Tour de Romandie: The Moment The Race Was Won

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wiggins La Chaux de Fonds

Bradley Wiggins sprints to win Stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie. There’s rarely a single winning moment in a stage race, instead a series of consistent performances. In plain arithmetic third place in the prologue and victory in the final mountain time trial delivered the result. But so did the sprint victory with the 10 second time bonus and above all the sign of confidence.

As well as watching Wiggins we also saw Luis Léon Sanchez in action and Andrew Talansky confirmed his talent too, more of which below.

Many were surprised with Wiggins’s sprint finish. It’s not every day you see a victory salute from the Briton, his last road race win was the British national championships in 2011. But let’s remember there were few specialist sprinters to trouble him, they’d been ejected by a climb 20km from the finish. Perhaps the more remarkable aspect was the way he started from 300m and kept going and nobody could come round him. Then again he’s a rouleur, able to turn on big power in an aero position. If anything it would have been more remarkable if he’d burst out of the pack with a sharp acceleration. In short the result was a surprise on the day but less so with some hindsight.

  • A quick note on the time trial. Wiggins dropped his chain. It happened in 2009 during the World Championships in the time trial. He uses O Symetric chainrings and their oval shape makes shifting complicated. But this time a quick fix and he was off again. I thought he lost about 12-15 seconds but the effort to reach cruising speed again can cost. In the end it didn’t matter as Wiggins won the stage by by 0.7 seconds

It was a solid overall win by Bradley Wiggins but this kind of result is no longer a surprise. By the time you read this he’s probably got his thoughts on the next race. Given the race has finished in Switzerland I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s packing his bags for a reconnaissance trip to check Stages 8, 9 and 10 of the Tour de France. We don’t need to compare the results but perhaps I’d rate the Paris-Nice win as a superior result as the terrain was at at times tougher. If anything the surprise is that Wiggins winning a stage race is no longer a surprise.

The Romandie organisers don’t have it easy. First the slot on the calendar means the stunning Swiss mountains can instead offer snow and ice so they can’t pick the highest routes. Second the Giro is looming which means if they picked a gruelling route then many top names heading for the Italian race would not come for fear of burning (or freezing) themselves out of contention. This year’s race saw some climbing but no summit finishes, the main mountain stage on Saturday had a decent climb but then a descent and 10km of valley road to the finish. This was a testing route but one that rewarded consistency rather than daring attacks.

Inevitably we look for clues from the past week for July and this is another confidence booster but I didn’t discover too much more about Wiggins although if we knew he was strong in the mountains and the time trials he’s also bold enough to sprint for stage wins. We saw Cadel Evans still playing catch-up and behind a host of talented riders coming through from Rui Costa to Talansky. I wonder how Teejay Van Garderen would have done if he hadn’t crashed on Saturday?

Spanish banker
Rabobank aren’t having the best of season this year but they have three wins in World Tour races and all thanks to Luis Léon Sanchez who took two stages this week plus one stage win in Paris-Nice.

Talented Talansky
I’d first spotted Talansky in 2010 when he was making a name for himself in amateur stage races in France and Italy. A regular on the podium in the Ronde de l’Isard, the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and the Tour de l’Avenir. Sometimes it’s better to repeatedly make the podium, a sign of consistency and talent. Just ask Romain Sicard and Teejay Van Garderen since the Frenchman won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2009 but has made a name for himself thanks to injury and drunken antics whilst L’Avenir runner-up Van Garderen has achieved more.

Talansky turned pro for 2011 and early on finished four place on Mont Faron in the Tour Méditerranéen. Later he was ninth overall in Romandie last year and won the best young rider competition. In fact he seemed so hesitant on the podium this time last year I wrote it looked like he’d never kissed a girl before.

Saur-Sojasun
A quick mention of this French team since they won a stage with Jonathan Hivert. FDJ-BigMat and Ag2r La Mondiale might have World Tour licences but they’re not winning much this year, indeed Ag2r still have not won a race this year. But Saur-Sojasun have had a better run.

