Can Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France?

Monday, 13 June 2011

No.

Wiggins Dauphiné

Bradley Wiggins took a great win in the Critérium du Dauphiné, becoming the third Briton to win the race after Brian Robinson and Robert Millar. Taking the lead in the time trial stage, he rode strongly in the mountains to defend his lead without losing time to his rivals.

First of all, Wiggins has won a great race, for those who support him, this is itself cause for celebration. For me, it’s far better to win this race and put in a decent performance in the Tour de France than just aim for success in July and finish in a forgettable ninth place with no wins to your name. Watching everything through the optic of the Tour de France is excessive, the Dauphiné is one of the top races on the calendar already.

But when it comes to the Tour de France, I’m not trying to be cynical or mean, just realistic. The Dauphiné isn’t the Tour. It’s one thing checking a still-to-reach-peak-form Cadel Evans and marking Alexandre Vinokourov and Jurgen Van Den Broeck, another trying to follow Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador in July. Plus history demonstrates that few winners of the Dauphiné have gone on to win the Tour de France.

What if he’s not in peak form yet?
Holding form from now until late July is a big ask. But Wiggins might be able to improve, maybe he’s not in peak shape yet and can scrape out a few more watts, or lose yet more body weight. If so he can use this race as part of the build-up like anyone else and coach Matt Parker and the other Team Sky staff will be vigilant here. Indeed seeing as he lost contact a couple of times on the way to La Toussuire he’ll need to go faster. Remember he average speed uphill is significantly higher in July.

Plus there’s the dynamic of success and momentum. I look around and Andy Schleck’s dropping his chain, Alberto Contador is attempting a Gir0-Tour double not done since Marco Pantani in 1998 and nobody else is looking too sharp right now, although that might be deliberate, Gesink sat up one day in the Dauphiné and Andy Schleck did the same yesterday in Switzerland. Wiggins can take the satisfaction that others are playing catch up.

Plenty to look forward to
But if I say he won’t win the Tour, he can still have a very productive July. There’s Stage 2 and the team time trial, a chance for the first rider in the team over the line to take the yellow jersey. A top-10 finish is quite possible and he’ll look forward to the penultimate stage, the Grenoble time trial.

Team Sky have other reasons to be positive. Edwald Boasson-Hagen seems over his springtime injuries, Rigoberto Uran is proving his talent and Geraint Thomas looks increasingly versatile. Since the creation of the team they’ve struggled to transform their budget into consistent high level success but that’s true of other teams, for example Katusha.

Summary
Rather than seeing this as a marker for the Tour de France, it’s a great win. Indeed, Team Sky might want to play up this element to ensure expectations don’t grow to big for July, a concern this time last year. But if it’s uncommon for the Dauphiné winner to follow up with a win in the Tour de France, it’s common for a Dauphiné winner to be in the mix for stage wins and a high placing come July. Me, I  don’t see Wiggins winning in July and podium spot sounds hard. But stranger things have happened.

  • One final note is that Wiggins is not without his imitators. Jérôme Coppel has said he’s trying to copy the style of a time trial specialist who improves in the mountains and has cited Wiggins as the model to copy. Similarly Europcar’s Christophe Kern had a great Dauphiné and is another rouleur who has shed weight to improve his abilities.
Euan June 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm

What gets me about the detractors of his Dauphiné win and his lack of panache. He can only ride the course that is set in front of him. If others cannot distance him on the climbs enough, then they should work on their TT.

It is certain that he worked his ass off to stay in position he could to win the jersey and that should be at least respected. A man cannot make the race more exciting if he is already on his limit hanging on.

gilbert June 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

the best article you wrote if it stopped before the photo

Bryan June 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm

There’s no way he’ll win the tour but a top 10 is possible. The promisig thing for him is his reaction at the end of the last 2 stages. Of course he was nackered but nothing compare to Ventoux or Andora in 09. I’d say that suggests he’s in better form than 09 and I believe he has more to come. The problem for him is that the others have much more to come too.

