How To Beat Team Sky

Wiggins Maillot Jaune

In the Dauphiné race back in June Bradley Wiggins beat Cadel Evans in the time trial stage by a margin of 103 seconds. He did the same again yesterday, but on a course that was over 10km shorter; far from peaking too soon, Wiggins’ performance advantage over Cadel Evans seems to have grown, although take care not to extrapolate one day’s racing too far. Still, Wiggins’ background is on the track and taking almost two minutes in a time trial is the equivalent of catching your rival in the pursuit race.

But all is not lost for the others. The race is still not at the halfway point and all the media like to say anything can happen. There’s an element of desperation, a message of “don’t touch that dial” in case the audience begins to switch off. But it is also true, there are random events, the errant spectator who knocks Wiggins off his bike, the hairpin bend on a wet day or the tiny shard of glass that lies waiting somewhere on a French road. But there are also tactical considerations, the events that riders can shape.

Easier said than done. But during Stage 8 on the road to Porrentruy we saw Team Sky at work from the start of the stage in order to contain the early attacks. This work came at price, Cavendish and Eisel were dropped early, Boasson Hagen later and finally Rogers and Porte lost contact, leaving Wiggins and Froome isolated when Van den Broeck and Evans attacked them. Their moves failed but there’s a glimmer of hope. If teams can do this again, sending threatening riders up the road right from the start then it will force Sky to commit early. Obviously this invites rivals to commit equally early, for example if BMC send Van Garderen in an early move then Evans could later be isolated.

Attack, attack
It’s said Wiggins is not the best descender. I’ve not seen this myself but Nibali and Evans have already tried to put him under pressure so they must believe it. Wednesday’s stage over the Grand Colombier is an ideal place for attack as it is cruelly steep in places and has a high speed descent before some tricky roads than don’t suit a chase. The same for Thursday’s Alpine stage, where the descent of the Col du Mollard is short but infamous.

Attack, attack, attack
The race hasn’t reached the Alps yet. As much as Wiggins looks strong, he is still untested at altitude. So far he’s had things perfect for an former track pursuit rider with short and intense climbs and a time trial. High altitude is something else. However Wiggins’ stock phrase is “we’ve trained for that” and personally I think he’ll cope fine.

It seems hard to surprise Team Sky. They’ve apparently videoed the route of the upcoming stages, they’ve got strong riders and catching them out seems difficult. But you don’t have to attack in the mountains. Instead we’ve seen stages in the past when some big names have gone up the road to exploit the moyenne montagne or medium mountains. This is what race organiser Christian Prudhomme is hoping for and there are plenty of stages where you might look and thing “that’s not hard enough” but in fact the riders can do plenty to make it hard.

If Sky have checked out all the stages, so have other teams. But some of the big teams have not and I find this amazing. There is still time to check the route of upcoming stages, to send a member of staff on a reconnaissance mission, to make some phone calls or just spend hours on Google Earth or better, use This might not help a rider overall Wiggins but it could get them 30 seconds in the final time trial and help them move up within the top-10.

There’s talk of Evans and Nibali “forming an alliance” to depose Team Sky. In practice this would mean a joint attack or perhaps taking turns to attack with a pact not to chase each other down but to make Sky do the work. But I’ve heard talk of “grand alliances” before yet never seen it on the road. Teams and riders can find shared interests, aligned incentives and sometimes business deals can take place. But for now Evans and Nibali are fierce opponents in the hunt for a podium spot. An alliance? Forget it.

Le Jour Sans
For all the sports science and physiological planning it’s common to have a bad day, a stage when the legs feel like wood or when you just make mistakes, for example losing confidence on a descent. Rivals might wait for this to happen, risky since it might never happen yet risk-free for them if it does. Certainly this adds to the suspense and fans of Wiggins will awake each morning with their fingers crossed.

Media Stirring
Not all journalists are neutral observers and certainly in sports there’s a lot of partisan support. Wiggins has already lit up a press conference some vocabulary unused by Shakespeare or Wilde. Personally I think he got something off his chest rather than got flustered. But don’t be surprised if a journalist tries to stir the pot and this destabilises Wiggins. If he gets bothered then he might lose mental energy, and maybe even sleep less well.

Wiggins vs. Froome
Others might try to stir things differently, this time by encouraging Chris Froome. Flattering the Kenyan-born rider, seizing every word he says that implies any difference, some might try to drive a wedge between Froome and Wiggins. The answer is simple, Froome just needs to think of the podium this year, look to the future and… put Paul Weller and Ian Brown on his playlist.

No change?
Listing reasons to attack is one thing but there are also reasons why the riders will not attack. Now you might think that if you’re within reach of the podium of the Tour de France then it’s time to do anything to get there. But there’s an asymmetry in the attack, a risk that many will not want to take.

Let’s take Dennis Menchov and Katusha. The rider sits in fifth place overall this morning then might still fancy the podium. But if he attacks in the mountains there’s a good chance he is caught, if not by Sky then by BMC and Liquigas-Cannondale. Once caught he could be dropped, valuable energy is wasted, and he slips several places on the GC. In short an attack could lift Menchov up a place or two but if it fails he could easily lose five places.

Riders don’t race with a spreadsheet in their mind but we can’t ignore the money. UCI points are so valuable these days for teams that they convert into salary and remember that finishing 14th overall brings in as many points as a stage win. Riders have a big incentive to camp on their positions rather than risk trying to climb up a place.

Cadel Evans Paris
Can he do it again?