Giro next
The Tour of Italy starts next Saturday… in Denmark. Scanning the results from Romandie Ivan Basso lost two minutes in the mountain time trial. Perhaps he was taking it easy but he’s not looking very strong right now. There’s time to ride himself into form but less than two weeks until some serious climbing awaits. If anything Sylwester Szmyd looks stronger and Eros Capecchi, who wasn’t in Romandie, is strong at the moment too. Astana’s Roman Kreuziger is looking strong but still not 100%. His team mate Paolo Tiralongo had a consistent week, placing well on several uphill finishes and if you play the fantasy leagues might be a good buy… if he’s cheap.

Sim April 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Very impressed with Wiggins but also the entire Sky team. Froome back from illness after having to pull out halfway through his only race this year prior to this (Tour of Algarve), performed as well as I suspect anyone could hope for, in the circumstances, and all things being well, the Dauphine should see him back to higher heights of form. Pate and Sitsou – powerhouses. G in the prologue, and then taking good pulls on the front. Rogers and Porte – great lieutenents for Wiggins. And Cav, proving that for all the snark about teams always having to work for him, he’s a team guy too (though G sent a great tweet yday about Danny Pate stitching him up and having G sitting second wheel behind Cav, meaning little in the way of shelter…).

Sky is looking a very formidable team for the Tour, bearing in mind that with G out and Eisel and EBH in, this looks the Tour team. As much as Evans is lagging behind Wiggo right now, the same can truly be said of BMC vs Sky.

Jody Prummer April 29, 2012 at 7:54 pm

No real lead out trains at the end of the stages. Guys jumping and attacking at the end of the race. Then it all coming together with the strongest guy winning. This was a great stage race and would like to more races like this one.

Martin April 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I thought when Wiggens dropped his chain in the first half of the TT it was all over for him. Makes his win today even more impressive, both from a mental perspective and a physical one. I think the question still remains – he’s clearly one of the best 1 week stage riders in the peloton, but does that form translate to 3 week grand tours?

As long as his bad luck in last year’s tour doesn’t follow him, I think this year we’ll get the first chance to see what the new Wiggens is really capable of.

Bundle April 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Wiggins is both brilliant and solid. And generally, doing well all through the beginning of the season means doing well later. He’s looking as good for the Tour as Evans was last year.
Let me cordially disagree with the necessity of Romandie being so “soft”. The arguments about the moment in the season are acceptable (although Trentino was one week before, a few hundred kms. away to the east, and did include serious climbing) but you could try to have A- (good weather) and B- (bad weather) plans. Still, there is one element of “seriousness” that the weather cannot spoil: mileage. God knows these stages have been long enough for juniors and amateurs. Eight or nine 1ère and 2ème catégorie passes in the same stage are more demanding than 2 H.C. climbs. And two-three really long stages in Romandie can be the best preparation for the Giro (as it has always been). Why on earth do stages keep getting shorter and shorter (generally, and especially in Swiss races)?

Larry T. April 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Great fodder for the Wiggins/SKY fans. But perhaps Wiggo should hope Talansky doesn’t show up for Le Beeg Shew? This new pro almost beat him in the chrono (no excuse for the dropped chain as this problem was not a first, why use things that cause problems like dropped chains? This kind of issue might have cost one Andy Schleck a big prize celebration in Paris not too long ago) and the GC. The other big names are still short of form, let’s remember it’s the end of April …and LeTour’s not ’till July.

Steppings April 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Another nice win for Bradley and full marks for his effort today, no panic in the TT. I didn’t see much of Evans but being on a slow burn could bode well for the third week of the Tour. I must get some money on him.

Adi April 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm

He’s certainly looking very good indeed. Obviously it’s very early in the season but it’s hard to see past him at the moment. You can’t imagine Evans riding away from him in the mountains and Wiggins is the better time triallist.

Schleck/s can do damage in the mountains but there is so much time trialling this year that Wiggins will surely do more in those than they will in the mountains. He showed in the Vuelta that he’s much improved going uphill, and Sky have a very strong team to lend support.

Owen April 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Talansky looks ver promising, but he’s young and a Grand Tour victory is probably a couple of years away. I reckon Jonathan Vaughters will be desperate to keep hold of him.

As for Wiggo, you can only beat what/who is in front of you. He did well.

Mark April 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Did anybody see what happened to Hesjedal at Romandie? I figured he sat up in stage 4 to prepare for the Giro, but then he didn’t start the time trial. Couldn’t watch the race and now can’t find info about it anywhere.

