What happens when a team's lieutenant is stronger than his captain? Bjarne Riis, owner of Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, must only look back to the Tours de France 1996 and 1997 to know the answer to that question, and he may be seeing it in action again in this year's Tour de France.
Riis won the Tour in 1996, but his domination of the race was threatened by a Tour rookie, his own 22-year-old Team Deutsche Telekom teammate, Jan Ullrich. Ullrich won the final time trial and finished second behind his captain in the GC, only 1:41 down.
Things changed the next year, as Riis faltered and Ullrich moved into the captain's role, ultimately winning the race.
Riis now sees the balance of power changing on Team Sky, and in his opinion, the team has put its money on the wrong horse. Christopher Froome, now second, is stronger than his captain and race leader Bradley Wiggins, he said.
“It will be interesting in the final week, because as before, I would say that Froome is top favourite,” Riis told sporten.dk. “They made a mistake during the Vuelta last year..”
And it is not yet too late for Sky to alter things, he told ekstrabladet.dk. “I think they are about to make the role change – perhaps.”
Wiggins was also leader in the Vuelta last year, with Froome as his superdomestique, but things changed during the race, when Wiggins weakened in the mountains. In the end, Froome was second overall, only 13 seconds behind winner Juan Jose Cobo, with Wiggins third at 1:39.