Robert Millar has told Cyclingnews that he believes Bradley Wiggins can finish in the top five at the Tour de France and possibly on the final podium in Paris if he recovers well during the race and rides to his strengths.
Wiggins became only the third British rider to win the Critérium du Dauphiné after Brian Robinson (1961) and Millar (1990), showing he is in fine form before the Tour.
Millar has avoided the spotlight since retiring from the sport but still watches races and believes victory at the Dauphine will be a huge boost to Wiggins’ moral going into the Tour de France.
“The Tour de France podium is certainly within Bradley's reach but that's the case of a number of riders and they to are all claiming that they are on the upward slope with their form. But I think that the Dauphine result will give Bradley the confidence that maybe Evans and Gesink won't have going into the Tour,” Millar told Cyclingnews.
“If he can produce the same kind of climbing that we've seen at the Dauphine: controlled and not going into the red until near the end of the stages, then he'll ride in the top ten easily, top five if he is very good and from there to the podium is only a case of how well you recover and use your strength.”
“Looking at where Bradley says he is in his preparation for the Tour I'd think he and the team will be happy with how things are looking. He looked strong and he didn't look to be in the red until the very critical moments of the race.”
“The Dauphine is the Dauphine and the Tour is the Tour. It's not the same level of pressure but it is an indication of how your climbing and time trialing is going compared to the other guys and it's a massive confidence boost to a team to win such a major race.”
Controlled and intelligent racing
Millar was impressed by how Wiggins rode a controlled and intelligent race at the Dauphine. He finished a close second to Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) in the Grenoble time trial and then marked Cadel Evans and Alexandre Vinokourov –his only overall rivals on the decisive mountain finishes. Wiggins was often distanced by the attacks but was never dropped and then closed the gap using his high cadence and measured efforts.
“I thought he rode to his strengths and controlled the situation when he had to. He looked more comfortable than Evans and Vino when the climbing pace was high but steady, which suggests his preparation work has been good,” Millar pointed out.
“He didn't like the accelerations when the attacks came but I would expect that. But overall I thought he looked stronger and healthier than last year and more importantly he looked more confident. That showed in his positioning in the peloton and how the team rode for him. In contrast Cadel Evans made a few errors that you can’t afford to make in stage races, such as going back to the car for something just before the last technical part of the Croix de Fer descent. That bad decision meant he wasted energy regaining the front group at the start of the climb; energy which he could have used later in the race. Evans may just have been limiting the mental pressure he put himself under before the Tour but he and BMC never really challenged Sky’s control of the race.”
“I thought the whole of Team Sky rode a solid race. The TT influenced how the race would be ridden, so once Bradley was in a good position, it was a case of keeping the mountain pace high enough to discourage attacks but slow enough to keep Bradley within his limits. It was noticeable Bradley only got into difficulty when his teammates had been used up.”
“The work Boasson Hagen did at the bottom of Le Collet d'Allevard was mighty impressive and it looked like it hurt Evans more than it did Bradley. Geraint Thomas also rode a good tempo on the climb up to Les Gets. Those kinds of performances help a team leader motivate themselves even more. When you see teammates turn themselves inside out for you it does make you try harder.”
Advice for the Tour
Millar finished fourth in the 1984 Tour de France, a feat equalled by Wiggins in the 2009 edition of the race. His advice to Wiggins and Team Sky for this year’s Tour de France is simple but fundamental
“On the flat stages he needs to stay invisible, take no wind and not get in any bad situations. The team has to make sure he has two riders with him at all times so he feels and is protected,” Millar said.
“If something merits the team riding then they'll have to assume that responsibility but otherwise both Bradley and the team have to stay calm and remain focused on what each day's objective is. Then when the time trials are done and the overall classification has settled, they should look at what's happening and go racing. They'll need at least two riders with Bradley in the front group on the mountain stages so they'll need to manage how they use the riders wisely too.”
Critical of the UCI
Millar names Alberto Contador as the favourite to win this year’s Tour de France. He defended the Spaniard’s right to a fair legal process but slams the UCI for allowing the Spaniard’s Clenbuterol case for dragging on for almost a year.
“I think it's scandalous that the UCI hasn't sorted this affair out after all this time, it doesn't look very professional at all,” he said.
“Leaving aside the rumours and accusations I've read in the media, I think the scientists need to agree on what is and what isn't performance enhancing. Then if there's a disciplinary process, it needs to happen in a reasonable time frame. A year isn't acceptable because all it does is feed the rumour mill. Cycling has got itself into a bad place and it's gradually clearing up that mess. I think everyone involved with the sport needs to look at the morality and honesty of what's happened in the past and then not make those mistakes again.
“As long as the basic legal principles of innocent until proven guilty are respected then he (Contador) ought to be allowed to ride. That's what other workers or professions would expect if it was their domain. The UCI need to decide if a rider can be suspended whilst under investigation or not and they really, really need to put a time frame on the whole process because the current farcical situation isn't working.”
“Contador is the favourite to win the Tour de France because he's a step above everyone else in the grand Tours. However Andy Schleck is hauling himself up to a similar level of performance and so I think it'll be close again. But in a man to man contest Contador's time trialing will make the difference.”