GluteCramp April 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Anybody else think Wiggins is running the risk of peaking too early perhaps? The gaps in the time trial (after taking into account the time lost with the mechanical) combined with the ‘sprint’ win earlier in the race show he’s a long way ahead of his July rivals.
If a similar rider (say, Evans) arrives at the Tour just short of form vs Wiggins with form on the slide, a long last-week time trial could show big gaps if Wiggins does peak before the Tour. He’ll have to be very careful over the next two months…

Roadie61 April 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

Wiggo was very impressive in Romandie, but is he peaking too early? He’s got the TDF followed by the big goal of medaling in London. His preparation for the next three months will be tricky.

Team SKY putting 3 riders in the Top 5 is also very impressive. This team really has it together and has a super strong roster for the Giro.

Been waiting to see SKY’s two Colombians, Uran and Henao in a long stage race. The Giro will be their first GT together and I have no doubt they’ll get some Top Tens in Italy. Both of these riders are outstanding climbers, able to hang with the best of the best. And, SKY can always count on
JA Flecha for stage wins and solid GC placement.

With Cav, Eisel, Swift and Thomas rounding out this Giro team, we should see some more fireworks from Cav and stage wins all around.

Chris April 30, 2012 at 12:15 am

In a slightly counter-intuitive way I wonder if the two mechanical incidents actually won Wiggins the race. In the post race interview after he won stage 1 he said that after he punctured he had a surge of adrenaline which helped him go for the win and I imagine the same happened after his chain slipped today.

Certainly it takes great mental strength to react to those incidents in the right way, but I wonder if the chemical surge of adrenaline didn’t help push him that little bit harder.

Peter April 30, 2012 at 1:41 am

Chapeau to Wiggins, but I am going to disagree with Inner Ring on something. I think there is a moment when Wiggins won, it is the moment that he decided to be calm in adversity and work from within himself – not against others or his bike or the environment. He chose to ride his own race, to his own strengths. This is not the same Wiggo we used to see.

This blog has been excellent at pointing out Wiggins’ growth over the years, his maturity as a physical rider. This season he has shown growth of mental maturity as well, and to me the moment he won Romandie was the moment that he chose to act from his strength in adversity. This is the difference between reacting to breaks and acting from within. Perhaps it is the moment that he let Sanchez go on the sprint with the comfort that he would still win the overall on Sunday. That is the moment, perhaps, when Wiggins will have won a grand tour as well.

A giant chapeau to a great set of columns following Romandie – Inner Ring is in some ways a prime example of acting instead of reacting. If Talansky reads this column, and the Schlecks, then this may be the best example of all.

Brian carless April 30, 2012 at 4:40 am

Let me set the record straight i am not a bit fan of cadel. I dont like his riding style he is too soft. I dont think he can win the TDF at 35. I know that july is still a distance away so lets see. Good ride by wiggins to win lovely ride he showed no panic at all. Ll sanchez didnt even put up a fight. Sky rode very well. I am going with wiggins for the tdf win. I hope he can handle those big climbs.
Good job bradley great job sky. Watch young talanskey. Could we see a clash with talanskey vs vangarderen?

Andy Logan April 30, 2012 at 5:16 am

Wiggins was the boss of this race, a very cool cat post stage interview etc, took a sprint even though he had a little rest in between as he called it and then nailed the chrono as well.

He has demonstrated some great mental strength, only worries about his race and gets on with it. The Worlds TT was a great example, no times checks, he just focused on holding a certain wattage and then cranking it up for the 2nd half of the TT.

bikecellar April 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

Just back from a mini break in Nice, catching up on Romandie via Cyclingfans videos, Wiggin’s sprint win (with time to glance behind) and post race effusive “I owe it all to my team mates” was it all a new level of Wiggin’s impersonation (which I have read he is known for) it was all so Cavendish, the interview was really amusing. A confident win for Wiggo and Sky.

Toe Strap April 30, 2012 at 10:59 am

Would like some more info on Wiggo’s mechanical during the TT. Is this an eleptical chain ring issue?On the E/sport pictures, immediately prior to the chain ship his rear derailieur seemed to be bouncing all over the place. Next thing his chain has jumped. Given this has happened before, are eleptical rings more prone to this type of problem?
That said, he did well to limit the loss to 10 or so secs. Could easily have lost more (eg if the chain jammed, and he needed to change bike), and lost both the stage and the GC.

