The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour de France

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Tour de France last three weeks but the build-up begins in October when the route is announced. The road to victory isn’t about the finish line, it’s the journey too and so this time there’s more than one racing winning moment.

And if you think Wiggins won because of the time trials, think twice. Strip away the time trials from the overall results and he would still have the fastest time.

October 2011
The first point didn’t even happen in the race but instead goes back to 2011 when the route was designed. Unveiled in October last year, the route promised more time trials and less climbing. Back then some were even tipping the likes of Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara but I thought otherwise, there was still a lot of climbing and it wrote would only be accessible to Martin if he lost a lot of weight. Instead when the route was leaked I named Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador as the prime contenders.

February 2012
But Alberto Contador’s legal avenues reached a dead end and he finally copped a ban to rule him out of the Tour. It’s impossible and perhaps futile to play counter-factual arguments about what Contador’s presence would have meant because it’s just a fact that he wasn’t there and in the language of Team Sky, an element beyond their control. Play this game with hindsight and given the way Wiggins has been riding this year, what if he didn’t crash out last year? Perhaps we’ll get an answer in 2013?

Team Sky
Whilst some squads waited for the national championships in June to judge a rider’s form, Sky knew who they were taking for a long time, relying on downloaded power data rather than seeing who had a good day out. Just one example of a different approach. The team has an interest in playing up their professionalism and it is getting other squads annoyed, partly because they’re organised and partly because they want to be more organised but lack the resources. But it certainly seems the squad has focus on detail like no other and came to the race with a team able to control the race in the mountains whilst Vincenzo Nibali, Cadel Evans and Jurgen Van den Broeck were left isolated.

Ça Joux Plane pour moi

Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné
People asked if he’d peaked too soon after winning Paris-Nice in March. But even the most old-school rider can peak in March and come back for July. The race in March gave us two big clues. I wondered if Wiggins could cope with the Montée Jalabert climb on Stage 5 given the steep slopes. But we saw Richie Porte deployed to set a fierce pace and Wiggins rode an extraordinary high cadence to winch his way up. At Dauphiné everything just looked so controlled. When they climbed the Joux Plane Twitter erupted with talk of US Postal and we’d not seen such a strong team since Astana dominated the Dauphiné in 2007 but there was a difference in that Sky spent a lot to recruit riders like Porte, Rogers and Boasson Hagen and get them to work as a unit. They’d be the undisputed leaders on several other teams but the Dauphiné showed just how well they’d work together.

Chris Froome’s puncture on the way to Seraing
After five pre-Tour examples, now we get to the racing. Froome lost 1.25 thanks to a puncture late on Stage 1. This meant there was no need for Sky to think about splitting the leadership role after Wiggins took the yellow jersey. The media went to town with talk of Froome’s ambitions but a simple puncture fixed this.

The Metz massacre
The giant crash on Stage 6 removed several riders from the race. Did it remove any threats to Wiggins? It’s speculation but Ryder Hesjedal had broken Wiggins’ “record” on the Rocacorba climb near Girona and could have been exciting in the mountains. But the crash was also about staying upright, and here Wiggins was out of trouble.

Froome Tour de France

The king of the mountains?

The Planche des Belles Filles
A clever addition to the race route, this short climb was exciting. A fast tempo approach saw the riders hit the early slopes at high speed and the pace was intense all the way to the top by which time only Chris Froome, Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Rein Taraamae were left.

Besançon time trial
L’Equipe likened Wiggins to a heron, flying across the landscape with his long limbs trailing beneath him. A 1-2 for Team Sky, Fabian Cancellara was a minute off.

La Toussuire
A classic mountain stage in the Alps, all final questions about Wiggins’ ability to cope with climbing were put to rest. Whilst Pierre Rolland won the day after some bold breakaway riding, Wiggins arrived with a select group of Froome, Thibaut Pinot, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Vincenzo Nibali. Cadel Evans had tried an earlier attack but this backfired and he was dropped.

The Final Week
By now there was little suspense. The others might have wanted to attack but they couldn’t escape the Sky steamroller. This lack of suspense was rammed home when on the final Pyrenean stage Nibali was on a bad day and sent his team to the front to ride tempo as a bluff, pretending he was going to attack but instead tapping a rhythm for the Sicilian to hold the wheels and this saw Cadel Evans crack. Then in the final time trial Wiggins put over a minute into Froome, over two minutes into van Garderen, over three minutes into Nibali and over four into Van den Broeck.

Wiggins champs elysees paris

Conclusion
It looked like the time trial bias in this year’s course suited Wiggins but in fact he proved he could outclimb his rivals. In fact, strip out the prologue, the Stage 9 time trial and the Stage 19 time trial Bradley Wiggins still finished with the fastest time, ahead of Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome, the only change to the podium is that Nibali would be second overall at 23 seconds with Froome in third at 1.21. Now we can play with hypotheticals all day but this fact demonstrates Wiggins didn’t just ride away from the others in the time trials, he did it elsewhere too.

If the climb to the Planche des Belle Filles showed Wiggins could climb, this was a short and intense effort. Instead for me Wiggins secured the win with his riding in the mountains and it was on the road to La Toussuire that we saw the best demonstration of this. Only Thibaut Pinot and Chris Froome were capable of climbing faster than Wiggins that day. The stage to La Toussuire was the demonstration and consecration of Wiggins’ individual abilities and the dominance of Team Sky which won six stages.

Vive le Tour!

Tom G July 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Killer stat with the overall times without the TTs.

What are the virtual standings in seconds please?

