Friday Group Ride #153

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This week we have learned that Brad Wiggins won’t lead Team Sky at the 2013 Tour de France, that he’ll focus his energy on a Giro course more suited to his skills. Instead, Team Sky will give Chris Froome the leash his talents scream for, empowering him to power up the Grand Boucle’s litany of climbs.

Last year, this intra-squad conflict looked a bit different. Froome was so strong he had to be made to wait for Wiggins on one occasion, lest he strip the jersey from his captain’s shoulders. There was a real feeling he might have won the race himself, instead of finishing second. That he only managed fourth place at the Vuelta was surprising, but it’s hard to say how the miles pile up closer to the end of a season, and Sky didn’t give him anything like their best grand tour team for that race.

Now we get to see what the Kenyan/South African/Brit can do with all the prettiest horses harnessed to his ambitions at the Tour. Given the return of Alberto Contador, there are no foregone conclusions, as would be the case even if Wiggins were returning to defend his title.

Team Sky got off to a slow start in the pro peloton in 2010, Juan Antonio Flecha’s win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad highlighting their 22 wins, but they have risen to the top in the intervening seasons, and, especially now that Mark Cavendish has moved on to a team (OPQS) more inclined to stage wins than overalls, must be seen as the pre-eminent grand tour squad in the world.

This weeks’ Group Ride asks: Can they do the double? Can Wiggins win the Giro while Froome sweeps the Tour? Is the blueprint that worked last summer, the one that saw Sky sitting on the front of the peloton day after day to grind down the pure climbers with a brazen outpouring of watts, still a winning strategy? Or is six weeks of high intensity racing too much for a team, even of Sky’s clever construction? Bonus question, now wearing Rapha, will there be any team more handsomely turned out? If so, who?

 

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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13 comments

  1. cormw

    I don’t see them pulling off the double. First, Wiggins will not have the same super domestic in Froome to support him in the Giro and secondly, with Contador and Schleck being back in the mix for the Tour, I don’t see Froome being able to keep pace.

  2. Thomas

    I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. Lots of things could happen with the favorites between now and the Giro and Tour, but Andy is going to have to be a lot stronger than last year to win the Tour, and Finger Bang Boy might or might not be strong enough (guessing not). I’d like to see a battle for the win between some of the younger guys, like Froome and Tejay.

  3. Steven

    I think we could see a double. Wiggins was just so strong last season I have a hard time not seeing him winning the Giro handily with or without a super team. And as long as Sky brings a solid team to the Tour next year (and Contador doesn’t eat too much steak), I think Froome should be considered the favorite for that, too.

    Should be exciting to see it unfold!

  4. tinytim

    Wiggo is all washed up. Didn’t you see the picture of him sitting in that lazy chair and drinking a vodka tonic after his gold in the tt (even if that chair was a throne for knights-whatever). Also, Sky needs to maintain the appearances that they are clean. So, thats why Froome was ‘dropped’ in the Veulta, and now Wiggo can’t be competitive this next TDF. In fact, Wiggo and Sky were so strong for so long (no one has ever won the string of victories that Wiggins pulled of this spring/summer this year), I would not be suprised to see Wiggins race far fewer days this year, to remain fresh, and then come into a race that didn’t completely suit him (ie. this years TDF) and crush it. Wonder what Sean Yates thinks about all this.

  5. SusanJane

    I’m for Wiggins doing well in the Giro. Not only does it suit him but even without the full strength of Sky they are a very strong team. Nevertheless there were some real surprises in the Giro last year so one never knows.

    As for Froome wining the Tour? In your dreams but not on the ground. Unless Contador has a bad Tour he’s set to win again. Andy may have the talent but he just does not have the drive… or the luck. Remember, Contador won with a divided team and a ridiculous media circus sapping energy. Andy has problems winning with a good team and good health. The only question with the Tour is who else will be on the podium besides Contador. Froome is a good bet just not the only one.

  6. Eto

    It is not common for a standing tour winner NOT to defend his title the following year. Something is wrong with that unless the vailed strategy of headlining Froome is a ploy to take the pressure and attention off Sky’s golden boy.

    Personally, I expect a more “realistic” performance from Wiggo and his team whether in the Giro or Tour. Last year defied logic. I expect a vallant effort from Ryder at the Giro and an even better ride at the Tour.

    The Rapha kit will surely add some class to the grupetto.

