Bradley Wiggins could be in yellow on Tuesday night, according to his team director, Jonathan Vaughters. The British rider surprised many with his performance in Saturday’s opening time trial stage of the Tour de France, finishing third, one second behind Alberto Contador, and nineteen behind Fabian Cancellara, on a course that some considered too hilly for him.
It means that the Garmin-Slipstream rider starts Sunday’s first road stage in the green jersey of points leader – rather ironically beating his countryman, Mark Cavendish, to that honour, though Cavendish is tipped to become the first British rider to wear the Tour’s second most prestigious jersey into Paris in three weeks.
Cavendish’s 177th place on the stage – fourth from last – means that he won’t be challenging for yellow in this Tour. But Wiggins, according to Vaughters, most certainly will.
"He’s very precise, he knew what he could do, though I think he exceeded his own expectations with that ride," said Vaughters. "But it didn’t surprise me. A lot of people discounted him on such a hilly course, but I knew he was capable of that.
"And he has a lot more to show on this Tour," continued Vaughters. "He’s a lot lighter, he’s climbing better, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see him in yellow at some point."
After Tuesday’s team time trial? "Well, Astana, if you see how they performed in the time trial [with four in the top ten] are a pretty incredible team," responded Vaughters. "But the team time trial is our best chance."
On the team time trial, in Montpellier, Vaughters and David Millar, who finished fourteenth on Saturday, said that Garmin-Slipstream had been placing special emphasis on the stage, and reconnoitred the course. "It’s a very technical course, there’s a lot of left and right, up and down, and very small roads," said Vaughters.
"It’ll suit a team with great unity and good communications. It may not be the strongest but the most unified team that wins."
Millar, who won the first stage to take the yellow jersey on the last occasion such a long time trial opened the Tour (in 2000), said he was happy with his performance on Saturday. "I didn’t have any expectations of winning," said the Scot, "but I enjoyed it, apart from almost overshooting a corner – I needed to do a bit of speedway there to stay upright."
On the team time trial, Millar said: "We’ve got a very, very strong chance. We’re going to be better than we were at the Giro [where they placed second to Columbia]. We’ll be a lot more relaxed."
Vaughters also welcomed back Christian Vande Velde, last year’s fifth place finisher who was seventeenth in his first race back following his serious crash at the Giro. "He’s on track to have a pretty incredible last week," said Vaughters. "He’s good at the moment, not incredible, but to come back as he has done from five broken vertebrae is amazing. In a week he’ll be good."