The Inner Ring July 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I’ve updated the piece above. Nibali at 23 seconds, Froome at 1.21.

brian July 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm

That’s interesting, but I think the non-TT times fall into the same category as “what if Contador raced?” Think Nibali would have raced a bit differently during stage 17 if he was only a few seconds down? He lost 18 of those 23 seconds on that stage. Heck, being only five seconds down heading into the Pyrennes would have made for an entirely different race, no?

Fair Dinkum July 24, 2012 at 12:04 am

Agreed. TTs and the placement of them within a route for a GT changes the entire dynamic of the race and how it is raced.

peloton.pl July 24, 2012 at 1:26 am

Getting this thing philosophical…we don’t how Wiggins would have ridden having only handful of seconds over Nibali…
What I’d like to see next year:
Wiggins – determined to win again
Contador – determined to prove himself again
Froome – riding for another team determined to establish himself
Nibali – improving TT a little, otherwise doing his job way he does
Hesjedal – focusing on TdF
Evans – being as good as in 2011

And us fans treated to fantastic 100th edition

Roadie61 July 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Extraordinary win for Wiggins, for SKY and for all of Britain!

Showing the build-up of Bradley’s form and his key victories epitomizes that he was on track for the maillot jaune in 2012. The dominance of Team SKY and the prowess of each of the “domestiques” as individuals produced a team win unlike we’ve ever seen.

But what impressed me, amongst other strengths, was Wiggins’ confidence and leadership to set pace for his teammates and their individual goals, too. Leading the team train while wearing the yellow jersey isn’t something we’re used to seeing, but why waste superb TT and climbing skills if he can lead another to a stage win, right?! Even down the Champs Elysees he drove the front and gave Cavendish the ultimate “thank you” for his efforts. This selflessness really impressed me.

And for those who speculated that Wiggins would crack mentally and ultimately fail in his quest, he silenced those voices!

Congrats Bradley Wiggins on fulfilling your dream!

grumpyoldman July 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm

“Congrats Bradley Wiggins on fulfilling your dream!”

And ours.

The sight of Wiggins successfully busting a gut for Cav on the Champs Élysées was my most emotional sporting memory since 1966.

Congrats too to the rest of the Sky team for their selflessness, and a great ‘Mission Accomplished’ storyline.

Roadie61 July 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm

@INRNG: Many thanks to your untiring brain and fingers to bring this 2012 TdF to us fans! What you presented was superior, in-depth, historical, humorous, factual, balanced, detailed writing of every aspect surrounding Le Tour!

We are lucky to have this forum to discuss, compare and contrast our opinions. Damn lucky :-)

sea_biscuit July 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm

+1

grumpyoldman July 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Seconded.

Chuffy July 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Yup – same here. This blog is essential reading for anyone with an interest in cycling.

steve July 22, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Every day A must read I would say

Ablindeye July 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

First port of call every morning and nice to have a haven away from your average, cynical cycling forum, it’s been a real pleasure.

Vurtuali July 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

thirded, essential reading.

al July 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

+1
Thanks inrng

Scott M July 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm

+1
Thanks INRNG: my first stop on the web every day for the last three weeks.

Patrick July 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Well said sir.

Gerrald July 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm

“Strip away the time trials from the overall results and he would still have the fastest time.” Best observation in Tour coverage I read for the last week. You’re good!

Any chance on a piece about the future of Froome?

Larry T. July 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Wiggins won because of MONEY. Buy up a chunk of those who might race against you as in “Can’t beat ‘em? Buy ‘em!” which was practiced very well by the guy who ran things during BigTex’ reign. If you add up the total rider salary of Team Sky, how much more is it than the next highest team? It was said a few of Wiggo’s helpers make more than the stars on a few other squads. Add in a course that didn’t require too much in the climbing department (how would Wiggo and Co. do on a course like, say the 2011 Corsa Rosa?) but had plenty of solo racing against the clock on flattish routes. Finish by sanctioning the dominating rider of this generation, then have all three guys on last year’s podium have their own troubles and there you have it….the first win for a Brit. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here – first, all the dope test results have to come in, then we can watch the various gregari start to think “geez, perhaps I could have won LeTour if I wasn’t working for Wiggo” and see what happens with them. All this will likely be more interesting that the 2012 Grand Boucle itself, which if you’re not a fan of Sky or Wiggins will go down in history as one of the less exciting editions. Will the TV ratings (other than in the UK) bear this out?

Roadie61 July 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Agreed, SKY has the most money and therefore the best access. Regardless, the riders still have to train using their own leg power, they still have to put in enough kilometers to get form (training and racing), they still have to get the job done turning their own cranks [even if they can better afford the most/best training equipment, etc.]

And yes, like the rosters of Bruyneel’s teams (all with Armstrong), money bought some of the best riders in the peloton, but there’s one BIG difference — Lance won by doping (and most/all of his helpers were doped), Wiggins won clean (I’m sure tests will support this).

Agreed, Contador v Wiggins would have been the ultimate, but I doubt Frank or Andy could have won this year’s Tour, even if it had less TT kms (given the season-long troubles for both brothers and RSNT). Wiggins was strong on all the climbs and I can only think of one moment where he was struggling. His form seemed fit to handle any gradient, for what length I don’t know.

Great teamwork by SKY…it’s not everyday you see four or five or six teammates up front on a long climb. Yeah, they “trained for that,” and it paid off.