Don’t underestimate the confidence a win can bring, especially on like this. For a guy wh’s had some mental issues in the past this will do wonders. People forget that he hasn’t actually won much in his road career.

David June 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Very good bike rider, but not good enough in the mountains. Having said that, if the Tour is like recent editions, it will probably be a big bunch starting the final climbs, including Wiggins.

If Wiggins can gain time in the time trials and hang on in the mountains I can see him placing somewhere in the region of 7-10th. I do have a sneaky feeling though that Uran could be the highest placed Sky rider in July.

936ADL June 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I think we should celebrate the win for what it is, a fantastic acheivement, and congratulate Wiggins. As has been said, he can only ride the course that’s put before him.

Reports would suggest he’s off for more altitude training which hopefully means there’s more to come.

I for on will be rooting for him in July!

El Gato de la Cala June 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

NOT being a big fan of BW nor being a fan of his team and their somewhat naive approach to try winning TDF by transforming track talent to road stars, (put on top of that the second to none most UGLY Team suit in the pro ranks ever), Sky Team is undoubtedly hard to like by others than pale British track- and TT riders, and their lack of Cycling X-Factor is probably their biggest hurdle in terms of gaining respect and fans throughout the world of cycling. Wearing the Sky Team uniform must be like bringing a bowel of mixed salad to the annual BBQ – you simply do not get any friends that way..

Give me a Joaquim Rodriguez on Red Bull for three weeks accompanied by a 100% guaranteed crash-free Frank Schleck and the likes will put some fireworks in the Alps. Spice it up with works men of the finest art and let AC and AS go wheel by wheel on every mountain finish until the youngster pays the price for living as a Pop star during the winters. AC doesn’t go fishing or partying with his bro in the winter – he trains. Just so you know it.

Vive le Tour!

As for BW – you had your 15 minutes, move away and live for ever happy listening to: “London Calling” by the Clash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfK-WX2pa8c

Guadzilla June 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Only the biased British media thinks that Wiggo has a shot at the podium, let alone winning the yellow.

STB June 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Should be in the Top 10.

An outside chance of Top 5.

Slim chance of 3rd place.

No chance of 1st or 2nd place.

Only one individual TT this year which will work against Bradley. If he can hang on in the mountains and not lose too much time then a Top 10 finish is possible.

alberto June 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

No.

Oliver June 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Was it just me or was anyone else surprised by how little breathing Wiggins seemed to be doing while on the climbs? Contrast that with the huffing and puffing (and suffering) of Kern for example….

The Inner Ring June 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Well if the headline was provocative, I more wanted to say we should be giving him credit for this win and anything extra in July is a bonus.

Guadzilla: I think even the British media knows what his chances are, but each country needs to promote its own athletes to help local sales.

StevenCP June 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Wiggo has been the victim of Sky’s hullaballoo entrance into the pro cycling world last year. Arriving on the scene saying they wanted a tour win within five years was ridiculous.

That alone meant any achievement outside of a tour win was gonna be laughed at. I personally like Wiggo – he says it like it is, even if it’s to his own detriment.

I happen to think he will go well in July. The team is stronger and they actually look like they know what they are doing (how many times did they screw up a lead-out sprint last season?).

A stage win and a top 10 GC finish would be a genuine achievement.

Larry T. June 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm

El Gato’s take is good. The entire Sky Team has been the “worst team that a lot of money can buy” since they started, but at least now they’ve won SOMETHING worthwhile. And isn’t this just their 2nd season? I wouldn’t bet a nickle on Wiggo being on the podium at the end of Le Beeg Shew but just hope for an interesting race– more than the wimpy Schleck vs Contador duel of last year. I’d LOVE to see Cadel Evans finally win this thing but if “Il Pistolero” shows up it’ll be tough. In some ways I wouldn’t mind AC winning LeTour if for no other reason than to silence those who whine the Giro is way too hard for anyone to do the Giro/Tour double these days.

ziggymund June 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Come on guys, no need to go hard on Sky for being a new team with money to spend. Sky’s money are good for pro cycling.
As for BW he seems to be working in a very professional way. I’m afraid that is not enough to go top 10 in July.