Patrick April 30, 2012 at 11:16 am

I love the beautifully detailed graphics from the host broadcaster showing each stage route.

Does anyone know if Lieuwe Westra is riding the Giro because he wasn’t as strong here as at Paris-Nice?

That was another great TT performance by Wiggins, but also Talansky, the Grand Tours are seemingly much more open due to the different talents coming through.

Gary Marshall April 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

Re Bradley’s Chain, everyone quick to point finger at the chainrings but thought I heard on British Eurosport they though the front changer had failed to shift initially, and then overshifted causing it to drop.

A Di2 problem?

Great controlled ride though by sky /wiggins, I was slightly puzzled after sky controlling all day they ‘let’ sanchez nip through for the win and bonus, time trial only short, either very confident or too tired to stop him.

I wonder too if Cadel’s illness & current lack of form may be a blessing in disguise come July.

Roadie61 April 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Gotta hand it to A. Talansky on a super performance. He’s only 23 and finishing 2nd in the ITT and on GC is even more impressive because he followed Wiggins. Not sure what his upcoming race schedule is, but he’s a great young asset to Garmin.

Tejay Van Garderen will win the TDF one day. Also only 23, he’s a super strong climber and fantastic TT. BMC was very fortunate to snap him up from HTC and I think he’ll be a super domestique for Cadel in Le Tour. Speaking of Cadel, only time will reveal his form to defend his title, but his Spring has been pretty lackluster with illness slowing him up. He was 29th in Romandie @ 2:07, but he’s got time on his side for further preparation for July. We know he’ll fight hard as the defender, and his TT skills are excellent, so we’ll see how his form compares with Wiggins. Let’s hope 2012 is not another “Tour de Crash” for the peloton!

And my early picks as “the challengers” in Le Tour:
– Andy Schleck (if he attacks, attacks, attacks and puts significant time into his opponents in the mtns)
– Vincenzo Nibali (having a fantastic Spring, I think this could be his year to podium)
– Bradley Wiggins (had it all goin’ last year and has it again this year; with his solid climbing skills
and his A+ TT skills, Wiggo should be on the podium this year)

Dark horse picks:
– Samuel Sanchez (can he put it all together for July?)
– Jurgen Van den Broeck (needs to peak perfectly, but he’s got the whole package, esp in the mtns)
– Ryder Hesjedal (placed 6th GC in 2010 and having a really good season so far, Ryder has the talent)
– Roman Kreuziger (impressive palmares for a 25 y/o; with Astana having a great season, maybe a
podium spot for Kreuziger?)

Feel free to add to my list. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some obvious ones.

Roadie61 April 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

How could I forget to mention Tommy V? He’s proved his toughness in GT’s and as an all-around tough racer. Just missed the podium last year (4th), sandwiched between F. Schleck and Contador. Voeckler is very smart, tactically, a solid climber, a great descender and can TT, plus he’s got a super talented group of guys that ride for him. And he’s mentally tough as nails, AND, he’s
French. France has been waiting since B. Hinault last won in 1985 for this moment!

Could this be the year of the man who never says die? I imagine Christophe Kern will be back on the roster for 2012, and with Rolland and Turgot and Charteau, Tommy V has a real shot to stand on the podium. Europcar is a tough team that should never slip my mind.

Matts April 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Question for INRNG: Is there anything at all we can take from Cadel Evans’ performance in Romandy? I know he had a similar performance in the Criterium last year prior to winning in July, but…anything at all?

The Inner Ring May 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Not much. He’s behind a bit with his form which might worry him in the back of his mind. I can only go by what I’ve read but he works better when things go his way and the team is built around him. Right now things haven’t gone to plan. But there’s plenty of time.

a different ben April 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm

This photo of Wiggins is a curious one. At that moment of the photo where he’s just beaten the sprinters he’s probably happy as larry, stoked, a little bit chipper even, yet he does some schoolboy thing of trying to look über-coöl and not show any emotion, like it was a piece of cake. Give me Thor Hushovd or Robbie McEwen any day, someone who really shows it, not afraid to admit it was hard work, and *fun* to win! The Mod Moper can be a bit of a ponce sometimes.

