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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Bradley Wiggins (Sky) en route to Pau in stage 15.
Tourmalet is just like any other climb
Given the manner in which Bradley Wiggins and Sky have dictated the story of this Tour de France to date, the media descended on his rest day press conference in Pau eager to add some colour to a narrative that seems already written in black and blue.
Sky's dominance means that for all Vincenzo Nibali's aggression and Cadel Evans's experience, the most compelling challenge to Wiggins's yellow jersey seems to be coming from within his own camp. Chris Froome unsheathed his apparent superiority in the mountains at La Toussuire, and the possibility of a civil war would be an enticing twist in a Tour running so resolutely to script.
There was to be precious little rattling of swords in the sweltering heat of Pau, however. With Froome seated demurely alongside him, Wiggins pointed out that Sky's collective strength and pre-established tactics had carried him into a commanding position with just five stages to go.
"There are a lot of teams of stars out there but this is a star team," Wiggins said, before adding: "This team prides itself on racing as a team and sticking to that game plan."
There were shades of Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond in 1985 when Wiggins vaguely discussed the possibility of riding to help Froome win the Tour in the future. Wisely, with this current Tour yet to run its course, Wiggins did not get weighed down in specifics of when he and Froome would swap roles.
"The guy is capable of winning the Tour for sure, otherwise he wouldn't be second overall in the Tour de France," Wiggins said. "He will win this race one day and I'll be there to support him to do that. Obviously people will try to make more of a story of it than it is. Ultimately I think we've gone out there each day and proved on the road that there isn't a problem.
"Whatever the line-up is next year and whoever the leader of that line-up will be, I'll be there. I was given the role to lead the team at this year's Tour de France and I took it on, I took the responsibility and I've lived up to the expectation so far. That could change, who knows, but the important thing is that the team succeeds."
Wiggins perhaps betrayed the general confidence within the Sky set-up when asked to assess Cadel Evans, who lies fourth overall, 3:19 down. "A lesser man would have climbed off and thrown the towel in because he wasn't going to win," Wiggins said. "He's remained dignified and fought as though he was still leading the race."
By this stage, a Wiggins press conference wouldn't be complete without some reference to Lance Armstrong or US Postal, but when discussing his teenage admiration of Miguel Indurain, he said that the following era was one that had largely passed him by.
"For the Armstrong era I was already in cycling, I'd turned pro at 22 so I sort of stopped watching cycling those years," he said. "But as a kid I was hooked on it, posters on the wall and that."
The Tour resumes on Wednesday with a stage that brings the peloton into the race's most august roads as they tackle the "Circle of Death" of the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde. The evocative route passes over climbs that have reverberated in the history of the great race ought to appeal to a man with Wiggins's appreciation of cycling's heritage, but instead he insisted that it would be a day like any other.
"The Tourmalet is as hard as any other climb you do. They all go uphill, they're all on tarmac," he said. "It doesn't matter what name is on them, you go up them on a bike. It's just a name really at the end of the day.
"I think those romance things only come when you're watching the sport, you don't appreciate it while you're there. Ultimately it's about going out there tomorrow and averaging 400 watts climb after climb. That's the performance side of it, hydrating, fuelling on the bike. And ultimately, that's what wins you bike races."
In a world made up of marginal gains, it seems there is precious little room for romance.