Pies June 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

On the plus side, Sky are firing far better in year 2, compared to year 1. In some ways, Team Schleck are going through their growing pains too. But come July, they will be a GC/stage win/TT force to be reckoned with. Will Team Sky be up there? Suspect not to the same degree, but Wiggins prep seems to be better than last year without the Giro – but where is the turn of pace that he will surely need? And it’s immoral that BW has more followers on Twitter than Spartacus or Cav. Cav’s tweets, on the other hand, merit their own column….and Spartacus his own dictionary.

Markkus June 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm

If Bradley makes top 10, he’ll have had a decent Tour. His Dauphiné win is no small achievement, but the Tour is something else entirely. Sky invested far too much expectation in him, based almost entirely on his admittedly impressive Verbier performance, in 2009. His reinvention as whippet-like alpinist has been quite a feat, but even in the Dauphiné, it was clear that there were stronger climbers. The Tour will be won and lost in the high mountains.

Rider Council June 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Anyone notice when he is interviewed he uses the same gestures as Armstong? A little weird no? Take away the Brit accent…..They must have been ‘coached’ by the same guy.

Simma June 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Can’t be too hard on sky… i’m english and don’t really like the team either, but eddy boss is a serious talent… perhaps a contender for the dauphine himself if he’s not being called to do the donkey work (which he did amazingly…)

and geraint has been a bit of a revelation. probably going to become a real strong classics man if sky let him…

but theres the point right there, these guys can only do what sky let them do, and sky wants wiggo winning the tour… which he just can not do, no ammount of weight loss or special training or altitude blah blah blah blah, it’s not possible, it’s not in his arsenal, his body is not capable of becoming what it has to be, plain and simple. none of the track starts do either, mostly because they’re track stars! you can only do so much from 1 pool of athletes who you’ve hand picked for 1 job. get another pool x.x

DaveO June 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm

A fine article again, balanced and fair. Some of the comments though.

Sky are half way through their second season yet people are already claiming they are a massive failure and a waste of money. Katusha anyone? Leopard even though they are basically half of Saxo Bank are not exactly having a stellar first season. Radioshack not exactly pulling up trees either. It takes time to build a team, the last to really hit the ground running was Cervelo but they are an exception not the rule.

Sky also are in place to bring on young British riders, an extension of British Cycling. As such they are committed to this ideal and not free to run around plucking up the best riders from all over the world in pursuit (no pun!) of results. The only other team that follows this principle albeit much more extreme is Euskaltel. Results wise always at a disadvantage but personally for me very rewarding to see the likes of Thomas, Swift and Stannard being brought on and becoming very promising riders indeed. I for one applaud Sky so far, the team is much stronger that last year and during the Dauphine I saw a strong team that bodes well for the future. But then I am a glass half full person.

As for Wiggo, chapeau to the man. He can do top 10 at the tour which is good going especially for a Brit and even if he doesn’t he has won a big, big race and no-one can take that away from him (except a UCI drugs tester but that is a different kettle of fish altogether!). Give him a break.

Raouligan June 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Well he has to do something this year as he’ll be off of road racing till 2013…

It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll return and how Sky will fill his position.

Top 10 perhaps I think it depends whether he has a bad day, two Schleck’s ‘Bert, Basso, Vino et al will prevent him being top 5!

bikecellar June 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm

No. Well if the Tour were clean a podium place is a possible, but it ain’t clean and won’t be clean so top six .

Richard June 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

It’s obvious that Brad’s having a much better time this year but I think he’ll be lucky for a top 8 in the tour. It’s a shame he’s not using next year to build on what he does this year because that may have been enough to go one better but going back to the track won’t do his road career any favours.

