Wiggins and Evans head for the mountains
Panasonic teammates Phil Anderson, left, and Robert Millar await team introductions at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
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Approaching the second weekend the team managers will be looking back at the opening stages and counting what riders have survived the early skirmishes, the crashes and the dodgy stomachs. First strike in the GC war has definitely been won by Wiggins with a great display on the second half of the prologue and though the ten seconds gained aren't massive in reality every one of those counts in the psychological struggle for the top place on the Paris podium.
Evans and BMC will have quickly done the calculations, transposed that to the longer time trials and no doubt thought two seconds per kilometre is a bit too much . If that is going to be the tariff and there's no time taken back on the hill top finish or on the repetitive climbs of the day to Porrentruy then the defending champion could well find himself a minute and a half down on Wiggins by the first rest day. That's not a position BMC will want to find themselves in and the reason why Evans has been looking for an opportunity to claw back something and then hopefully keep the deficit to under a minute with a better time trial going into the middle part of the race.
The respective teams of the favourites have been much of a muchness, BMC doing a slightly better job of looking after Evans when things got sticky but Wiggins looks like he is cruising and Sky have been improving their GC riders protection bubble as the days go by. Mark Cavendish has proved he doesn't need the big lead-out train he's accustomed to win the bunch kick and though Greipel has won a couple of stages you have to ask yourself if it's not part of the big plan to let Lotto have some success in order to reduce Sky's workload, remember friends will be needed if Wiggins takes the yellow jersey.
I'm in two minds about the Peter Sagan victory salutes, yes it annoys the purists , yes it looks like slightly misplaced given the seriousness of the Tour, yes it looks like arrogance but no-one said anything when he did similar stuff in California. Anyway I like his explanation that it's meant to be funny in an entertaining sort of way, not because he finds it easy despite his abundance of talent but because his friends suggested he do something different. Valentino Rossi used to dress up as some crazy stuff when he won Moto GP races and the fans loved him for it and to me I see a resemblance, it's part of the show. I think we ought to take it for what it is, a 22-year-old enjoying himself and lets face it at that age who hasn't done things which makes others raise their eyebrows.
Which brings me to another thorny subject of the Tour , the daily crash or rather more accurately crashes. Looking at it from the safety of my sofa it hasn't seemed that bad compared to recent editions but then I'm not the one riding at sixty km's per hour with a cautionary finger over the brake lever whilst still pedalling furiously into a gap that dare not be left any bigger. Said gap which may at any time be wanted by a desperado with less sense of conservation than your average madman possesses. Quite frequently you hear the quotes , oh it's the GC riders' or the climbers' fault they're not used to it , they shouldn't get in the way. So let me just say in their defence having been one of the accused type that it's not the GC riders who are doing the ducking and diving, they don't decide to suddenly change to a different wheel three places diagonally from them just so that they gain one place. They don't sit up in the middle of the sprint because they've blown or ride into the guy in front because they are so flat out they can't see. The culprits are the second and third line sprinters who maybe just maybe, one day, get real lucky and end up on the right wheel at the right time then they'll finish in the top three by staying in the slipstream of the guys who can actually sprint. They usually then bang the bars and gesticulate wildly to anyone that'll listen that they got boxed in otherwise they would have won . In a month of Sundays maybe but there are only four in the Tour mon ami .
Now a scientific analysis to rival the Higgs Bosen discovery. The mysterious cases of the left hand cast twins, Luis Leon Sanchez and Tony Martin, got me thinking why the left and not the right?
Surely it isn't some random piece of misfortune that they both ended up with a similar injury, then it came to me. Front brake on the left lever, back brake on the right. More often than not in a big crash you hear the noise of the accident before you see the carnage so you slam on the brakes and then assess if you are in it or avoiding the pile. Most of the stopping is done on the front so the left hand is welded to the bars pulling that brake lever, the rear brake just a useless after thought in the circumstances.
If it's your unlucky day you hit the incident still braking to the max, left hand wrapped round the bars or brake lever so on impact you are ejected from the bike the thumb is forced violently open, probably with a good whack on the back of the joint for good measure and that I suspect means the scaphoid and wrist suffer the damage that sees you needing a cast. If you have the chance and are right handed you'll get that arm out quicker to soften the landing whilst the slower left hand is still being wrenched from the bars. It all fits into my theory that non sprinters brake earlier and harder, a theory beautifully illustrated by the Bernhard Eisel's eyebrow and Mark Cavendish's back.
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.
Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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