Is the Tour over? No, of course not. We’ve seen many riders suffer misfortune so far and more could happen to anyone, including the yellow jersey. But we have a firm idea that Bradley Wiggins is the most complete rider in the race, he’s got a team mate in Chris Froome ready to help and a squad full of big names like Rogers and Porte at his service. Tour commentator Laurent Jalabert says he thinks the morale of the other contenders must be “in the bottom of their socks“, or rock-bottom in less poetic English and I agree. Wiggins is in yellow because he’s outclassed the others rather than finding himself getting luckier. Can he be beaten? Yes… but the chances of overhauling him are small and the risks riders must take are big. Faced with this equation don’t expect fireworks but do look out for Nibali, Evans, Van den Broeck to try.

Beyond the fight for the yellow jersey there is plenty more to look forward to, from who will finish on the podium, to the battles for stages and we have no idea who will win the king of the mountains jersey or the white jersey. If you think the rest of the Tour looks boring maybe it’s time to take up a new sport?

116 thoughts on “How To Beat Team Sky”

    • As much I would like to agree with you, I think it will be very difficult for Cadel to get there. He needs to make up about 4 mins ahead of the final TT.

      While I think he’s a good chance to pull back time on Stage 10 and 16, to maximise that time I think he’ll be praying for rain! Similarly he’d probably be hoping for some big cross winds on stages 13 and 15…


      Still think it is going to be the best tour I’ve seen (after last year of course)!

      • He has to really attack Wiggins, AC style.. or even like Pozzovivo in the Giro this year (unfortunately only in one stage). The problem is that he has never been that kind of rider…

          • Agree!

            He has nothing to lose. BMC have him in contract through to retirement(2015 ?) and he’s already won the grandest prize in cycling. He will attack because that’s who he is. A fighter. Maybe not a fighter with the AC uphill-type attacks but a fighter of the finest calibre. One with honor and integrity. The kind that won’t play for a podium spot.

            Write off Evans at your own peril.

  1. Very good analysis!!

    As VDB said today the real mountains have yet to start so there is much to come. The logical prediction is that Evans and Nibali will try to attack tomorrow and take advantage of the two descents while Sky will try to defend and will go full gas on the MTF on Thursday.

    Although I support Wiggins I really expect the others to attack the coming week as winning difficult is much more enjoyable (for all) than easy..

  2. I think the ITT may have just made the tour even better. If Cadel was still only 10 secs behind Wiggo then the incentive to go full on attack is not really there. But being 2 minutes behind he now has to attack, attack and then attack some more. I reckon it will really animate the race in days to come (not that it has been boring so far).

    • Easy to say not easy to do. If the legs aren’t there for scintillating attack then it doesn’t go anywhere and the downside is sliding off the podium…and even if the legs are there but it only has a moderate reward of taking back some time but not a net gain…still the risk of sliding off the podium with the use of energy.

  3. Notable that Evans seems to have his jour sans, but both both Wiggins and Froome have yet to experience that moment?

    I don’t think Nibali or VDB have given up on podium and wouldn’t be surprised if they try everything in the book, including making use of their heavier riders in the transitional stages.

    Some suggestion from the BMC domestiques on twitter that they “paid the bill” in Stage 7-8 for their first week efforts. Porte and Boasson-Hagen definitely came in with “easy” times on the TT, but Mick Rogers wasn’t that far off, unless his “easy” is slightly less relaxed than other.

    The stages where I think the biggest opportunity exists are those shorter mountain ones where we saw that an early attack can unsettle teams.

    • Not sure it was a Jour Sans rather than Evans not being as good?

      Mick Rogers is a pretty good TT rider so his time of +3:20 is probably not full bore

    • @Alex Murray – Chasing Wheels: To me it’s very notable that Froome, whose nose touches the wind daily, has not shown any signs of weakness at all. How is it that he can drive hard at the front for Wiggins and still manage to kick at the end of Stage 7? He then finished 7th on Stage 8 in the [bunch of 8] including the GC favorites @ +:26, followed by an amazing 2nd place finish in the ITT!

      Things to consider: The early part of Chris’ 2012 season was wiped out by illness. He withdrew from the Volta ao Algarve with a severe chest infection, and blood tests showed his Bilharzia parasites had returned, originally diagnosed in 2010. In March, Froome was involved in a collision with a pedestrian on a training ride. He did not race again until the Tour de Romandie (end of April), where he helped Wiggins win the race overall and he finished 123rd GC @ 41:10 (This was only 8 weeks before the start of the TdF). He then raced the week-long Dauphine and placed 6th in the 53km ITT, 1:33 behind Wiggins and 4th on GC. Then came a training camp in Tenerife with several of his SKY teammates and he was chosen for the TdF roster. So the bulk of his racing was compacted into roughly 6 weeks, followed by some pre-Tour training.

      Also consider this: Froome beat 11 National Time Trial Champions on his way to finishing 2nd to Wiggins in the TT. I doubt that all 11 TT Champions skipped recon on this critical TT course. Let’s start with Cancellara, still in his prime:

      – Froome beat Spartacus by 22 secs (no doubt recon was done by Cancellara), and his TT crowns are legendary: (World TT Champ x 4, current Swiss TT Champ x 7 and Olympic Champ x 1)
      – He beat S. Chavanel by 49 secs (current French TT Champion x 3 additional Nat’l TT titles)
      – LL Sanchez by 2:33 (current and 4-time Nat’l TT Champion of Spain)
      – Tony Martin by almost 2 minutes (current World TT Champion + 2 German Nat’l TT crowns) —
      granted, TM punctured and rode with a scaphoid fx
      – Denis Menchov by 1:33 (current Russian Nat’l TT Champion)
      – Lieuwe Westra by 2:10 (current Netherlands Nat’l TT Champion)
      – Gustav Erik Larsson by 2:20 (current and 5-time Swedish Nat’l TT Champion)
      – David Zabriskie by 4:15 (current and 7-time US Nat’l TT Champion)
      – Philippe Gilbert by 3:12 (current Belgian Nat’l TT Champion)
      – Andriy Grivko by 2:23 (current and 5-time Ukrainian Nat’l TT Champion)
      – Peter Velits by 1:24 (current Slovakian Nat’l TT Champion)

      How did Froome beat all 11 current and multiple National TT Champions? All 11 TT Champions did not have a bad day that day (Tony Martin had the biggest disadvantage). I realize that Froome’s streak of TT victories and high placements have been rising since last year’s Vuelta, but his training for most of 2012 was severely restricted as noted above.