I agree with what David said earlier though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Uran ahead of Wiggins in the GC. he seems to have that extra bit of ‘go’ needed to make breaks and defend attacks where as Brad seems to be at his own pace or nothing. But as with last year when Lofkvist was riding much better Sky didn’t have the humility to let him take over GC as they’d already put so much faith in Brad

Jarvis June 13, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I don’t think Wiggins has done himself any favours since his move to Sky and I can understand the general resentment of Team Sky, they aren’t the most dynamic around. But he rode a great race at the Dauphine. To win by that margin over some top-riders is quite impressive.

Anyway, I’m glad that he won the Dauphine. It’s a great race in it’s own right and those riders who say they are only using it as training for the Tour do the race a great disservice.

Flashing Pedals June 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I don’t think Bradley Wiggins will ever win the Tour de France.
As talented a cyclist as he is, I think his ‘limit’ is 2 week stage races – he generally
‘chokes’ on the third week somewhere.
He may have a shot at taking the lead early with the TTT but the man most likely is Fabian, or a sprinter.
He lacks climbing ability – he can hang on, but he generally just sits there until he cracks & is gone.
Ifthe Tour is raced hard early, to demolish either Schleck or Contador, then my gut says he will go Kaboom a bit quicker.

Rider Council June 14, 2011 at 12:19 am

do people actually believe Wigoo can win the Tour? Bizzzaaar. And as for the Sky bashing….I don’t see the point at all at all. New squad with a lot of cash, it’s an easy target but whether you like their jerseys or not they have an interesting line up. Lets not forget the likes of Sutton and Flecha along with the ‘pasty’ white Brits’. Kennaugh is the man to watch for the future, and here is an Irish man giving kudos to the British for pulling together a top notch squad in no time at all.

Velonista June 14, 2011 at 4:51 am

Another angle on this story is—in addition to EBH’s superb riding—the Sky team looked strong. They have slowly put together an impressive collection of riders capable of helping and protecting a GC contender. They looked cool and in control throughout the Dauphiné. Wiggins is still a long shot to podium, but I do like the direction in which Sky is headed…

Jay Taylor June 14, 2011 at 5:35 am

Hi everybody,

Great comments on this blog, as always.

In re: Sky’s success/lack thereof, I think something that is easy to forget when analyzing how ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ a team has been is that the very nature of bike racing means that 1 rider/team wins a race and 199 other riders lose. That is the simple math of our sport. Look at a lot of the star riders in the peloton and then ask how often do they win? Some of them win, well…never. I know Inrng has touched on this aspect in previous posts.

Given that, is Sky’s season really so bad? And whoever said that RadioShack’s season hasn’t been going well is really not being fair. Sky has certainly had its share of victories this season and there are many, many other teams that have done less.

El Gato de La Cala June 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

Come on guys – its all to blame arrogant and hyper ambitious David Brailsford and his releasing the five years winning TDF plan. ( IDIOT). Where was the head of communication when that plan went online? Asked to keep quit like the rest of the staff. A humorless man never having won a decent bike race himself now running the team like an public office – would hate to wake up one morning working for him. Not that I have any chance. Looks like a good smile is prohibited as well. From now on I will support all sky team riders: pale, trackstyleriding, over the edge Spanish riders, hold back Norwegian talent stronger than his body may accept, skinny sprinters with long socks and all other riders from the team – but you have to get rid of the ugly suit! (& Dave B).

Alan J June 14, 2011 at 9:50 am

The Sky kit is so bad it was used as the basis for quite a few new ones this season! Absolutely nothing wrong with their kit whatsover. Early days for Sky – I’d say they are on track for a five year plan – wait till the likes of Dowsett mature – a few decent acquisitions in the summer and they would be well on the way. Really don’t quite get all the vitriol.

Andy L June 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

I find it difficult to like Wiggins on a personal level but its a great win and a great ride. I wish Sky would pay more one week stage races the respect they deserve as they can start picking up wins and relieve a huge amount of pressure from themselves. They are paying him a lot so obviously feel they have to back him but what happens if for the second year in a row, he is not Skys highest place rider on GC at the Tour?

Raouligan June 14, 2011 at 11:20 am

I think the Sky dislike isn’t helped any by being part of the Murdoch collective…

Certainly their media image and appearance all hint at an overbranded, overpromoted, not quite as good as the proper opposition that reflects the Murdoch groups presence overall in the UK.