  7. Scott

    Watching Froome handle media obligations instead of recovering season long will be interesting. Leadership debacle aside Wiggins deserved last years tour because he bore the brunt of the attention leading up to it – super important recovery gone missing and as SusanJane says Contador is the man when it comes to putting external pressure aside – glad I don’t have to race him!

  8. Wsquared

    I’m also dissapointed that Wiggo won’t be defending his title in the Tour after only one victory. Tour champions defend, period. Team Sky is playing God here, a role they seem to think they have earned by Devine right. What an arrogant bunch of ‘holes.

    Re Wiggo in the Giro. The punchy climbs in Italy will be less conducive to Sky’s “blue train” style methodical grind it out strategy than in France. I think a lot more can go wrong in Italy. Sky’s tactics didnt work in the Vuelta, which is more similar to the Giro than the Tour. I haven’t heard if Froome will also be riding the Giro. If he does, how hard will he work for Wiggens if he is looking ahead to the Tour? And if he doesn’t ride the Giro, Wiggo won’t have him dragging him up any passes the way he did in the Tour last year. OTH, the overall field usually isn’t quite as competative in the Giro as it is in the Tour, which work in Wiggen’s favor.

    I don’t think Froome’s flame out performance in the Vuelta last year bodes well for the Tour. I’m also wondering if Contador has now gotten inside his head a bit. Alberto should be in even better form now that he’s been back awhile. And if Bradley gives his all trying to win the Giro, how much will he have left in the tank to support Froome? And there will be the added pressure on Froome of having last years winner his own team, helpfully ready to “step in” if he falters. And finally, if Froome does ride the Giro how will that effect his form in the Tour?

    All in all, I think the whole thing smacks of hubris and I doubt Sky will win either race. All the stars in the Sky lined up last year for Wiggen’s win in the Tour, including Alberto not being there. Odds are that wont happen for Sky again this year.

  9. Alex TC

    I think it´s too early to even take a long shot guess. I haven´t seen any of them riding yet, and there´s Contador to factor. He´s always my first bet for winning any GT so if he focus on the Tour I really don´t see him coming in second or third. And let´s not forget Purito, based on what we saw last year he should also be able to throw a wrench into SKY´s GT plans for 2013.

    SKY is showing their game, every team and rider gets questioned about season goals and objectives and those are Wiggo´s and Froome´s. It´s a high target for sure, but they have the power and money to make it happen. That´s the only thing I´m sure of now.

  10. scaredskinnydog

    This years Giro course is going to make for some exciting racing(especially in the final week). Its too hard to make accurate predictions in January so I dusted off the crystal ball to see what it might show for the Giro. There’s definately a tall lanky Sky rider on the podium (can’t tell which step) but it doesn’t look like Wiggo. It looks like a baby faced kid, its got to be Joe Dombrowski. Looks like Sky gives him the green light in the final week and he goes on to light it up! The rest of the podium is foggy but I think I see another tall guy in argyle blue and a shorter, dark haired rider in blue, looks like Ryder and Nibali. There you have it, your crystal ball podium for the Giro.
    p.s. it looks like Peter Stetina wins a stage too.

  11. Souleur

    fantastic question

    First, simply, yes.

    Yes, they can pull it off. Will they pull it off is another question Robot. Ryder will have a might bit to say about the Giro, and I think its actually more sketchy that Wiggo will win the Giro given its beautiful suffering stages, and ala the maglia rosa. Froome, is more than ready for the GC TdF, and can win, IF he were to dedicate his talent to that and that alone

    In terms of Rapha style, well, they have arrived as we say. Will any team be more stylishly clad, absolutely NOT! The team Sky kit is killer, and I cannot wait until the 10 year Rule pass’s so I can pull one out and don it on a local ride without feeling like a total douche. And here is bonus upon bonus, does this style and team work together?? I personally like their style. Its totally understated, blacks and whites with a dash of…very little, a stripe, or nothing at all. The problem with this is this: as my father said, ‘let others do the bragging for you, don’t you dare do it yourself as it tends to leave a bitter aftertaste in EVERYONES mouth’. Rapha style requires that others do the bragging for them, its intuitive, intelligent, and has grasped into a niche’, now that they have arrived, will there be enough people outside of the niche’ to even recognize them (i say 95%) do not, and of those, how many of us are likely to go out and ‘brag’ about them, I am not sure. It is a mutual relationship made in heaven, and I am not even sure Rapha is looking for ‘more’. So, will see what happens. Great to think about though

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