Rolf Aldag has questioned whether Team Sky can build a successful team around Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish at the 2012 Tour de France. New recruit Cavendish won this year’s points jersey while Wiggins is the team’s GC contender, but Aldag, who was part of HTC’s management has called the move ‘a gamble’ and cast doubt on whether a modern team can fight on two fronts in the world's biggest bike race.
The last team to complete a yellow-green double was Telekom in 1996 and 1997. Aldag formed part of those successes, as well as guiding Cavendish to all his 20 Tour de France stage wins but believes that it would be gamble for Sky to aim for both jerseys in 2012.
“You can try but it’s gambling and it’s tricky for both the riders and the managers. One thing is obvious, if they believe that Wiggins can go for yellow they can’t compromise and give Cavendish four guys for the sprints. If they stretch it and think both riders have chance of achieving their goals, then honestly they don’t really believe in Wiggins,” Aldag told Cyclingnews.
“When they put out the final 9 names both riders will see what the team thinks about their leaders. There’s no other way around it.”
“Making four for GC you can turn them around and put them on the flat but if they believe Wiggins can win the Tour then Cav deserves one guy with him and that’s about it.”
Aldag also directly questioned whether Sky could give Cavendish the full backing he was indulged with at HTC-Highroad. The sprinter was always the first rider down on the roster for any one-day race he could contest or stage race that included opportunities on the flats, and while Aldag understands the motives behind Cavendish’s move to Sky he doesn’t necessarily believe the decision was the best for his career.
“Sporting wise it’s not the best decision but it’s the safest. Since he’s been professional he’s had 100 per cent commitment from the team and they [Sky] just can't do that. It would be wrong on Wiggins. They have a GC contender for the Tour so you can not bring eight guys to the Tour willing to work for one in that situation.”
“We [HTC] had some years with climbers but it always came down to the fact that if we were in a critical situation Michael Rogers, Kim Kirchen or whoever we had there, they had to go to the front and ride. That obviously won’t happen with Wiggins and Froome,” Aldag explained.
“Cav will still win his races and he will be a superstar in his country and Sky was the best choice to make that happen. He’s pure natural talent and you saw that when Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour but he still dominated. If it comes down to a sprint and he’s in shape he will win but it might not end in a sprint as much. HTC often forced it to a sprint and I’m not sure now that Sky will do that. If Lotto won’t close gaps for Greipel and the same happens with GreenEdge and Gossy, then more breaks could win.”
Aldag emphasised his point over team leadership and splits in ambitions by pointing to the 1997 Tour de France where he formed a crucial part in Jan Ullrich’s overall win and Erik Zabel’s second green jersey.
During the final week the team came under constant attack from the Festina squad and at one point the French had Telekon on the ropes as the race passed through the Voges. However a lack of clinical riding and squabbling from the French, coupled by Telekom’s depth of climbing talent meant that Ullrich hung onto yellow and sailed into Paris as the winner.
“In some situations in the past we had to gamble with Ullrich and Zabel. Udo Bolts was a key rider in 1997 and when Festina attacked we almost lost the Tour with three days to go. That was critical and it only came around because Jan had pure climbers around him. The difference now is that teams are more professionally organised in terms of personal goals and team goals. Now you have one leader and you do everything you can to help him win.”
“When we went for green and yellow in 1997 Festina came to the race and their problem was that each rider, Virenque, Brochard and Dufaux, they all had their own ambitions. If they had legs they were free to race but that doesn’t happen now. These days there are meetings about tactics and everyone knows what they can and can’t do.”