3/14/2012

The Cycle is finally in Wiggins' favor

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Britain's Bradley Wiggins competes on Sunday during the 9.6km time trial between Nice and Col d'Eze in the 70th edition of the Paris-Nice race. Wiggins won the event.

Perfect convergence of circumstances give British rider his best chance of winning the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins of Britain has made himself a credible Tour de France contender with his victory in the 70th edition of the Paris-Nice on Sunday, showing guts and composure to claim one of the biggest wins of his career on the road.

A Tour route tailor-made for rouleurs, Alberto Contador's absence, a strong team and a few lessons learned mean Wiggins will have the biggest chance of his career to win the greatest cycling race in the world.

The Team Sky rider won the Paris-Nice race after claiming the final time trial, a 9.6-km dash to the Col d'Eze on Sunday that suggested Wiggins still had plenty left in the tank after a week of climbing and racing in the wind and cold.

He became the first Briton to win the week-long "Race to the Sun" since Tom Simpson in 1967. The late Simpson never won the Tour, but Wiggins surely has what it takes to make 2012 a vintage year for British cycling.

This year's Tour will feature 101.5km of time trials, compared with 65.5 last year and 60.9 in 2009, a great asset for Wiggins, while it should dramatically reduce the chances of Andy Schleck, a pure climber who has always struggled against the clock.

"It's obvious that this Tour will favor Wiggins much more than the last two editions," said Radioshack-Nissan team manager Johan Bruyneel, who guided Lance Armstrong to his seven Tour titles and Contador to his 2007 and 2009 triumphs on the French roads.

Wiggins, however, believes freshness will be the key factor, especially in the final individual time trial, a 53.5-km ride between Bonneval and Chartres on the eve of the Champs Elysees parade.

"It's more about freshness. If you're not fresh, your time trial abilities count for nothing," the 31-year-old Wiggins said.

Contador's absence

In 2009, Wiggins finished a decent sixth in the final time trial in Annecy, and Sunday's performance in the uphill ride to the Col d'Eze suggested the three-time track cycling Olympic champion has enough energy to get through three weeks of racing - if he does not peak too early, that is.

"You cannot win the Tour de France if you also want to win the Dauphine (a few weeks earlier)," Bruyneel said, referring to Wiggins' victory in last year's Criterium du Dauphine.

Another factor in the June 30-July 22 race will be Contador's absence after the Spaniard was banned for failing a dope test during the 2010 race.

Contador would have been the favorite and his absence will undoubtedly leave a spot available on the podium in Paris.

Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia will probably start as the favorite now, but Wiggins will focus on himself.

"You can't worry too much about if he's there ... you just concentrate on what you're doing as a team and individually," he said.

Wiggins' team on the Tour could feature several decent domestic riders who could help him in the mountains, such as Australian Richie Porte or Colombian Rigoberto Uran.

The Belgium-born Wiggins will have to deal with the presence of world champion Mark Cavendish on the team, and his compatriot's goal in the race could affect Team Sky's line-up.

"If they pick seven lead-out riders (for the sprints) it's clear that I'm on my own for GC (general classification)," he said.

His Paris-Nice win suggests, however, that Team Sky will put resources behind Wiggins, especially as several domestiques can double up for the lead-out.

Wiggins even sees Cavendish's presence as a blessing in disguise because it will allow him to ride towards the front of the peloton during the flat stages as Team Sky will look to set up the Manxman for the sprint finishes.

Last year, Wiggins crashed out in the seventh stage, partially because of some bad positioning in the bunch.

"One of the big gains of having Cav is you can ride more in the front. I'll probably get a safer ride," he said.

That lesson learned, Wiggins should be able to rely on a well-oiled squad.

"A great week for the team and we're moving onwards and upwards. The way we rode and how we handled all the situations makes it a great result," Team Sky sports director Sean Yates said on Sunday.

(Reuters)

1 comments:

John Shoresurf said...

He's really a great man. Fantastic talent.

March 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM