A sterling ride from Welshman Geraint Thomas – second to Hushovd over the cruel northern cobbles and a spell in white – saved the team’s Tour last year, but 2010 was certainly not the debut they wanted in the world’s biggest bike race.
A year on and lessons have been learned; with Wiggins an excellent winner of the Dauphine and British elite road race championships, Sky’s podium dreams looked within their grasp.
Dave Brailsford…and PEZ’s Martin Williamson!
After a solid start with Wiggins exhibiting huge power in the team time trial – which consolidated Thomas’s tenure in white as best young rider – it looked ‘set fair’ for the British team; especially when their versatile Norwegian star Edvald Boasson Hagen took stage five.
But the crashes which scythed the field in the first week were indiscriminate in who they harvested, and stage seven saw Wiggins sitting beside the roadside with a broken collar bone.
Bradley Wiggins en route to taking the British National Championships.
At the stage 15 start, the first question PEZ asked Sky boss David Brailsford was if the team made a mistake in having Thomas wait for Wiggins after the tall Englishman’s stage seven crash; thereby losing the white jersey.
David Brailsford: I don’t think it was a mistake, no.
The team for the Tour was built 100% around Brad and when they hear he’s down, they stop – they’re not robots.
We were car eight or nine and the numbers of the crash victims trickle in over race radio, it’s not like you know immediately all the riders who are on the deck.
As the pile of riders unravels it’s not until you get to the bottom that you realize that Brad is in there.
When the guys hear that Brad is down they just stop instinctively – it’s not a controlled situation, its chaos.
Then Brad gets up and it takes a little while to establish that he can’t continue.
What if Brad is OK and gets up. but Geraint says ‘I’m going’ and Brad loses a minute or two because he doesn’t have full team support?
And with the greatest of respect to Geraint it would have been difficult for him to retain the white jersey in the mountains.
But he had his moment with that epic break over the Tourmalet.
PEZ: You must be pleased to see Uran in white, now?
DB: That was always the plan; if anything happened to Brad then Rigoberto would drop into his shoes.
We’ve done our homework, we analysed all of the climbs in the race and know which ones suit the characteristics of our riders.
It would have been easy to go for stage wins after Brad crashed out, but that doesn’t give a focus for your riders and staff – you need to have that.
If Brad had still been in the race then Geraint would have been riding for him and there would have been no Tourmalet exploit.
The objectives now with Rigoberto are twofold for the rest of the race – to develop his riding skills and to get him in to the top ten on GC.
Of course well defend the white jersey now but we have to get through the Alps – he’s a good time trial rider, he was top 20 in the Dauphine time trial.
One of the things we have to teach him is not to be too impulsive; young riders tend to react, go with every attack, but you can’t keep doing that.
We told him to stick with Basso, he’s Mr. Consistency; he just rides across the gaps steadily.
The fact that he’s resisting the urge to go with every move demonstrates that he’s gaining experience.
Brailsford: Allez Voeckler!
PEZ: And who’s going to win the Tour?
DB: I don’t know who’s going to win but I’ll tell you who I’d like to win – Voeckler.
His performance is the single best thing that’s happened to French cycling in a decade – allez Voeckler!