What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour Analyzed: Sky Answers All Comers

TDF St.17 What a difference a day makes. Yesterday he looked feisty but today the last big chance for Vincenzo Nibali to have a crack at Wiggins, or even to try to take second from Froome, failed to come to anything after he himself was dropped by the Sky pair. Froome was the strongest guy in the race and let everyone know, and a certain Spaniard with a certain past managed to turn back the clock and bring home the stage win…

– By Lee Rodgers –

Ah Christopher Froome… he’s not content to simply do the job he gets paid pretty well for, nor to go on in public about the ‘sacrifice’ he is putting in to ride second fiddle to Wiggins, he then has to get up in the mountains and ride in such a way that he lets every man and his dog know that he is the strongest climber in the race.

Some might interpret it more as him cajoling Wiggins to ride harder to gap Nibali, but the way he turned to look at Wiggins, he was practically shouting at the Yellow Jersey with his eyes. As a rider I was annoyed by Froome’s body language. Either do your job and ride for the team as you’ve all planned for months and keep quiet about it – and do it in a dignified way – or go and see if you really can smash the race open and suffer the consequences on the team bus later.

When you ride with someone as much as Wiggins and Froome do, you instinctively know if the speed at any given moment is too high. There was just no need for Froome to gap him like that. I’m not a huge Wiggo fan but now I’m glad he’s winning, he’s ridden a very good race and had his nerves tested by his lieutenant along the way.

Wiggins said post-race that he let his concentration go and that Froome wanted to push for the stage win – maybe he doesn’t like Valverde? – but he also knows how things are perceived, especially when there are 20 million people watching…

Onto Liquigas-Cannondale. Their tactic of chasing down the early break from quite far out might have seemed odd, but they did the same at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year. The DS will have instructed them to ride hard early on in the hope of later dropping some of the Sky riders like Rogers and Boasson-Hagen.

The only problem though with that tactic is that this isn’t the Giro and Sky are rocking the house at the moment, and, ironically, it was in the end Nibali who was most isolated with only Basso at his side whereas Wiggins still had the Norwegian, Froome, Porte and Rogers. Basso rode well though – seems his legs finally arrived!

Often unseen by the cameras is the amount of talking that goes on before crucial parts of a race. The DS can make all kinds of brilliant and clever plans the night before but often something unexpected can happen and the plans go out the window. Then it’s up to the riders to find each other in the peloton and to formulate a plan on the hoof. Some riders make a career out of simply being tactically intelligent, and from orchestrating their teammates’ movements rather than actually winning themselves.

When Liquigas put the hammer down it might have been an idea for BMC to join. Van Garderen – who is really coming of age in this race and fulfilling his early promise with a great ride – today had the support of the team. If Evans had been feeling decent, once the mountains came he could have been used to go off on the attack with the hope of Van Garderen later doing the same and taking time on Van Den Broeck.

Problem with that idea though is that VDB is around 2 minutes ahead of Tejay and Evans, well, he’s suffering like a dog, and an overcooked one at that.

And then we come to Nibali. He was looking for 2nd place, driving his men on in the hope that Wiggins would crack and that Froome would be ordered to stay with him, thus allowing the Italian to get back that handful of seconds that separated him from Froome’s 2nd spot.

Had El Wiggo really cracked then things would have been very interesting indeed. Froome would have had to make a decision to go or not, and the timing would have been critical. As it was it’s academic, as it was Nibali who cracked and the Sky pairing consolidated their positions.

One-two for Sky will be a massive achievement, huge, especially in this modern era.

Valverde, I’ll begrudgingly admit, put in a good ride but… well, best stop there.

Tomorrow the sprinters will be hungry, expect a mass finish and no change in the GC as Paris nears and a first ever Tour de France win for an English rider looks more and more likely.

Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer for UCI Continental team CCN, racing the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events, whilst moonlighting to pay the rent as a freelance journalist. Highlight of his cycling career has been winning the Singapore National Champs, both road race and the TT, as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan this year, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing has appeared in several magazines and websites and he’ll work for food, so long as it’s full of high-quality carbs… and for Belgian beer, he informs us.

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