      Wiggins’ is protected, except during the ITTs, so the wattage he’s putting out is economized versus his domestiques. No surprise that he won the ITT as this is his specialty and he keeps getting better and better, and Martin was “disabled.”

      But where did Froome’s superhuman prowess come from, given his shortened season of racing and training? Am I missing something key?

      BTW, Mick Rogers finished 27th in the TT @ 3:20 behind Wiggins, and he’s had a superb season leading up to the Tour — five Top-5 finishes GC. Richie Porte finished 95th in the TT @ +6:33! Porte also had several Top-5 finishes GC and 9th overall in Dauphine.

      I’d appreciate some feedback as I’m perplexed as to how and why Froome is doing so well.

      • Gilber maybe TT champ but he isn’t a specialist in a 40k+ TT. LL Sanchez has fallen numerous times and isn’t in top shape. Zabriskie has fallen as well and was in a long breakaway prior and has done work at the front. Menchov’s form has been iffy all season and this isn’t the Menchov of the 2009 Giro.

        Remember Froome beat Wiggins in the Vuelta TT last year in at point in which the racing had been arguably harder than thus far in this Tour. The only surprise was Spartacus who had put in some tough work to defend his jersey in the prior stages including digging on the stage 7. So for each of your insinuations there is a rationalization as well. Just because Froome isn’t a TT champ, which seems to be the large part of your flawed logic doesn’t mean the guy can’t TT like a mutha. And you know from news reports that Froome had a virus and his training was restricted. Have you seen his wattage or numbers throughout the year or his training volume specifically? If you haven’t then all you are doing is wasting hot air with baseless speculation. As Wiggins said…wanker.

      • it’s the tour, they haven’t trained for a 1 day ITT event, all those miles in the legs over the week do have an effect and chris has obviously got close to his peak form (his nose hasn’t actually seen much wind at all, just a few k’s on hills where it’s less of a bonus to the guy behind remember)

        and unfortunately from there it’s not praising froome but just discounting all the others, plus stages 7 and 8 were nice and exhausting, perfect for a time trial the next day… not. froome, wiggins, evans all finished these stages well, with plenty in the tank, it took a lot more for the bigger guys to get to the line.

        – Fabian, injury, not back on top form, main goal = olympics, he probably gave it everything but just didn’t have it in the tank.
        – S. Chavanel has been racing hard for months but still put in a good time
        – LL Sanchez has fell in the tour and been injured
        – Tony Martin punctured + same as luis leon, you can’t fall off the back of the peloton day after day in pain, and be expected to be 100% perfect for a ITT
        – Denis Menchov didn’t really do that bad, he’s just a slower cyclist
        – Lieuwe Westra is obviously not in the same vein of form he had at paris-nice, and dutch ITT champion? they’re hardly huge names, no insult to them.
        – Gustav Erik Larsson i thought might have done better, but must be feeling the pace
        – David Zabriskie same as larsson, but you can see dave has lost form, compare him with jens from the tour of cali… jens still has the form here.
        – Philippe Gilbert hasn’t been doing too great in this tour, off the back early on most climbs of note, camera always seems to pick him out quick
        – Andriy Grivko probably didn’t give it full gas knowing he would never be able to win it, and he’s stage hunting the whole race.
        – Peter Velits did very well…

        final point, froome was kept from our national championships, same as wiggo, either would of took our ITT title, so just because he doesn’t have in on his palmares you can’t say he isn’t good enough to be at that level. Also froome has built up to the tour, you can literally follow his results as he’s got stronger, wiggo has seemingly kept form constantly which looks fishier to me, it’s a long time to be on peak, no wonder questions of doping come in.

        oh and lastly my personal hatred of sky, froome should have been allowed to win that vuelta and wiggo is a selfish hypocrite who deserves to crash out of this tour for what him and brailsford did to froome last year, it’s pathetic (they said in pre-tour interviews brad would support froome if it happened again at the tour, but why wouldn’t they of just won the vuelta and achieved their huge team goals early if they really cared about them… hope froome moves team in august, he deserves support based on his performances and i would bet he could beat brad in this tour if given the opportunity)

  4. Interesting thoughts on attacks on the descents – I agree that there isn’t any evidence that suggests that wiggins is a bad descender, but the thing is Nibali and Evans are both amazing at going down mountains. I imagine we’ll see some pretty hair raising riding downhill in the coming days! Can’t wait (though will probably watch with my eyes half covered and fingers crossed that no harm comes to anyone).

    • I think the way to explain it is, Wiggins may not be a bad descender, just like Evans is not a bad TT rider, just that (in this tour at least), Wiggins is better than Evans at a TT and Evans (likely) is better than Wiggins at descending.

      • Also, consider that if Wiggins falls during a descent, he could lose the Tour, while if Nibali or Cadel fall, they have less to lose. Regardless, those guys have balls of steel to descend as fast as they do… I suppose amazing bike handling skills and loads of experience helps.

  5. Don’t forget that historically Wiggo has always said that he’s better at one big effort and that he copes less well with repeated monster climbs. It could be on one of these stages (e.g. Thur this week) that he becomes unstuck….

    But I doubt it; they’ve probably trained for that!

  6. You write: “If Sky have checked out all the stages, so have other teams. But some of the big teams have not and I find this amazing.”
    I am curious. Which “big teams” are you talking about, and how do you know this?

