Yesterday’s stage was remarkable for Riblon’s brave ride, and for Schleck and Contador’s mind games, whilst their rivals stole a march on them. Further back, however, a less inspiring story was unfolding.
Bradley Wiggins arrived 4’ 59’’ behind Riblon and is now 11 and a half minutes behind Schleck overall. His initial ambition of a podium finish deserted him in the Alps, but he now has to give up on a top ten finish too. He has gone from ranking 4th in last year’s Tour, to place second best in his own team, a team which was built around him. It borders on embarrassing.
Yesterday’s comments to the press said as much:
“Do you want me to honest with you? I’m gone, mate,” Wiggins said. “I’m not going to lie to you, I just don’t have the form, I haven’t got it like last year. I just feel consistently mediocre.”
Not great for Team Sky, whose overall performance is also somewhat mediocre. It’s a middling performance in the team competition, they have no stage wins and no realistic chance of winning any of the jerseys.
There are great talents in the team, of course, in the shape of Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen, but they are names for the future, and a brief spell in white for Thomas isn’t enough to proclaim Sky’s Tour a success. Their great hope was Wiggins, after all, and one can’t help but think that Team Sky has miscalculated badly when it comes to their team leader.
Even back at stage 8, Wiggins was telling reporters that the 2’ 45’’ distance to the race leader would be enough for a podium finish. Yesterday, Wiggins admitted that last year’s Tour was ‘a fluke’, and so the question is: should Team Sky have seen that coming? The Times reported on poor performance in training prior to the Tour, and his achievements at the Giro were unconvincing as well.
The Tour aside, Team Sky has the potential to do great things for British cycling, both for the sport, and for getting the general population on their bikes. There is a wave of cycling enthusiasm rolling over the country at the moment, the combined appeal of money-saving and improved fitness makes cycling an easy sell. The capital is leading the way with the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, the new cycling superhighways and a number of exciting cycling cafes opening.
Team Sky are in the thick of this with their Skyrides initiative, and they are no doubt also a great factor in raising British viewing figures for the Tour by 25% too. It would have helped no end, however, to have had a poster boy, or two, with some decent Tour results to show for, but that looks unlikely now.
They’re a new team, of course, and are going through a great learning curve at this year’s Tour. The Tour was meant to be a five year project for Sky, and they will no doubt regroup and come back stronger. Even so, this was not the how the plan looked back at the drawing board.
They are also a hugely expensive team, and generally speaking, when someone assembles something at great cost, they expect to see some return for their investment.
With a name like Sky, the puns are there for the taking too – Sky-high fiasco, anyone? Bit harsh, perhaps, but the jury is out on Team Sky’s maiden Tour voyage.