BMC had enough “star power” to have better-contended (minus Best Young Rider TJVG), but circumstances were what they were: Evans and Gilbert were not in top form and Hincapie could not have performed better than he did for his final Tour — amazing! Burghardt also amazing in the wind. TJVG wins the Tour within three years :-)

Jim July 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm

As to Sky having the most money that’s allegedly not true. See http://inrng.com/2012/07/tour-stage-17/#comment-22062

Larry T. July 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

First, all the dope test results have to come in. I wouldn’t get too carried away just yet with claims like – “Wiggins won clean (I’m sure tests will support this)” as Paul Kimmage seems to have some questions in this area. BMC didn’t use their piles o’ euros to buy up anyone who might be able to challenge Evans in LeTour as in the case of the BigTex teams. I hope you’re right about your prediction for TJVG…but more than that I want to see folks TRY TO WIN rather than race not to lose. Vincenzo Nibali was pretty much the only one in that category this year once Evans fizzled out and even his efforts were blunted by the SKY juggernaut.

Philip S July 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Kimmage’s issue is more about why Sky ditched their zero tolerance approach and employed Geert Leinders. It’s pretty clear that Kimmage misses the outspoken Wiggins of 2007 and doesn’t like the fact that Wiggins enjoyed his in-peloton chats with Armstrong.

“There is nothing to suggest that Bradley Wiggins achieved yesterday’s historic victory through anything other than talent and hard work. But at this time of glory, why does Team Sky leave itself open to insinuation by employing Leinders?”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-2177405/Bradley-Wiggins-battle-cyclings-drug-demons–Paul-Kimmage.html#ixzz21ediTKag

Sam July 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm

You can’t win without your leader being one of the fittest guys there. Infact he showed in the time trials how good he is.

Duluth Baptist Clydesdale July 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Sky spent its money well. BMC went on a spending spree but has yet to construct a team that works together for results; combine with a little bad luck and you have a season with no significant classics results and no significant GT finishes. Sound familiar? See Sky’s 2010 season.

They spent, but they spent intelligently and made the most of what they had.

MattK July 22, 2012 at 8:34 pm

This Tour illustrated just how much the TdF is a team sport. Wiggens is a monster, but it was his team maintaining a high tempo pace that fended off any attempts from GC rivals attacking in the mountains. This TdF has been accused of being boring, but that is because Sky used its brains rather than just its brawn to defend Wiggo.

On my Saturday group ride, one guy was saying if Contador was there Sky wouldn’t have been able to pull this off because he would have just ridden away in the mountains. After watching how Sky handled each attack, I highly doubt it. Sky never panicked, they just slowly ramped up the pace until the attacker could no longer pull away. More than anything this is Sean Yates victory for creating a team that acts like a machine.

routier July 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Pint of bitterness for Larry please, barman.

Wiggins is a great and deserving winner who also happens to be a proper, down to earth bloke. You and your team have done your nation proud.

Also thanks to inrng for the excellent coverage. I guess you’ll be prepping us for the Olympics next!

Larry T. July 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

As I wrote, British fans get an excuse for calling this a great Tour, just like the Yanks were with BigTex or the Spaniards with BigMig. But all those tour wins were alike in one big way – there were BORING to watch. LeTour is supposed to be entertaining to watch, no? It’s always exciting when YOUR guy wins, but for the others?

Rocket July 23, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I have to agree with Larry. It was a boring tour. The course was PERFECT for Wiggins and the lack of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck certainly hurt the excitement level.

That being said Wiggins and Sky did exactly what they needed to do win the tour and I personally believe Wiggins could have won the tour by 10+ minutes if he really pushed.

Finally I make no assumption that any team was drug free. Lots of people say Sky won because they trained harder, but that is exactly the type of benefit you get from doing PED’s. Not in any way saying Sky doped, I am just not naive enough to think it wasn’t a possibility.

MadPat July 23, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The Tour might have been a bit boring but is it Wiggins fault ?

Fair Dinkum July 24, 2012 at 12:07 am

Nope. ASO’s. They created the route. Sky and Wiggo raced it the best, can’t blame them for figuring out the right strategy for winning a boring course.

sea_biscuit July 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm

2013: will be interesting. the 100th Tour, clearly some big mountains beckons – i for one reckon that wiggins will work for froome to repay. this years vuelta will be interesting to see how he copes against andy schleckond and contador.

Data: i think incorrect that the resources are not there for other teams; any nobody can buy a GPS device ~200 quid, upload their data to strava and for $6/pcm get all their estimated power, vertical altitude metres (?), heart rate, zones, everything..all summed up in a ‘suffer score’. Get a geek like kerrison to interpret it and train you according to it…1800 VAM was a target for wiggins for 3-4km of climbing – just like contador and hey presto in 18months youve got yourself a tour winner.

Fair Dinkum July 24, 2012 at 12:09 am

1800 VAM at what gradient? VAM changes based on gradient of a climb. So 1800 for a 10%+ grade for a GC contender isn’t so great. 6% grade and that is something different.

And lots of other teams use SRM but its how they break down and analyze the data. If they don’t know what to do with the data or don’t train properly with it it’s just data. Garbage in garbage out.

El Gato de la Cala July 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Only possible way I will ever enjoy the 1½ hour edited high lights of the 2012 TDF, is accompanied by a six-pack of ice cold San Miguel and some serious loud rock music.

Shut down race radios as of to day. They haven´t proven useful in preventing crashes – but more look like they are playing the role as joy sticks for the director sportives – and bring back time bonuses, por favor!

As for Wiggens I only have to say: “touché”.

PD July 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Dear INRNG,

I love Le tour and it is one of the best demonstrations of overconing pain to achieve success. I come for India and first followed the tour in 2003. That was the first year and I feel in love with the mountains and the time trials and the team time trials which were a part of the tour then.

