he shifts down a few gears and powers up to his rivals.

    Unfortunately both the options on how to beat SKY will not happen this year. Here’s to the 2013 Tour!

  6. Tricky Dicky

    Sorry Mike, I am getting pretty hacked off with people casting insinuations without looking at the numbers.

    The power numbers for Nibali for yesterday (5.8w/kg for La Toussaire) should explain how Wiggins and Froome are looking so good – because people are (finally) riding clean. Those kind of numbers would have you spat out the back of the GC peloton only 3 years ago, let alone the laughable Armstrong era. An excellent blog, sports scientists.com, have likened it to the Olympics 100m being won in 10.3 secs. Shows what kind of nonsence was going on I suppose.

    I also think Wiggins redeemed himself a bit overnight in his press conference and his column in the Guardian in the UK (www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/jul/13/bradley-wiggins-dope-drugs), which was pretty heartfelt. Millar won overnight. Hesjedal won the Giro. I feel optimistic.

  7. Big Mikey

    Not sure why Sky would do anything different at this point. Their sole focus, except for a lonely Cavendish, is the yellow jersey in Paris. They’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that, and if Froome’s second place is a casualty, so be it.

    That said, this race is missing climbers like Andy and Frank Schleck, Contador, etc. would be nice to see one of these guys go up the road and make Sky chase other than letting Porte (Porte?) grind them back.

  8. Champs

    I’m counting on Sagan and Cavendish as longshot treatments for what seems to be a case of terminal boredom.

    Sastre winning in 2008 was one thing, but this year is REALLY shaping up as the “Coy and Vance” Tour. It’s just not the same race when “Bo and Luke” are out with injuries, serving suspensions, or prepping for the Olympics.

  9. Paul I.

    Well said, Tricky Dicky. All this innuendo is getting on my nerves too.

    As far as more stage wins, expect Cav to win on the Champs (although Greipel is a real threat), and expect Wiggins to win the ITT, especially with Cance gone. Froome might win another one, but I would not bank on it. He’s a loyal helper. Even Eddy Boss was given a chance today, although he needs the stage to be hard enough that Sagan is not there with him to have a chance.

  10. Lachlan

    @ PS – sure you can draw conclusions – doping investigations, and doping related journalism are trained to make the most of their careers around July for some reason. Go figure. Cause and Effect intertwined in an not entirely useful or purposeful way that blurs the lines perhaps?

  11. Jesus from Cancun

    Thank you for that link, Tricky Dicky. Very nice read. I have followed Wiggo’s career for many years and I believe he has had a very gradual and logical progression from the track to where he is now. I’m a believer.

    Maybe some people see Sky as this year’s bully team in the Tour. Usually these people root against the bully, but I think they gathered a talented group of riders with compatible personalities who are willing to work as a team with the highest discipline.

    Even Cavendish seems to embrace the team philosophy despite the fact that he doesn’t have the support and the chance of personal glory he used to have. He earns a little bit of my fanship each time I see him bringing bottles to his teammates or pulling at the front of the peloton.

    When there is such a committed and cohesive team, it is very hard to think how it can be broken. The only chance I think of would be if there were any cracks from within (Wiggo on a bad day/Froome seeing his chance), combined with a Tour winning attack in the mountains from Nibali or Evans.

    But I don’t see it happening this year.

  12. gmknobl

    I believe Cav will give it a good go in Paris on the last stage. That’s his best chance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wiggins help lead him out either.

    Nibali and Froome are the most likely to win over Wiggins from attacks Wednesday and even more so Thursday. Froome is the most likely beneficiary if Nibali can actually attack for real. I can hear Hinault say “Next year it’s you who will win the Tour, and I’ll be there to give you a hand.” We’ll see.

    Evans will surprise me if:
    a) he doesn’t attack both days
    b) he succeeds and gets more than a minute back.

    I know of some people that are convinced Wiggins in doping. The numbers seem to indicate it is possible he’s clean so I am hopeful. But I have not seen Lemond’s preferred testing being done and would be interested in those results.

  13. RussR

    What I find frustrating is how much money BMC spent in the off-season and how little they appear to have to show for it.
    Cadel is constantly (and correctly) reminding us how Sky have a stronger team (no kidding- seemingly able so rip the legs off the peloton at will).
    But BMC have three World Champions and the best racer of 2011- yet there’s generally no one in sight helping Cadel? (Yes, sometimes Tejay is there)

    Cadel could have had this same “support” by staying with Lotto!


    1. Author
      Robot

      @RussR – Agree completely. The difference between what BMC did and the other super teams have tried to do, is that BMC just bought stars. You could see right away that it would be difficult to get them all on one page and working together. Sky, on the other hand, really assembled a team, with top lieutenants and domestiques in addition to their stars.

      Having said that, I think Tejay has been an absolute sensation, quite possibly stronger than Cadel on many days. So that’s exciting for the future.

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