Alex April 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Maybe he was going for the no emotion celebration, I don’t know, but certainly he only had about 2 seconds to raise his arms before grabbing the bars again to negoatiate an awkwardly placed speedbump just after the line. He gave the air a good old fist pump about 50 yards later once he was on steadier ground. I’m giving him the benefit of any doubt on this one.

Stephen April 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Massive chapeau to Wiggo for a superb ride, but I agree with the earlier posting that this is baaad news for his July preparation. I seem to remember how a Certain Iban Mayo back in the day DESTROYED the Dauphine and then was a over his peak also ran at the TdF. Sure he got killed in some crosswinds, but still, its APRIL and Wiggo has the strength to drop a chain and STILL will the ITT and overall? ALso, recall, that the year (2003) that Armstrong dug deep to win the Tour de Suisse is also the year that he dug the deepest to fend off a resurgent Jan Ullrich who was only undone by a slick traffic circle in St Etienne.

If i was SKY and Wiggins, I would be verrrrry careful about how they manage his fitness for the next 10 weeks- He has a lot to lose and not a lot of margin to play with….Keeping that peak through May, June and early July will be a massive challenge, because I can tell you that Cadel (and likely, the entire BMC team) should be peaking nicely by then, and even Andy Schleck- as limited a rider as he is in terrains that do not point straight up- and the rest of the RSNT crew will be sorted as well.

While SKY did a fantastic job in Switzerland, they were not contesting field sprints and defending the Green while Chasing Yellow as they will be trying to do in July, so this result is a bit misleading…

Pave April 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I’ve criticized/observed here before the LL Sanchez only seems to have one arrow in his quiver (get in break, work for a while, start skipping turns and pretending to be tired, then use that energy to take the win from a break). Seeing him take two victories in a very different fashion gives me a lot more respect for him. I’m not going to say I’m a fan, but he definitely deserves kudos and proved my “one arrow” comment wrong. Chapeau.

Big Mikey April 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Boys, you heard it here first. BW will NOT win the Tour. Don’t buy the hype, think podium.

And Brian carless – Cadel is a SOFT rider? Smoke much? Dude has a TdF (won in true, grind-it-out fashion, no less) and a World Championship (won in a solo attack). He’s all class, that one.

Roadie61 May 1, 2012 at 1:43 am

@Big Mikey: Agreed that Cadel is a “grind-it-out” kind of rider, no way is he soft! In my mind, Cadel may be the first clean rider to win the TDF (not counting Andy’s default win in 2010 and Pereiro’s default win in 2006) since Greg LeMond, though there’s no proof of that. It’s just that the other “winners,” including LA’s 7-in-a-row are all riders who were associated with doctors who were involved in doping scandals. Twenty years of non-clean yellow jersey holders? Not too hard to believe if you look into the history and the rampant use of PEDs that was considered “the norm” in order to endure 3 weeks of the TDF.

I believe that Cadel is the real deal and I believe that he is truly a clean rider with admirable integrity and guts.

Alex May 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

I don’t buy this ‘peaking too early’ angle.
He’s got plenty of time between these week-long stage races to recover.
The reason why the Giro has been seen as being poor preparation for the TdF is not because you can’t peak for both, but because the toughness of the full 3 Giro weeks takes too much out of the rider.

They were confident of Brad’s form going into last year’s tour, and they seem to be repeating the pattern this year (all-be-it at a higher level).

That said, going into the tour with the best form isn’t all you need. LAs victories were partly down to how much respect the US Postal team had (or how bullish he was). Team Sky are beginning to look a bit like them, in that a lot of the peloton are looking at them first to see what they do.

Brad is gaining in confidence too – not to LA levels, but one of the key markers for me this season was when he attacked on the queen stage of Paris-Nice – the Mende mountain finish. It didn’t totally work, and Westra became a threat from then on, but just the fact that he’d seen the same plan work with Richie Porte in Algarve meant that he had the guts to try it too. He will have looked back at that and seen that many of his rivals were really hurting.
Of course, as everyone has also said – his confidence in the ITTs will always inform his road racing decisions – he can afford to let the true climbers go ahead from time-to-time.

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