Let me first thank you for the excellent site and the information avaialble on the page that keeps a novice like me up to date withe the happenings on the tour. This years tour was a great one for team sky and no doubt they were surely riding for their leader and made it a great 1 – 2 for them ala Armstorng and Contador.

However, though it is a difficult task to complete the 4500 Kms across France in 21 days, this years tour lacked action (except crashes). There was no real suspense over the overall winner. My personal opinion is however that this might be bad for the sport itslef. Today the sport is too technologically connected and I feel there is no place left for human instinct that made cycling and the tour such an amazing attaraction. My belief is with little less tecnology and little more “human ” instinct this sport would be even more interesting than it is today.

A small example being in early 2000, we could see multiple breakaways and multiple peletons on the road thus creating an aura for the stage leader for that day. However, with team managements passing one information every second, we hardly see more than one breakaway on a stage. Limiting this information to be transmitted once only at the end of the satge everyday would make Le tour a sport to follow and cherish for himan instinct.

Looking forward to other views on this….

Regards
PD

Sam July 22, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I think the tech side is important. We like our technology/gadgets, being able to tinker with bikes and look at new parts/involvements is part of the fun. I’m not sure I would be so ‘passionate’ (reading websites etc) if we all had to use exactly the same kit – no dreaming.

PD July 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hi Sam,

Assume for a moment that when in this years tour on one of the stages there was a 38 men breakaway leading by around 11 minutes. Team sky and wiggins didnt attack knowing that the bext placed rider in the group was place at around 30 in overall standing and posing no threat.

Suppose, a team is not sure of the riders in the brekaway, the race would automatically be more interesting. You can feed the data to the live audience but not to the team management who can than control the race. I believe, that this would make each day of the tour intresting and we can have a shuffle in the GC ever stage of the tour.

PD

Sam July 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Does your question mean that they would still get time gaps from the motorbikes or not?

Either way, I guess I like the race radios. At the moment, the best rider (or one of the best riders, with one of the best teams) wins. I like this. There is almost a soap opera between the best riders. I agree with many, that for the neutral observers, this tour was not as exciting as previous tours, but don’t think that is down to technology. The last couple of years have been exciting.

I did not watch the tour de france without race radios (or at least I don’t know whether my earliest watching experiences was without them), so I can only imagine what the racing is like (I’m 28 and started watching in the Armstrong era). I can think that either the lead teams (with the strongest riders) either try to chase everything down and fail, or they don’t, and we end up with the yellow jersey changing hands many times and possibly the strongest riders not winning the tour.

Each to their own, I like the use of race radios (as an example), but I understand many will not.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Radios just bring information faster. Time gaps are not dependent on a motorbike with a blackboard, instead they are communicated via radio. They are still far from being real time. In the 21st century this seems appropriate and whilst I appreciate both sides of the argument, teams see their squad as an asset and having information readily available is essential.

Imagine a sailing race where the crew only get weather forecasts that are inaccurate and transmitted in Morse code … the poor information might liven up the race and make the crews more expert at reading the sky… but it’s also redundant. Once you have the technology it’s hard to go back.

Roadie61 July 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I completely agree. Less technology = on-the-fly decision making. And I agree with El Gato de la Cala, shut down the race radios except for urgent info needing dissemination. How many noticed Tommy Voeckler’s earpiece often dangling outside of his ear? The man rides on instinct and he animates races unlike anyone else in the peloton!

And crashes have been caused when 22 DS’s are all yelling at their riders at the same time. How can a rider’s brain truly focus on critical subtleties of a race on a narrow, twisting, [wet] road with his DS yelling in his ear? Too dangerous. No surprise that the peloton is nervous much of the time. I believe they are over-stimulated by the combination of radio “noise” and the concentration needed for the elements of the race.

I vote for human instinct and decreasing the size of the peloton.

muz July 23, 2012 at 4:06 am

Decreasing the size of the teams would do more for the unpredictability factor than removing race radios.

Drop teams from 9 down to 8 or 7 riders and put another 3-5 teams in there to make up the 198 starters.

Then we’ll see the yellow jersey changing hands.

ps – well done wiggo, I hope Britain embraces your victory!

Tovarishch July 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm

They should do as the FIA do in F1 and broadcast selected communications over the air. Wouldn’t make a lot of difference to the result but could be very entertaining and possibly create a few stars!

Kieran July 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm

A great win for Bradley and Team Sky, I remember seeing him in action at the Herne Hill Good Friday track meet years ago and he was very impressive. A great win also for British Cycling, maybe the powers that be and the public in Britian won’t be so against road races here in the future. A small consolation for the Aussies is the role Richie Porte and Mick Rogers played for Team Sky. Not to forget the others on the team.

Markk July 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I disagree: Wiggins won because of the time trials.

Just because without them he would only be a few seconds ahead re-inforces this point, it doesn’t negate it. The race would have looked totally different if Nibali and Evans and others knew they only had to make up 10 seconds on Wiggins not several minutes. The pressure that the time trials put on all Wiggins competitors and the pressure it took off him to not have to make sure he didn’t lose a few seconds here and there was the major difference to me.

I don’t know – he might have won anyway without the time trials, but he was never really put under any pressure of any strength at all this year. Even the comments about Froome being stronger based on a couple of surges where BW knew he didn’t have to follow doesn’t show that Froome was really any stronger if they were both riding in earnest.

That is the most amazing thing for Sky and Wiggins – we do not really know how strong he was because he never had to push to the edge and make decisions based on his limits. We do know for this course this year he was way better than anybody still standing.