    • I feel a bit reluctant to name them as they might have reasons not to do it, for example someone was ill so they could not make it on the day. But here is one rider on a big budget squad:

    • Oliver – David Millar said that he did no prep for the TT course himself. He said he was told that the climb was a big ring climb and that this was completely false and he was not prepared for it…

      So Garmin may have “checked” the stage, but certainly the level of prep was lacking.

    • Millar was interviewed on the ITV4 coverage yesterday, admitted it th e ITT was all a surprise as he hadn’t checked it out at all.

    • I can understand Millar relying on the team recce of the stage. He might be a TT rider, but he’s not on top of his game at the moment, and you wouldn’t expect him to be challenging for the win.

      But I simply don’t understand why the top GC riders would not have ridden most, if not all, the stages. The route was announced in mid October. If they can’t do something as basic as that, then they don’t deserve to be in contention imho.

      Lots of people out there making accusations about Sky’s performance, many saying they can’t see how they can be that much more professional about things than other teams. I think they overestimate the level of competence in the World Tour. Many teams are made up entirely of cyclists and ex-cyclists who’ve moved into management. Maybe they were great at pedalling a bike, but they seem widely lacking in other areas of modern sporting performance management.

      • I could not agree more with your comment. Brailsford comes from a corporate management professional background as well as cycling. This is evident in how team Sky is managed with financial incentive for signings and performance, the use of technology and innovation, and psychology just to mention a few. Most of us in our work-a-day life know happy employees perform and want to stay with a company that invests in them. There is little grumbling from riders wanting to leave team Sky even with their poor decision at the Vuelta.

    • Didn’t the same thing happen to Leopard last year? Andy Schleck didn’t prep for the final ITT, and Cancellera was told to soft pedal so he could feed AS information during the race.

      • Yes, the Schlecks did not ride the course before. You could see the difference, they were sitting up and braking for some corners whilst Cadel Evans knew which ones could be taken at speed and he stayed in the aero tuck at speed.

        Planning by visiting the course is almost free. You need a car, a hotel for the night, a notebook and maybe a video camera. The gains are so valuable, to have 30 seconds in a time trial is huge.

  7. I can still see Wiggins having a bad day, Cadel hasn’t had too many bad days that I can recall so this is his trump card.

    The big advantage that Wiggins has now is that even if he loses a couple of minutes one day he must have the confidence to be able to make up time in the final time-trial.

    Up until yesterday I still thought Cadel would win it, after yesterdays time trial I have changed my mind and I think Wiggins is the favourite.

  8. I do love the constant talk of Evans & Nibali being better descenders, I have never known a tour being won on the descents! they may gap wiggins but he’s showing enough savoir faire at the moment to know not to panic & risk it and make it count when he can, that opening prologue could have been quicker, but at the risk of crashing.

    Who knows what will happen but can’t deny everyone else is talking a good story, wheras wiggins and froome are delivering.

    • 1972??

      Merckx attacks downhill and Ocana crashes trying to catch him. Not 100% sure, anyone read any of the recent biographies want to comment?

      • Was it Ocana who was scared of descending and waited for the peloton once? I can’t remember but it is in one of the Merckx bios I read.

        If you’re pushing your descending as your ace card to win the tour, I’d suggest you’re running out of ideas, I’d far rather be a climber or TT’er for sure!

        Much as I respect Evans and know he won’t give up, I suspect deep down he’s not got a plan for the current situation, and is (along with the other GC contenders) just as likely to suffer in all the scenarios they hope Wiggins will.

    • Salvodeli won the Giro over Simoni on the descents and Evans put over a minute into Schleck last year on the descents. David Arroyo also managed to salvage 2nd place overall with a crazy descent in the rain in the 2010 Giro after being dropped by Basso and Nibali on the prior ascent.
      Kelly won MSR on the descents and Cunego Lombardia.
      It’s a legit tactic and some riders genuinely are better at it.

      • Heras and Liberty Seguros beat Menchov in the 2005 Vuelta on a well choreographed team effort that had Heras attack Menchov on the descent and bridge to team mates already up the road. It was the Vuelta Heras won but was disqualified and the victory given to Menchov.

      • One day races of course, you could add Bettini’s Lombardy too.

        Even Nibali himself said yesterday you can’t win on the descents. I don’t think any pro putting time into a schlek on a descent is a particular badge of merit!

        No one will win this tour by beating Wiggins downhill. They need to outclimb or out TT him.

        Today will give further clues as to whether that is possible.

    • Two or three years ago, Gesink losing Paris-Nice to Rebellin on the descents of the last stage…not THE tour, but a stage race

  9. really well put, inring … i agree the Tour is far from over, but (as i mentioned on another thread) Cadel may be smarter than we give him credit for here … with several really high passes to go over and another top finish, i really think Cadel was testing the waters with the first 2 lumps?

    if he’s not an “AC attacking” style rider, he’s certainly a smart “keep your powder dry” type rider, knowing that the final TT will be more of a test than this last one with many huge hills in between, it seems a likely strategy that he has more than a few opportunities to claw back some time and maybe gain a little before that final TT.

    while Froome and Boasson-Hagen are capable, there’s limits, it might not be Wiggins that has the jour sans, but them and if that’s the case and Wiggins is isolated, things can change pretty quickly up le Gran Colombier (for instance) … Froome has already said SKY is not chasing anything but yellow at all costs, so while the green and another rider on the podium would be fantastic, i think SKY is enforcing this one.

    without a doubt, one of the best Tours in a while with 2 really worthy protagonists … and yes, sorry to say it but i miss AC and his riding from the heart… with a rider like that in the mix, it can get REALLY unpredictable as to when he’s going to light it up … luckily the Vuelta is coming up soon and there’ll be a head to head there with Frandy again (maybe?) …

