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Monday, 9 July 2012

So far a Tour de Force from Sky

We have reached the first rest day of le Tour de France and from a British yellow jersey perspective it could not be going better. Wiggins has been manoeuvred into the iconic maillot jaune by his dedicated team and he strengthened his position today with a wonderful individual time trial. One essential detail of Wiggin’s position in the Tour is the importance of Chris Froome.

I have been a long term admirer of Froome since his performances in last year’s Vuelta a EspaƱa where he finished second with Bradley Wiggins in third. He is a powerful time trial rider and the only pure climber that races under the Union Jack. The rider was born in Kenya but was eligible to race for Britain and due to licensing issues he chose to ply his trade for Sky and team GB. That in my mind is a blessing for us as he is a great ambassador for our country and an asset to any team. He unfortunately punctured in the flat stages of the race but his work in stage seven as well as the emphatic sprint victory was incredibly impressive. He then put in a stint that made every cycling enthusiast sit up and listen in the time trial today coming in second behind his teammate Wiggins. If Wiggins does retain his lead and become the first Briton to arrive in Paris donning yellow then he will owe much of his victory to Froome who will undoubtedly have even more of a part to play in the coming stages. I have a strong sense that Froome will win the Tour in future as he has every skill needed to win the world’s greatest race and in a few years he will probably lead sky when Wiggins is too old to be their main leader or he will lead another team and I believe there is potential for a great rivalry between him and Contador.

However, Froome is the supporting actor in this relationship for now. Wiggins is taking the main stage and he looks at home in yellow and Sky reek of a team that is fully confident and determined to protect his precious jersey and very few people could question their ability to do so. Wiggins is impressive in the mountains considering his track background and seems able to match the pace set by almost any in this race. He is far beyond impressive at time trialling. His prologue was an indication and today’s performance was a statement. He took a huge chunk of time of that of his main rival Cadel Evans, the defending champion, who is considered one of the best at the time trial discipline in the world. This is a real show of power and one cannot help but ask if he would have bettered Evans in last year’s tour and it begs the question of how can Evans retain his crown? It would take a huge attack from him or a heartbreaking failure from Wiggins for him to recapture the prised garment. The latter seems improbable as Wiggins seems in imperious form and I do not think Evans can cause too much damage to Wiggins as he looks worse in the time trial and he has never been an emphatic attacker in the hills. Even if the unthinkable happens and Wiggins suffers a crash or technical problem then Evans still has to hold off Froome who looks stronger both in the mountains and in the race against the clock. Evans is 14 seconds ahead of Froome but I doubt that he can retain this.

In short Britain looks in a perfect position to win its first Tour and short of a tragic problem they should hold on to the yellow an Dave Brailsford can be happy with his strategy as it is unfolding to perfection.

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