Michal July 23, 2012 at 3:36 am

+1 about Froome vs.Wiggo, we don’t really now how strong Wiggo was in mountains, because he “didn’t have to show it” .

Zac July 22, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Yes you can say without the TT’s he still would have won based on the times of the race. But we all know that isn’t true because if he didn’t have as much time on the others then the race would have played out differently. Long attacks wouldn’t have been needed and Nibali could easily have taken 23 seconds from Wiggins. So yes, Wiggins won because of the TT’s and his strong team

The Inner Ring July 22, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Of course. What I meant was that he didn’t just use the time trials, he was climbing faster too.

Zac July 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

And I’m sorry, but this was in fact a boring tour. Wiggins following the wheels of his team and not needing to chase in earnest made things incredibly boring. And I disagree completely with your conclusion as its a complete joke to think that Wiggins could have held off his rivals when they only needed a few seconds. Evans wouldn’t have had to attack so often and far out and waste his energy. Nibali attacks at the end of each mountain stage and takes a few seconds here and there and easily passes Wiggins. This tour had too much TT and not enough mountains to which is what defined this tour. Also, not having any truly great climbers hurt this tour as well. Hopefully next year there will be more climbing that has an affect on the overall (2 cat 1’s at the beginning of a stage and then flat the rest of the way is just a way to add more climbs to make it look good on paper). An uphill TT or a TTT would make things better

Duluth Baptist Clydesdale July 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm

If you want to wrest the yellow jersey from Sky next year, a TTT is not a good way to do it. If you were to hold a TTT with this year’s Tour rosters, I’d make them at least a co-favorite to win the thing.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Boring? I enjoyed almost every minute but it’s true he didn’t attack. That’s why 2013 should be very interesting, it will overcompensate for the relative lack of mountains this year.

fjorthur July 23, 2012 at 12:47 am

I agree, the bore d’om France. Wiggins rides a wheel, last year Evans rides a wheel. If any of the contenders had the gonads to ride like Thomas V they would have opened up the competition. But they were content to stay in their position. After week 2, fast forward to the next Benelux Eneco Tour.

Adam July 23, 2012 at 2:28 am

Tommy V does ride with Gonads, but history will always remember that where the TdF is concerned the score is Wiggins 1, Voeckler 0.
How he won it won’t matter in 20 years time.

fjorthur July 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

You are right about it. But when we watch Tommy V or Thibault Pinot work hard to win, we all smile. By the time the pelaton trudges up with their GC guys kicking back and talking, the TV is turned off and we do not hear them talk about how hard they rode that day.

Fair Dinkum July 24, 2012 at 12:14 am

Evands rides a wheel? Like pulling back the time on Schleck on the Galibier and the fight during Alpe d’Huez to shut down Contador? Or Evans pipping Contador in the up hill finish in Bretagne?

Facts dont lend themselves to showing Evans following wheels. He also never has a team with him in the high mountains to follow wheels.

Zac July 23, 2012 at 6:11 am

I hope they don’t overcompensate, but I think 3 true summit finishes that have a lot of climbing before hand and some more useful mountains (not at the start of a stage) along with an uphill TT (Alpe d’Huez anyone) and another TT of about 35K would be a great tour. But again, what looks good on paper doesn’t really matter. What matters is what the riders do with what they are given. It would be interesting to see what Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador do next year, especially if they have strong teams to put pressure onto Wiggins, Froome and Team Sky

Duluth Baptist Clydesdale July 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I was going to say this anyway; I completely agree with Markk and, in this rare occasion, disagree (respectfully) with @inrng. Wiggo’s TT dominance allowed him the luxury of knowing that a few seconds lost on the odd summit in the mountains would do little to harm his chances of winning. And we saw the effect of this, as Nibali and Wiggins both attempted risky long-range attacks before final climbs were even reached.

They did so because of time lost on the first two time trials and the promise of losing more on the penultimate stage. If Nibali did not have TT losses to worry about, he could wait until the last kilometer of the summits to attack and chip off small blocks of time, much the same way Ryder Hesjedal and Joaquim Rodriquez attacked each other in this year’s Giro.

And while we can’t really know how much stronger than Wiggins Froome was in the mountains, it is apparent that he was in better shape, even though he was forced to set the pace and eat wind in front of Wiggins at the key moments. If allowed to attack he would not only be afforded the opportunity to exercise his (presumably) stronger climbing legs, but his attack would rob Wiggins of his best pacemaker and drafting partner. Could he have made up 3 minutes? Unlikely, but 1:21 from a flat, or even just his TT losses, looks possible.

In my opinion, the moment the race was won was the stage 9 time trial. Bradley’s superiority (and presumed superiority leading up to this past Saturday) demonstrated his position over Froome and distanced Evans, Nibali, and Vdbeke in such a way that only a successful Merckx-Pantani-ASchleck-style suicide attack would give them the kind of time they needed to wear yellow in Paris.

The race was already over by the time the peloton reached the foot of La Toussuire.

brian July 22, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I still cannot believe Froome wasn’t left off the leash to catch Valverde. How much time could he really make up on Wiggins over the last kilometer or so? Throw the guy a bone, ya know? Or was Wiggins ready to crack, and needed the pacing to the finish line?

Duluth Baptist Clydesdale July 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I’ll give Wiggins a break here. For starters, Froome already had a stage win, so another one would just be a luxury. And Wiggins described himself as mentally distracted (daydreaming about winning the Tour, he says). Given that he was on the edge of the red zone after a hard day’s riding, I’ll accept that. Have you ever noticed that you lose significant mental sharpness late in an exhausting ride, or other strenuous cardiovascular activity? I have.