    • I don’t think this holds up ,his form has been below par all year ,he’s not that great ,neither is wiggins either ,cadel won last year because he was up against the schlelk twits
      Wiggins will win ,baring a crash because the stars have aligned that he has no real competition

  10. Very good analysis indeed. Still:

    1) If “alliances” are understood to mean a situation when one team accepts to sacrifice something for the sake of another team and to the detriment of a third one, this can be forgotten (unless there is money involved). But there will be a lot of “shared interests”: if Evans & Nibali manage to drop Wiggins together, they will both pull. Liquigas and BMC can agree to work together to isolate Wiggins & Froome from his teammates. And more importantly, at the moment we have a lot of “free electrons”, still able to condition the race: RadioShack especially, but also quite a few other teams.
    2) A lot of those free electrons don’t seem to need to protect a 7th place or their UCI points. Katiusha is not short of points, Horner or Klöden are probably on their last contract, Fränk’s future is tied to his bro’s, and Rabobank and Movistar have nothing left to lose this year, and their cooperation is up for grabs.
    3) The Froome factor. The question is, in the case Froome is the better climber (and he appeared to be so, in last year’s Vuelta – Farrapona, Angliru, Peña Cabarga -), what can he do? If Wiggo is not dropped, there’s nothing he can do. But what if Nibali, Evans, or Vdb (or his friend Cobo, for that matter) drop Wiggins? Must Froome stay with him, at the risk of both them losing the Tour? Or shall he ride away, in order to “mark” the rivals, but with the risk of winning the Tour de France “en passant”? In that case, Wiggins should perhaps let him go because he already owes Chris about one Vuelta, and because next year Contador and Andy Schleck will make things very different.
    4) Both Froome and Wiggins remain to be tested in mountain marathons. It’s not so much the altitude: it’s the succession of major climbs. There wasn’t much of it in the extremely soft 2009 TdF, nor in last year’s Vuelta. There isn’t a lot of it this year, but the days of La Toussiure and, particularly, Bagnères, will demand of both of them an endurance we have yet to witness.
    5) Days passing. Tiredness moves in, but it does faster for some. Recovery capacities will be tested. It could be that Wiggins was too good in Romandie and Dauphiné.

    I think he’ll win the Tour, but not without a climbing crisis: he’ll get dropped, be alone, and will have to look inside himself for reserves of power he didn’t even know he had. But the guy is so proud he’ll get over it. I actually liked his timely display of profanity: it shows he’s made of the right stuff to win this race.

    • Froome stays with Wiggo period. Any time losses in the mountains can be made up just as easily in the tt, where Froome would be under orders to soft pedal.

    • Nice analysis, and superb comments all the way down the thread- Clearly this is the place to come for some reasoned analysis.

      Agreed, and I would add that while Nibali and Cadel is the key to SKY’s undoing, Menchov, VDB, RSNT and the rest of the top 10 is the lock. Without them, Cadel and Nibbles will have no access to the MJ…

      Listen, if we can come up with this analysis re: descents, I am sure that a certain Mr Yates- the SKY DS who was a crack racer and one HELL of a descender in his day can as well. I am sure that he has tought Wiggins- who is very trainable- a thing or two about descending. Also, if Wiggins really did 100,000m of climbing in training, chances are that he went DOWN those climbs as well as UP so I think he will be okay on descents, even if natural bike handlers like Cadel and Nibbles will be that little bit better and more comfortable than he is…

      Menchov and RSNT wonder twins and VDB, Tejay and even a cat like Nico Roche or Kloeden or Taaramae will unlock this, because if ALL HELL Breaks loose and there is a literal jailbreak at the BEGINNING of a long enough climb, SKY- excellent at covering a single threat in a defined space and distance- will have to make a series of difficult choices very quickly.

      This is the conversation you want on the SKY radios every single day from here to the next TT…
      WHO is in the breakaway again?
      Is xx still there?
      Where are they on GC?
      Do you sic EBH or Knees on ’em and tamp it down?
      Keep Froome by Wiggins?
      Do we counter? If so with who?
      WHO is in that group again?
      Do we let it go and just depend on the final TT?
      Who do you mark?
      How are the boys feeling?
      What time is the breakaway and who is in it?
      Where are we timewise again?
      Shit, that was hard, I hope we don’t have to do that again…

      You want Panic, uncertainty, destabilisation and worry to infiltrate that team, and you want that to happen THIS week…

      However, if Menchov and the rest of the racers get defensive, decide that top 10 is good enough, or that they will just sit on their UCI points, and race like its 2004 and wait for the TT then Cadel and Nibali are locked out of the SKY party no matter how much they attack, because SKY can manage one or two guys. In that case start the procession to Paris and pray that Contador comes back with a belly full of anger and looking for his damn yellow jersey in 2013

      Really is not the climbs, or the descents, but the RACERS to use their legs to probe SKY’s head (since SKYs legs seem to be pretty damn strong).

      I hope that we get to see it…

      • This year, in the face of the SKY onslaught, racers will have to be willing to risk EVERYTHING to have a chance of winning ANYTHING 🙂

        But that’s just my opinion- what does the salon think?

        • Reading elsewhere, I am finding people as diverse as Coppel or Valverde saying that Sky is telling them they will not be allowed in a breakaway, because they will be chased. I don’t know why, but if it was me, if I was Jerôme or Alejandro, I would react: “a-ha, yeah, right, sure, let’s just see that!!”.
          I agree with the jailbreak scenario being the most tempting for the viewer, and the most dangerous for Sky. I remember the Vuelta ’83, where an almighty Hinault, with no less than Fignon and Lemond as domestiques, being driven nuts (and finally losing the yellow jersey) by dozens of riders attacking chaotically, on the Port de la Bonaigua (which is hard, but not H.C.). This kind of scenario happens once every ten years or so. But we have the first pre-condition this year: there is an “all against one” mindset.

