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Tales from the Underground: The honeymoon is over for Sky and Wiggins

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
June 03, 2013, 10:51 BST,
Updated:
June 03, 2013, 12:47 BST
Race:
Tour de France

What's the real reason behind Wiggins missing the Tour?

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) manages to avoid a fallen Movistar rider

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) manages to avoid a fallen Movistar rider

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Looks like the Wiggins/Sky honeymoon is now officially over. They've had the good times, they've had some bad times and now marital trouble is brewing behind the shiny façade. Like any relationship going bad, there'll be some good excuses thrown about and I do wonder which one Sir Dave has told Sir Brad.

Maybe not the brutal one of 'you've been replaced by a younger model.' That might be a bit too much like the truth. No, something from the less offensive selection has to be more appropriate for a national hero. 'You're just not doing it for me, I think we need a break' or perhaps 'it's not what we expected and something has to change.' The last one is probably nearest the mark but then remember any change which is required isn't for The Plan. Sky haven't been good at changing The Plan.

According to some sources close to the Wiggins camp, it seems that the dicky left knee story might not be exactly the whole truth behind the imposition of July holidays for last year's TdF champion. The can't train reason might have been valid if he hadn't been doing four-hour rides, trying to hit the required numbers. As anyone who has experienced that kind of pain will tell you can't ride even 30 minutes under any kind of effort with a knee injury so four hours, really?

This season hasn't been a patch on 2012 for Wiggins and it seems that despite following head coach Tim Kerrison's menu for success like he did previously, this time around he hasn't been hitting the numbers and the results haven't been there. Cue head falling off and the onset of unhappiness. Of course, the weather hasn't helped him but it looks like Brad is missing old friends Shane Sutton and Sean Yates. When it came to managing the athlete that Wiggins is, they were the ones who knew what to look for, when to reassure him or when to shout at him, and now that kind of relationship and understanding isn't available the wheels are falling of the Wiggo wagon.

The wattage game might have worked last year but there's more to training than just that aspect and it's difficult to keep doing the same type of efforts year in year out and still keep your sanity. Sometimes you need to change a few things to keep the mental side of things fresh, some new ideas or stimulation in how you train and race and that's where the good old boys could have stepped in before everything turned sour.

So the dicky knee would have been a good cover story and you have to admit it's more convenient than saying Wiggins wasn't going to be good enough but then we come to the conspiracy theory.

Apparently when Chris Froome was considering putting his signature on a new contract to stay with the Brit team after last year's Tour he insisted on sole team leadership and no Wiggins at the 2013 TdF. It was that or hello BMC. Now that kind of bombshell - if it's true - puts a different complexion on the injury excuse and it might explain why Sky were so keen to point Wiggins in the direction of the Giro. Of course the internal politics between Froome, Sky and Wiggins wouldn't have been a problem if Wiggins had met his target and won the Giro but he didn't and now the dirty laundry is being pegged out.

Now to add this scenario we have the return of Alberto Contador, the big danger but according to a team mate he isn't looking to be in the same all-conquering form he once enjoyed. Tactics may well be deployed in the race for yellow. The thinking goes that Froome and Contador will be watching each other that closely that Richie Porte could sneak off up the road and gain enough advantage to withstand any attacks from either of the two named leaders.

Then who is going to help Froome out? Not Evans, as it was his spot as number one at BMC which was been taken, and he's Australian to boot, so he's not going to ride and certainly not any of the Spaniards either as they couldn't go back home having helped Contador lose. Wiggins enjoyed a certain aura before his triumph and had few enemies but Froome doesn't seem to have that luxury. His PR machine needs to be making good impressions so this Criterium du Dauphine is going to be vital to Chris Froome's ambitions of TdF success. If he doesn't shine like Wiggins did last year, there'll be extra pressure and if he wins, there'll be even more stress. Meanwhile over at Sky Central, the mantra will continue, stick to The Plan. Though you do wonder if Brad was kept fully in the loop on that one.

Want a bit of good reading to get you prepared for a summer of cycling? Look up The Rules by Velominati. I will point out that I quickly browsed through them and noticed they've missed a couple. Front brake to the left hand lever, rear brake on the right hand lever is one and no sprinting on the hoods is another. The exception to that rule is Guiseppe Saronni, for an example see the Goodwood Worlds in 82. I know it's not a great exemption as he employed the same style at Prague in 81 and Freddy Maertens mugged him so stick to the rules.

 

Author
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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