Leading out Mark Cavendish on the Champs Elysees during what ought to be his victory parade more than makes up for that, in my opinion.

Fair Dinkum July 24, 2012 at 12:17 am

Wiggins was not ready to crack…a person on the rivet doesn’t cross behind their teammate with a wry smirk across their face.

The Inner Ring July 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Good points and I agree in many ways. My point was that he didn’t just use the TTs to claw back time on the climbers, he dropped them in the mountains too. It was a comprehensive win.

Ad July 22, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Indeed. And as much as we, as spectators, love the drama of the mountains, TT’s are a part of the race that if you want to win a Grand Tour you need to be good at, just like climbing and everything else. Complaining that Wiggins was so good in the TT’s it warped the race is a bit like the Schlecks complaining about the descending after losing time last year.

Adam July 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Congratulations Bradley! Enjoy the victory because it will your first and only win in any GT. Not only is your teammate better than you, but what about the rider who was not there this year? No, I’m not talking about the twin that couldn’t ride due to injury because he wouldn’t have done anything either except get popped along side his brother. The Giro was awesome, the Tour was okay, and the Vuelta will be interesting now that AC has some real competition in Froome. Can’t wait for August 18!

Simma July 23, 2012 at 1:34 am

i don’t think froome can put in a strong enough gc performance in the vuelta after a big effort gifting brad the tour (i personally think they did it this way because froome could potentially win any future parcours and this was brads only chance at the top spot)

and you can’t really be sure contador will dominate the vuelta because he hasn’t had those big races in the legs to keep him fit this year… it will be interesting between him and andy both coming from no form, and cobo who will more likely be on top form (yes he rode the tour, but he’s rode it as prep for the vuelta and said that all year). and *hopefully* sammy sanchez goes aswell, would be amazing the 3 big tour riders of recent years all performing for the vuelta instead of the tour :D

Roadie61 July 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Bring on Froome v Contador in the Vuelta! (Not to discount J Rodriguez and the other contenders)

Froome will have the stronger team. SKY will drive the front at a blistering pace, just like they did in the Tour and Saxo won’t be able to maintain it, isolating El Pistolero (he’s become accustomed to soloing it). Of course this may force the attacks we’re all missing from Contador and ultimately test Froome’s abilities. Can he stay on AC’s wheel? And where will Rodriguez and Anton figure into this scenario?

There will be 13 medium or high mountain stages with 10 hill or summit finishes. Love it!

Really looking forward to the Olympics and the Vuelta…

*(Andy may be at the start in Spain but will not have his form, bummer).

Paul Zarb July 23, 2012 at 12:12 am

To say the Tour was boring is nonsense, it was very exciting with lots of memorable moments. Wiggins showed the spirit of a true champion and team player in so many ways. The clearest examples being the three occasions he put his neck and his challenge for the jersey on the line to lead out the two sprinters (when presumably he did not have to) which resulted in two stage victories for Cavendish and Team Sky. I followed most it on twitter as often I was working. The commentaries especially from the author of this website conveyed a terrific excitement. Thank you Inner Ring for your knowledge and entertainment.

Roman Green July 23, 2012 at 1:50 am

Please, don’t oversentimentalise. Wiggins did his leadouts for Cavandish etc because he is showy. This all about Bradley and noone else. Good for him that he has worked very hard and achieved the ultimate but he is not likeable. Dare I say that there is a place for a modicum of modesty in all achievement.

Salsiccia July 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

“It sounds cliched, but it’s the stuff of childhood dreams really. It’s what I’ve dreamed of for 20 years but I never dreamed it could become reality.”

“It’s almost a kind of disbelief that this is happening; it’s little things like seeing the front page of L’Équipe, with my picture on it in the yellow jersey. You don’t realise it’s you on there. It’s strange. And there are messages like the one I had from Sir Chris Hoy: it’s humbling to hear praise of that kind. The biggest accolade is respect from your peers. They are people I look up to. so it blows you away a bit.”

I think you might find a modicum of modesty in there.

David Irvine July 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

Says you. Did you actually watch the interviews?

Gowers July 23, 2012 at 12:29 am

Cheers Andy! (sarcasm alert) Cycling is the only major sport I follow closely where a significant minority of the fans actually come out and want dopers to come back and perform well. So many examples of this including AC. It makes me feel sick for the clean riders (the winners and the also-rans). I also love athletics and I’ve never heard an athletics fan express the view that it would be great to have eg Justin Gatland back so he can give Bolt/Gay etc a good run for his money.

Gowers July 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

Apologies, Adam not Andy.

Sam July 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

I agree. If I had the choice between clean and more boring cycles vs doped and exciting I would vote for the clean.

The ideal that you have to work for you win should not be lost by the ability to pump yourself full of drugs.

Steve July 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Justin Gatlin is back. I’m going to stick a few quid on him for a medal. I reckon he could surprise a few people, the dirty cheat.

Gowers July 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

Yep his first Olympics back. Gatlin is a dirty unrepentant cheat.

fjorthur July 23, 2012 at 12:31 am

The TdF not publicized

Women Tackle France on Two Wheels
http://blog-aauw.org/2012/07/20/france-on-two-wheels/

GingerTart July 23, 2012 at 8:45 am

Inrng: you write fantastic articles about men’s cycling, but why do you never blog about women’s pro cycling?

There are some great female cyclists and intesnse competitive battles in the women’s ranks too – its wrong to ignore them. Please try to add some regular posts on women’s races and riders.

The Inner Ring July 23, 2012 at 9:13 am

I’ve covered a few items but often just can’t reach far enough. I don’t even cover mens’ road pro cycling fully, there’s a big emphasis on Europe and I’d like to do more.

