Isn't this what SkyCorp thrives on, a bit of scandal, a bit of rumour?
All hands on deck, it's the traditional media whipped tiff going on between the Tour contenders and the good ship Sky is getting miffed because they are in the firing line. Pot kettle and black spring to mind, isn't that what SkyCorp thrives on, a bit of scandal, a bit of rumour. If you get sucked into all the hype it is going to be handbags at dawn, probably staged on the next rest day to fit in with schedules and satellite uplinks so gentlemen what could be the weapons of choice? Keeping to the portrayed characters Wiggins would have to bring a Lambretta Bowling bag, countered by Nibali's borsello by Bottega Veneta.
Chris Froome supporting from the sideline would have to be packing an Adidas shoe bag and Cadel Evans an Aussie swag bag with a couple of Free Tibet badges and made of ethical cotton. What's in each bag could be subject to even more speculation but more of that later.
Of course we've been here before with the evil stares and the strops, Andy v Alberto the most recent one so in some way it's actually pleasing that there's a still a hint of personality poking out of the PR machines. All those calculations of power outputs and VAM that are expertly dissected on the intertwit might be very interesting if your idea of entertainment is made up of dots and dashes but some of us are glad to see a bit of bad temper and tears though for many the use of the 'c word' might just be a swear too far.
The break up and make up scenario of it all also proves that modern cycling hasn't completely descended into the digital age. If Wiggins and Froome want some first hand advice on how to go about dealing with psychological warfare then they need look no further than ASO podium maestro Bernard Hinault, the good old days before the radio ear piece made things easier but as the five times winner would probably point out there's always the option to snap a wire or claim the sticky tape was lacking.
But like the defending champion's legs, blasted in the time trial by the the Sky duo and then playing his card at the wrong moment on the Croix de Fer it's not looking good for Evans defence but don't count him out just yet. If he goes down he'll go down fighting. And that attitude might help Nibali & Co in their quest to crack the Brit team plan, he'll now to be forced to follow the skilled Italian more closely on the descents in the hope that they distance Wiggins and Froome.
Of course the yellow jersey has enough of a lead at the moment not to panic immediately but it just needs one day where Richie Porte or Michael Rogers aren't feeling too great and it'll become more dangerous . Uphill it's proved less of a worry, put the afore-mentioned teammates on the front at the bottom of any climb and it's been very exclusive group that's survived to when the little Tasmanian has swung over and then there's still Froome left to do the pacing.
His win on stage 7 proved he's the strongest climber on the race and the pace he set in pursuit of the Nibali attack confirmed the form we saw at the Vuelta last year, Froome is better than Wiggins on the climbs that's clear. How they handle that if the remaining challengers push Wiggins to his limits in the Pyrenees remains to be seen, will they stick to the mantra at Sky, all for Bradley?
The French revival has been a relief, three stage wins so far is more than they would have signed up for, young Pinot in the front group on the climbs confirms they have something to look forward to in the coming years and for them it'll take the edge of having to listen to English in the post races analysis each day.
The Twitter talk of doping
And so to the subject of the Team Sky preparation, a subject which has been and will be debated on the cycling fora with much vigour. The fact is you will never know , you can only hope. All the team on the front or having four guys out of fifteen in the front group isn't unusual, it isn't proof of anything. It's what happens when you have the yellow jersey in the Tour, as a helper you turn yourself inside out everyday for that cause , you ride until you can't keep that pace and then you do it again the next day. A good pro can do that better than you would believe possible and if you have a strong team it looks and feels impressive to be part of that.
Speculation on what former Rabobank doctor Leinders role is or was , or stuff like the remoteness from the testers of the Mount Tiede training camps , the metamorphosis of Wiggins, the emergence of Froome, the revival of Rogers and Porte is all just speculation. You can calmly explain each point if you want or equally you can make an iffy story about any of them. At the end of the day sport is about entertainment and which aspect of that you find enjoyment in is entirely personal.
To end with a lighter note, on Aretha Franklin's version of R.E.S.P.E.C.T the backup singers refrain is Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me. Not quite sure where that fits into the Nibali / Wiggins spat but I'm sure some bright spark will tweet a theory or two.
- 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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