  11. inrng I believe I have seen clear alliances formed in the past. Look back to the 2009 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and if I am not mistaken Valverde teamed up with Contador to do over Evans. In fact when the race went over the last climb the Montée de Saint-Bernard-du-Touvet and Evans had been neutralised the two Spanish riders made a large show in front of Evans of shaking hands as if to say”job done”

  12. I think the tour will still come down to that final ITT. Evans and Nibali will likely chip away at Wiggins lead, gaining seconds here and there.

    Incidentally, what has happened to Movistar ?
    Valverde (10 mins down) – Juan Jose Cobo (29 minutes down)?

    • Valverde’s had some up and down form and had a run of bad luck. As for Cobo nothing seems to have gone right since the Vuelta win.

  13. No-one seems to have mentioned that Evans lost the bulk of his time yesterday before the first check. On the second half his was matching (ish) Wiggo and Froome.
    Issues with his warm up?
    Don’t think you can assume that Wiggo will beat Evans in the second TT. After the mountains, fatigue is as important a factor as TTing ability.

  14. Here are my predictions/analysis on how to beat Wiggo and Sky:

    1: Attack in the alps – take time if possible but keep Wiggo in yellow. Force Sky to defend in the mountains and across the windy transition stages. This will tire the team and while Wiggo is probably OK in the longer, lower gradient climbs of the alps it will take an effort to defend.

    2. Take the descents. Nibbles and Cadel would have taken the time if Wiggo didn’t work to come back on the flatter parts, but I think they more probing attacks and checking different strategies that they will use on the stages where the finish is closer to the end of the descent.

    3. Attack for lots of time to compensate for expected TT losses on the steeper slopes of the pryennes. These types of climbs are where wiggo will be weakest, especially after having to defend in the alps and across the transition stages, and Cadel and Nibbles strongest. Even if Froome can cover, wiggo still has to hold the wheel.

    My 2 cents for playing “if I were a team manger” 🙂

  15. Personally, I think Wiggins already has it in the bag. Should he find himself being dropped in the mountains he will have the Sky DS’ telling him what he can afford to lose, without the need to absolutely turn himself inside out.

    Evans will not relent his title without a mammouth fight so it is still an exciting race ahead.

  16. There DO appear to be lots of tightly spaced hairpins on the Col du Mollard descent and then a fair climb to follow immediately. Go on boys an escape royal on the descent – see if you can!

    • If those who have to attack haven’t done so before the Mollard (that is, on the very, very, long Croix-de-Fer, the best pass to erode Team Sky and then jump away), they will already have wasted one chance.
      There’s not a flat mile that day. I expect major action from the word go.

    • I’ve ridden that road a few times and it is grim to descend… All the hairpins are under trees so the road is permanantly greasy and the surfacing was (when I was in the area) awful. It’s also steep.

      Seem to remember The Chicken having an utter mare down there once.

  17. Great analysis.

    Sky is doing a lot, and it looks they’ve got it all covered. Still, there’s two things that caught my attention. First, the use of oval chainrings. I know that’s not new, and Rotor/Garmin-Sharp are using it for quite a while. But, is it the first time a winning ride in a TT uses a oval chainring? And what a oval was that. Both Wiggins and Froome are using it. And I can’t remember riders like Cancellara, Martin or Cadel having using it.

    The other thing is the talk about Wiggo’s training methods. Apparently he worked with his coach to stay at 95% of his form the whole season, as swimmers do, and then to peak for the Tour. It’s a different formula from what we have seen so far, at least since the late 90’s, isn’t it? A winning formula, I mean.

    What do you all think?

  18. My word this is shaping up to be a good tour. A new star in the making is leading early doors and all the main contenders are there but, currently at least, just out of reach.

    I think Wiggins has the maturity to deal with all the “pressure” of being favourite, plus Sky are showing some tactical ability as well as pure dedication to the task of getting yellow in Paris. What I also love, is that the current world champion Cavendish is actually doing some domestique work collecting bottles. He’s had his critics, but I think he’s a wonderful sportsman.

    I’m not sure Wiggins can keep yellow for the whole time but I really can’t wait to see what he Froome and Brailsford have planned. How people can point the finger at this team, with the pedigree of results from this very professional outfit does surprise me a litte.

    PS Mr Inrng I have to thank you for some amazing analysis, and entertaining blogs. During the tour I’m on this page more than google!

    • Sean Kelly commented today that Wiggins does have the potential to lose his cool if something goes awry (see his tirade toward reporters). Can he keep it together if he drops a chain on a climb?

        • Quote from Wiggins @ Romandie this year …….

          “It was a true test of a GC rider,” Wiggins said of the final stage. “It had a bit of everything in it plus a mechanical for myself.
          “I’m pleased with the way I handled that moment because a few years ago I might have thrown my toys out of the pram and chucked my bike down the ravine! It was a good test for the bigger races coming up and I’m delighted.”

          Another tick in the box as Brailsford would say in preparation for this Tour

  19. I really believe that the attacks in the mountains must come at the very foot of the climbs. They must not allow the sky tempo to start, leaving attacks until 1km, 2km from the summit just plays into Wiggins hands. They must go from the bottom, and blow the sky domestiques out of the water.

    Stage 10 for example: Colombier, attack (expect froome and wiggins left at top), drive it on the descent. Richemond, attack (expect wiggins on his own or maybe trailing by max 10secs at top) and then make wiggins feel like he is descending into hell.