Michael July 24, 2012 at 3:42 am

The Rêve Tour is what you are talking about. One of the riders, Heidi Swift, writes for Peleton Magazine (HQed in my small town) and you can read here essays from conception to Paris here: http://www.pelotonmagazine.com/Swift/articleindex/22/0/SwiftARCHIVE

Igam Ogam July 23, 2012 at 12:38 am

I agree that for non-Brits this years GC race will seem boring however it does not mean it was not a brilliant and deserved win. Of course it was also interesting to see Sagans antics and Greipel being given a chance to win a few stages and you can take nothing away from Cavendish for winning in style whilst playing second fiddle to the GC aims.

There are a lot of what-ifs about Wiggins climbing but the fact is both he and Froome had the strength to follow their train and then continue alone, no other rider could do that. If Froome had managed to regain the time he lost to the puncture it would still have been a Brit 1-2. Even if Wiggins wasn’t able to climb faster (and we have no clue how close to his limit he was riding) Froome still needed to put a lot of time in to him and we must not forget that Froome also benefitted from the excellent work of Porte, Rodgers and Co.

Wiggins is in many ways the most human, down to earth and yet focussed winner in many years and despite what many think he did it clean. Many will scoff but this is a different way of winning and unless the other teams change to abandon the “traditional” methods it marks the start of domination by the Australian and British teams who are ahead of the curve in terms of winning by not doping as like Sky GreenEDGE will learn by it’s mistakes and adapt (OGE is of course an extentsion of the Australian Institute of Sport and Sky of British Cycling who have swapped the lead in terms of increasing performance gains for the last ten years). Running a team like this costs money butbit also breeds success and it will be interesting to see how the British contingent of Sky will be sheperded to greater things in the next couple of years.

Riding against Contador the tactics will have to change no doubt, it will be interesting to see how Alberto copes with a different level of preparation and cohesion by his advesaries especially as he can’t risk doping unless he is 100% cetrtain he won’t be caught. I suspect that his physical prowess will be blunted and probably neutralised by Sky tactics to some degree.

I’m optimistic about the future of the sport, there will always be dopers but now the peleton knows it is possible to win clean (or at least think it might be) and that is probably quite a scary scenario for some teams, how do you beat that and not be caught?

As for the radio thing, for some that know nothing else it may make no sense to ban their use but for those that do remembers winners using their heads and sheer endeavour without the certainty of being caught it will bring the return of a welcome element, surprise.

Andy July 23, 2012 at 2:43 am

Inrng gets the yellow jersey in Tour commentary .
Thanks and keep up the good work.

Barodeur Billy July 23, 2012 at 4:03 am

Seconded. Chapeau INRNG !

Barodeur Billy July 23, 2012 at 4:03 am

So what DO the riders do with these stuffed lions, yetis and whatnot that they get on the podium?

Roman Green July 23, 2012 at 4:52 am

It did not take long for this amazing “British” team (owned by ex-Australian now American) with a British winner to turn into the most historic English victory. Feel for the other 7 riders on the Team (discounting Cavandish who was, apart from his own sprinting efforts, the water boy for Wiggins et al) who are not English and 6 who are not “British”. Froome was born in Kenya, speaks like a Kenyan but is… you guessed it British.

Simma July 23, 2012 at 9:16 am

you could argue only mark is truely english with brad being born in ghent

Salsiccia July 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

Cav’s not English either…

But come on, if you ask Wiggo what his nationality is, you know what answer you’ll get.

chuck July 23, 2012 at 6:53 am

thankx Inrng. This site has always been for me, the best source of insightful road racing news/culture.
I’m happy for Wiggins. Oh, and I too would like to see race radios banned.
But….. I would also like to see longer stages, 8-10 hour ones. There would be no
questions about who was or wasn’t strong enough or who built their advantage
in the TT’s. The dudes are riding featherweight bikes, on wheelsets with
low drag and tires with low resistance on all paved roads. Yes, I want to see some harder riding.

Robert Merkel July 23, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thanks very much for the coverage inrng.

For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced that a) race radios, and b) power meters, altered the race that much.

According to Wiggins in his final press conference, he stated that it was Mick Rogers who made the call to let attackers go, not the DS. And while I’ve no doubt that a power meter showing 400+ watts would have been reassuring, you don’t need a power meter to dangle attackers; we do it in club races all the time.

What spoiled the yellow jersey race as a competitive spectacle was the fact that the two best riders – a cut above everybody else – were riding for the same team, with two super-strong mountain domestiques who might well have finished top-10 or better if riding for themselves. Again, we’ll never know for sure, but I reckon it would have been a terrific battle if Froome and Wiggins were racing against each other – the best TTer and second-best climber against the second-best TTer and best climber.

The Inner Ring July 23, 2012 at 9:38 am

I tend to agree. Riders use the means available to them. Jacques Anquetil rode in a very calculating way in the 1960s when riders didn’t have a stopwatch… it is said he just let his rivals get ahead in the Alps, “but never more than three hairpin bends advantage”, a rudimentary method but he won five Tours.

And yes, it would have been good to see Wiggins under more pressure. That’s why 2013 could be so interesting.

Bundle July 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm

The assumption that the race would have probably been quite the same without power-meters, GPS, heartrate monitors, and race-radios (am I missing something here?), doesn’t mean that the chances that it had unfolded otherwise would have been bigger without those technological advances.
I am targeting especially the devices that help regulate effort. Those things that replace self-perception (always altered by moods and psychology) with cold figures. If Sky’s strategy in the mountain was to set the fastest rhythm that can be sustained over the whole climb, any device helping identify that level of effort play its role. Otherwise they wouldn’t have power-meters and heartrate monitors, would they? If they are of no importance, why not ban them?