I for one can’t disassociate them from the nasty media empire, I’m just hoping that Murdoch gets bored and walks away from cycling I couldn’t bear to loose my virtually free coverage and be forced into a condensed time slot with horrific commentary and punditry.

Flashing Pedals June 14, 2011 at 11:21 am

Interesting that the negative remarks re Team Sky.
Perhaps they did irritate with pre launch conduct + naive comments, ahead of their time.
Its a big learning curve entering the ProTour at that level, with such expectation.

This is somewhat ‘off topic’ but for a global brand – Team Sky have appalling media communications.
Brailsford – well, many simply just wait for the next mistake – Tall Poppy Syndrome, perhaps.

I wonder if GreenEDGE will attract the same degree of critic ?

asb June 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

re: the five year goal…really what do you guys think they were gonna do? I mean who starts a team with the aim of ‘being mediocre within 5 years’? answer: no one. The reason is really quite simple; this would not appeal to fans or sponsors.
To re-emphasize Alan’s point, building a successful team takes time, particularly if the success is to last longer term; riders and coaching staff all have to be developed. Give the guys a chance!

STB June 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Team Sky has really improved this year.

Wins from Ben Swift, Greg Henderson, Apollonio, Boasson Hagan, Wiggins, and others. Plus riders such as Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Alex Dowsett, all placing well in top races.

They are looking like a solid team for the classics and shorter stage races. I am not sure they have the squad for a serious Tour de France ride, but I believe they will be competitive and do well this year. Maybe a couple of stage wins from Thomas, Fleche, Boasson Hagan, Swift, Henderson, plus a good overall from Bradley Wiggins.

I am just pleased to see a British orientated team doing well, and with several British riders competing at the highest level (Wiggins, Thomas, Swift, Dowsett, etc).

Nick June 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I too only saw “no” on the front page in response to the question posed in the title.

Sent coffee all over the monitor in laughter!

Dave June 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Not sure about the negative kit comments – one of the best in the peloton in my opinion

Dave June 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I dislike Sky simply because of Murdoch and his evil empire , sorry if that meakes me shallow or something

Can Wiggins win the TdF ? Yes , but would need exceptional circumstances to do so

Dave June 14, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I dislike Sky simply because of Murdoch and his evil empire , sorry if that makes me shallow or something

Can Wiggins win the TdF ? Yes , but would need exceptional circumstances to do so

Rob H June 15, 2011 at 9:56 am

A good article spoiled by a needlessly provocative headline and first sentence. As you go on to say in the rest of the article let’s just take the Dauphine win for what it is, a fine victory in a prestigious race which most riders would love to have in their palmares. Whatever happens in the TdF no-one can take this win away from him.

For everyone saying Sky are a failure, well they are 8/18 in the World Tour rankings which surely makes them an above average team no? I’m no lover of the Murdoch empire but if they are going to spend their money on anything I’d rather it was a cycling team, especially one that is bringing on British riders such as Thomas, Swift, Stannard, Dowsett, Kennaugh etc.

gildasd June 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

A long as Clembutador with suspected added plastic is there, no one can win.

And it’s gonna be booorrriiing.

Stupid dopers.

G

Anon June 18, 2011 at 7:33 am

Depends on how we see the word “can”. Hahaha. I “can” afford a big house according to my bank – probably the same illusion Brailsford is selling to Wiggo.

I just hope it’s not Schleck vs. Contador and everyone else is chasing for 3rd. Oh well… we’ll see..

Paddy June 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

Wiggins is a great rider, but he will need to improve just another bit to win a tour. He did look human on La Toussuire and an increase in speed would have left him distanced. It was a great win for him but I can’t see it happening in July. I think the best hope for a British tour winner is with Peter Kennaugh, perhaps in 5 or 6 years time.
This years Tour will be a farce anyway with Contador in the peloton, I don’t blame Cantador himself, the UCI are a disgrace, this should have been settle 7 or 8 months ago.

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