    Easier said than done though 😀

  20. Having watched as much as I can from my armchair I was getting lulled into thinking it was becoming boring until Eurosport did a round-up of the first week and it was amazingly exciting !!!….. I’m not a fan of ‘the twiglet’ but he will be very hard to stop ……….kinda wish Bertie was rollin about to shake it up even more! ……. bring on the mountains and lets see some good old fashioned handlebar chewin on the rivet racing like coppi, bartali et al ………… ( id dump race radios for the mountain stages but hey, thats just me) ………… allez !!!!

  21. Ok, I take this opportunity to give my personal opinion on superfluous things regarding Wiggins:

    1. I always disliked the man, he seems so boring and full of clichés with his Mod thing.
    2. I always thought his 4th place in the 2009 Tour de France was a fluke.
    3. I am liking this Tour de France so far, it is interesting to see him race; so far, I find him impressive, he deserves to win, he’s a true athlete.
    4. Now I am wishing for a showdown Wiggins-Contador in 2013!
    5. But, can someone tell him to first fix his socks problem, it hurt my eyes! : Bradley, why the long socks?!??
    Good luck and may the best win!

  22. I expect to see some fireworks from VDB. His form seems to be really good, maybe not enough to threaten Wiggins, but due to an untimely mechanical he lost some time on most of the overall contenders on the first mountain top finish. Also I think he has less pressure with Greipel already netting two wins for the team and not being in the top 5 at the moment. And looks like they did some really good reckon. He was the only to take the roundabout correctly and create a gap on Sunday. So, maybe as long as he has not a podium placing he really might try the do or die strategy and maybe stir things up.

  23. Fantastic thread. Comments:

    1. With respect to alliances, I remember Cavenish a couple of years ago claiming that Farrar and Wouter Weylandt were conspiring to stick it to him. I thought it was a strange accusation at the time given that Tyler and Wouter were on different teams, but I had no idea then that Tyler and Wouter were such good friends.

    2. I am only a recreational rider, arguably an enthusiast. One thing I can tell you is that I can ride a route MUCH faster after I’ve ridden it a few times. I find it really odd that pros at that level wouldn’t better prepare themselves for huge races by doing more recon.

    3. Exciting tour. So much more exciting than the 2011 Giro, for example, where it was a one-man show.

    I didn’t like the way in which Wiggins left Garmin-Slipstream, and this still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The Sky team looks really strong, with three or four guys up there and Cadel by himself. Perhaps he’s not a pure climber, but why wouldn’t BMC bring Greg Van Avermaet to the tour? He always seems to finish near the front during the tough classics. I would think that this would translate to being a great helper to Cadel.

  24. Lots of speculations, huh….? The fact is that anything can happen the next two weeks. The Tour de France is NEVER boring.


  25. Wiggo s has nothing in the bag as se of te parcours that is coming up is exceedingly difficult. Having a bad day on the Grand Colombier, boom, you’re gone. Hard attacks on the Glandon and Mollard that use all your energy, boom, you’re gone. Can’t hold a wheel on the Mur de Pegueres, boom, you’re gone.

    Everyone is going to have to be on the top of their game, but the real race starts now. The most testing, most draining and most race-stimulating terrain is ahead of us an one guy has a two minute lead. It is either going to be two boring weeks or its going to be one hell of a finish.

  26. Wiggo has nothing in the bag as the parcours that is coming up is exceedingly difficult. Having a bad day on the Grand Colombier, boom, you’re gone. Hard attacks on the Glandon and Mollard that use all your energy, boom, you’re gone. Can’t hold a wheel on the Mur de Pegueres, boom, you’re gone.

    Everyone is going to have to be on the top of their game, but the real race starts now. The most testing, most draining and most race-stimulating terrain is ahead of us an one guy has a two minute lead. It is either going to be two boring weeks or its going to be one hell of a finish.

  27. I wished it would rain tomorrow since Cadel descending the Grand Colombier and the Col du Richmond on wet roads could gain at least one minute over any just good descender. And he has proven numerous times – last time that I know heading into Gap a year ago – that he excels in this discipline. But now the weather forecast predicts nothing but sun for Wednesday afternoon.
    As for Thursdays stage, as far as I know they will not ride down the 52 switchbacks from the Col du Mollard – a unique experience I can really recommend to anyone who loves descending – but the much less curvy direct road to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
    It probably is Cadel’s last chance for a second TdF title since Angry Berto will crush everyone next year. That’s why I hope he will take his balls into his hands and provide a great fight. Now that he has won it once he probably does not care which rank he will have reached in Paris if it is not the one on top.
    Curious to find out what Nibali does to live up to his full-bodied announcements.
    So, boring? Not for me.

    Thanks for the great analysis, INRG!

  28. From my perspective it appears that Sky has taken a page directly from the old Postal book. Control, protect, dominate the field. Only thing missing is a TTT where they could take a minute or more on the entire field.

  29. Hi Inrng. Having discovered your blog a few months ago, I’ve been enjoying your thoughtful and well-informed articles on all-things pro-cycling. One little detail on Wiggin’s recent blistering ITT – he started with a visor attached to his aero helmet, and finished apparently without. Are the Team Sky visors on their Kask aero helmets easily detachable? I didn’t spot him discard it en route on the coverage; and most other riders finished with theirs. Do you or anyone else out there fancy clearing that one up?

  30. A SKY rider will win this years Tour and all the little elements that SKY use, such as warming down on the dreaded Turbo will be copied by the traditional teams who are being dragged into a new era of pro race preparation. My two peneth!

    • When did we start “warming down” and stop “cooling off” from a race effort? Curious minds want to know. I never heard the term “warming down” until Paul Sherwin started using it. Is it a Brit idiom?

      • A warm down has been part of cycle training for many years. It is more typically used after very intense efforts, e.g. track racing. I would normally suggest at least a few minutes of recovery level riding after most rides, and a little longer after very intensive efforts. It helps the body’s (and mind’s) transition to a rest state.