Ankush July 23, 2012 at 10:09 am

Wiggins is undoutebdly a winner worthy of the yellow jersey. I was among his critics when he didn’t allow Froome to take the stage win at Peyragudes but then it was more of Team Sky orders. For people looking for panache, he led out Cav on Champs-Elysees. How many times have we seen maillot jaune lead out his teammate on the final day of the Tour?

As Inrng mentioned, it was a perfect display of team effort and hat off to Team Sky who used their unlimited resources in an efficient way.

Mike Fay July 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

I’d argue that Team Sky don’t have unlimited resources, but they use them so efficiently they can appear to be unlimited…

Gowers July 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

Thanks INRNG for great cycling coverage. Bet you’re knackered today. Also, thanks everyone for making interesting posts, not too partizan and thoughtful, even when I haven’t agreed with them they’ve made me pause for thought.

Gowers July 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

I had my fingers in my ears and was squinting at the time so I missed Brad’s expression as the national anthem was being killed/sung. Take a look (pure genius):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/cycling/tour-de-france/9419067/Tour-de-France-2012-Even-Lesley-Garrett-cant-spoil-Bradley-Wiggins-celebrations-in-Paris.html

diamondjim July 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

I found the photo you were alluding to, but the link you pasted took me to another funny shot – the Badger on podium police duty again :-)

Simon July 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm

@roman green

Are you as nuts as your Big Love namesake?

Steve July 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Both Froome’s parents are British, which Wiggo can’t claim. This argument is entirely spurious nonetheless- Dan Martin rides for Ireland, his cousin Nicolas Roche too, and neither was born there (and neither was Irish champion Matt Brammeier). Tejay Van Garderen is theoretically qualified for Holland, David Millar sounds like no Scot I’ve ever heard. Hell, even Tommy Voeckler grew up in the Caribbean. The geographical coincidence of birthplace really means very little in today’s world.

Wayne July 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Steve – interesting point – nationality is alot more than just geographical birthplace. Quite often it is alot more intangible, various strands/ strength of family history can often influence nationality.

I know some third generation british people who still regard themselves as irish owing to family history and a sense of “belonging”…

We live in a truly global village.

Gowers July 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

+1

I think most of us Brits don’t actually know what the legal requirements are to be considered British. I looked it up a few years ago when my son was born (my wife is Austrian). Summarising – you don’t automatically get a British passport for being born here, unlike in many/most countries, one of your parents has to be a UK citizen. Of course for most people those two elements go together anyway. Obviously residency periods kick in after that etc. (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong as this is from memory.)

Food for thought for those who lean towards a ‘he/she wasn’t born here’ view point.

Karlc July 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

inrng – Thanks for the excellent coverage. Is there any chance you could post the prize list and info as you did on the second rest day? I presume it is a press release but it is much more informative than the official tour website.

The Inner Ring July 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm
Bundle July 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I was thinking all along that trying to keep everything under control and their joyless, riskless riding were going to get “TeamSky” some real bad karma. Turns out they didn’t.

Al-Bo July 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm

You could say that the relative strength of Team Sky lessens Wiggins’ achievement a touch, but I take the opposite view. Stage races are about teamwork and Sky’s was as good as I’ve seen. To engineer an environment where the world champion would ferry bidons for other riders is astonishing even if they can’t maintain it.

Marcelo July 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm

INNER RING – You are a CLASS APART!!! Thanks!

Chrisman July 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Loved how in the final lead-out Albasini and the other lead out men were properly sprinting and couldn’t get past Wiggo in Prologue mode. That was arguably the most impressive piece of riding he did in the whole tour. That was when I realised that he’s a uniquely talented Cyclist.

The Inner Ring July 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Just a follow up comment as some people have taken my “Wiggins didn’t need the TTs” point too literally. Of course if there were no time trials the race would have been completely different etc. I just wanted to illustrate in a brief way, no more, that Wiggins was climbing very well too.

Markk July 24, 2012 at 3:05 am

Yes, I am looking forward to seeing his climbing limits. I think we may see them next year. I think BW could actually be an exciting attacker with his power, but he just never was stretched to do it this year.

Gingerflash July 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm

There seems to be some sort of feeling here that TTs are a less valid way of winning the Tour. Many of the “greats” have done this in the past, particularly Anquetil and Indurain. Some seem to be suggesting that someone who wins by gaining in the time trials, the ultimate test of an individual rather than a team, is a less worthy winner than someone who attacks on the mountain top finishes. I really don’t see that argument at all.

Furthermore, raising a budget through sponsorship and building and managing a cohesive team is as much part of wining a Grand Tour as pushing the pedals is.

The Sky machine beat the other teams in all aspects. They raised more money, which enabled them to build a better team, which simply rode faster.

If you want to see man against man without any financial, management or team infuence, pro cycling isn’t the game for you. It’s a team sport and that includes not just domestiques, but also the coaches, the managers, the financial guys, the physios and soigneurs, everyone.

Symo July 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Interesting to see the comments about ‘if someone had attacked like Voeckler from the GC contenders then Wiggins would not have one’. All of them bobbins as when Cadel and Nibali attacked they had to ride outside their sustainable limits, Bradley just chugged away till he caught up then passed them.
You may not like Bradley knowing how to ride on his Threshold for 3 weeks, but at least he knows where it is and how to use it. I suspect next year he will be back to prove a point if his figures look up to it.

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