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July 13, 2012
We’re only half way into the Tour but I think we can safely say that Cadel Evans’ chances of defending the title are over. I’m sure there are a lot of people holding onto hope but the vibe from here in France amongst most people I speak with is that it’s over for Cadel. He’s done an admirable job holding his own but Wiggins and his Imperial Stormtroopers have given a crushing blow to the old Jedi Knight that he’s unlikely to rise back from.
Hindsight is 20/20 but I would have loved to have seen this Tour replayed with BMC having hired 4 super-domestiques who could have taken on SKY instead of hiring Gilbert and Hushovd for ~3M each. I’m admittedly biased, but all I want is to see is an exciting, close and tense Tour de France all the way to the final TT. Barring disaster I think it’ll be Wiggins and Froome by good margin and Cadel will be fighting it out for the final podium spot with Nibali. It reminds me of the days of USPS domination where they were untouchable (I’m not insinuating anything – I think SKY’s performances are believable).
A stronger BMC may not have won Cadel the Tour, but we would have seen a closer match. BMC’s attack on Wiggins initiated by Van Garderen on the Col de la Croix de Fer was exciting to watch but possibly an act of desparation. It didn’t make sense. It was too far out with two big mountain passes remaining and large bunches still intact riding at a high tempo. It was never going to succeed. We saw the consequences of that effort when Cadel cracked at 6.5km remaining. It would been more tactical to have saved that energy to attack Wiggins when Nibali did closer to the top.
The interesting story that could emerge is a possible intra-team rivalry within SKY. According to my sources close to last year’s Vuelta, there was a fair amount of tention in the team when Froome and Wiggins were contesting the overall win. We’ve seen other exmaples of this happening in 1985/86 with Lemond and Hinault, and Contador and Armstrong in 2009. Froome’s attack on the bunch at 4.5km remaining could have been a bike racer’s primal instincts, but it didn’t seem to be in anyone’s best interest except for Froome’s. They had already put the nail in the coffin for Evans and Froome’s attack which dropped Wiggins had no strategic value for the yellow jersey. He immediately sat up when it appeared that he was ordered via race radio but was then given the go-ahead to sprint for 2nd (which Pinot won). There’s no doubt that Froome is the strongest climber in the race and one of the best time trialists, so there could be some interesting developments in the final week of the Tour.
While Australians are disappointed that this year’s Tour win is a foregone possibility, Gossy is still within reach of the Green Jersey not far behind Sagan. Besides the Poms already celebrating the French are also having a fabulous Tour. Pinot today, Voeckler yesterday, and Rolland on stage 8, the future looks bright for French cycling.
Q. Who is the first Japanese rider ever to get on a Grand Tour podium at this year’s Tour de France for “most aggressive rider”?
Q. Behind Cadel, who is the next most successful rider on this year’s Tour with the most podium finishes?
Q. Which Rabobank rider was born in Siberia?
Q. Only two riders have won the Giro, Tour and Worlds in the same year. They were Merckx and a rider in the ‘80’s. Who was he…?