        It is a myth however that it hastens a drop in blood lactate concentration or reduces muscle soreness. So if someone says the phrase “just getting rid of the lactic acid”, they are talking bollocks on a couple of fronts.

        • Around my parts a “cool down” or “cool off” has been a part of cycle training for many years. Always necessary after hard efforts such as TTs etc. More then just a few minutes necessary after big efforts.

          Not questioning the need for cooling down. Questioning the idiom of “warming down”.

          • I think a warm-down is an ‘active’ event, so light pedalling etc. The cool-down comes after, and involves stretching, range of motion activities, through to ice baths and the like. That’s how I learnt it a while ago, can’t remember where!

  31. You know this is like 1999 all over again. Who knows right? But if you are watching cycling long enough then you know or should know by now when things don’t seem to add up. Unless you are downloading their data directly from their power meter yourself then you are playing fantasy tour. So, whatever, but if you consider the tarnished history of cycling and the very recent developments it goes to show you that with an attitude like that he really does live in a high altitude bubble where only lichens will grow. I just wonder now, once all gets recycled again, what the long term effect will be on the complacent, the gloating and the weary observer. This surely has to be a new phase we are entering.

  32. I think Wiggins might be the architect of his own downfall.

    If he doesn’t trim those sideburns they’ll create too much drag in the last TT and devastate his chances

  33. tl;dr for the entire thread so far.

    Camp 1: “Waffle waffle waffle, Wiggins & Froome are on the juice”
    Camp 2: “Gosh isn’t this exciting because Col du X”

    Camp 1 is decidedly more verbose and tedious to read.

    • Yep, agree. I very much enjoy this site – rational and full of insight from the OP and in the comments section.

      If you have evidence, fine, let’s hear it – I have no issue with reasoned fact and/or science-based scepticism (eg. – but otherwise please can the conspiracy theorists on here just clear off to join their friends on the grassy knoll in the Clinic in the Cyclingnews forum please?

      In some ways, I hate July.

  34. The only thing I genuinely hope for is that if Wiggins is to win, he at some stage has to “take the tour in his hands” not on the ITT. If Cadel’s victory last year hadn’t included the Mur De Huy v Contador, the descent into Gap, the Galibier Chase (twice), and the one on one with Andy up the alpe’ it would not have been as worthy or exiting in my view. If Sky and Wiggins TT up the mountains with Wiggins out of the wind, if he never chases solo, then his victory will be the poorer for it. Still a fantastic team achievement, and a great day for him, but not for me the same as doing it yourself. I do think that Evans would have benefited from a Contador in the race as his attacks would make it hard for sky to pace up the climbs. If Wiggins can take the race himself I will be cheering for him. I want the winner to have won on merits other than just teammates on the open road and the ITT.
    On another note i think it is more likely to see Vannenert/JVB and Evans, Lotto alumni attacking on climbs and descents as has already happened. Nibali goes with them, and its race on…..

  35. I may be way off base here but I’m surprised no one has mentioned Radio Shack as a major threat to Sky. As they showed in stage 8 they have a lot of fire power when it comes to climbing and the Alps and the Pyrenees are still to come. With Schleck, Horner, Monfort, Gallopin, and Zubeldia they definitely have the numbers to attack from the penultimate or even second to penultimate climb of the day. With 5 men they can send 3 up the road and cover Wiggins with the other 2. With either Monfort or Zubeldia up the road with 2 others it would definitely put Sky under major pressure while pulling the other 2 remaining RS riders along to launch attacks later in the stage. What does RS have to lose with Zubledia the best they have at 3:19 back with more time loss to come in the next TT?

  36. I’m not at all surprised by Sky Procycling’s approach and subsequent results at this year’s Tour; one only has to look to the velodrome of Beijing 2008 where Team GBR wiped the floor with the opposition, many of the key staff from that Olympics success are now present in France this month.

    Sky have admitted they made a mistake in Spain last year; lesson learnt, move on… but it wasn’t just there, the team fanatically review every performance to ensure lessons are learnt, risks are negated and opportunities taken. Say Wiggins fell off his bike again and broke the other collar-bone then I’m certain ‘plan B’ would kick in and Froome would be pushed to the forefront; the Sky machine will have considered all the scenarios, in fact they probably still have some PhD boffin locked in a darkened room at Manchester University simulating the race with the possible risks and variables being analysed over and over again and it’ll be the geek overdosing but on nothing exotic – caffeine and cheesy puffs possibly!

    To me it isn’t about Wiggins, it’s about Evans, Nibali and the others against this one highly effective team. If Schleck jr was fit to ride I’m sure the Radioshack guys would have been in Sky’s face far more often than they have been so far. The only way I can see anyone other than a Sky rider not winning is by some sort of alliance between the other GC contenders – BMC and Liquigas for instance but, somehow, the chances of that happening are unrealistic. And if they formed an alliance, do you think Sky could react by forming their own ‘partnership’ with Garmin, think about it, they are getting a bit pal-ly with each other; Millar is good mates with Brailsford, Vaughters has become very complimentary about Wiggins of late, Garmin are men down but they could still prove useful to Sky.

    So for me the real story of 2012 won’t be about a Brit winning, if it happens, but about how Sky came along and re-invigorated the definition of a “superteam”. If they win this year, what will they do next, go for the grand slam all the jerseys of all three major tours? And what happens should Sky pull out, who will sponsor them then, or do they just cease to be like HTC-Highroad?

  37. I really don’t understand most of these posts ,all this talk of continued attacks from Cael &nibali and isolating wiggins ,one week in and there is one TEAM here,it’s sort of pathetic but the reality is that Sky and radio shack were the only teams putting everything behind their leader ,BMC I think we’re also but completely got it wrong ,I love big George ,but what use is he and all the other Rouleurs
    Where is Nibali’s team.

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