At the end of Tour de France's first long time trial in Besançon, Fabian Cancellara predicted a tough remaining two weeks for Team Sky and questioned the British squad's strategy to defend the maillot jaune so far from Paris.
"Chapeau to the results," said the Swiss time trial specialist after he was beaten into third by the British team's duo of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome on the 41.5km stage. "When you see how Sky was born and how they are performing now – better and better – it shows that they've been working really hard. That's normal. It's the same as when we saw Tony Martin becoming better and better at time trialling; it's just a demonstration that the whole team is growing.
"They have a hard Tour de France now for sure because Bradley has said they will not throw it (the yellow jersey) away or give it away, but now there are hard mountain stages and yeah, I think we will see them pulling a lot."
The 31-year-old Swiss pointed to Sky's dogged defence of the yellow jersey on yesterday's tough stage 8 which saw the team pulling hard to neutralise breaks for the first 80km which ultimately left Wiggins isolated on the final climb and descent.
"We saw they defended the jersey really well. In my opinion I would do it differently but I am not a sports director. We look at our own things," added Cancellara, who won his fourth Tour de France prologue in Liège [and his fifth opening stage including the 15km time trial in Monaco in 2009].
Cancellara said he was impressed with the performance of Froome. "The problem is they have Froome and Wiggins and I think it will be hard to destroy Chris – probably it will be like four RadioShack riders and just Froome and Bradley in the mountains with people around. I don't know, maybe they do like a double time trial…. We know the strength from Sky."
But Cancellara dismissed the idea that the British squad had over-extended themselves and would pay in the remaining stages. Cancellara said Sky's belief in its strategy was crucial: "I think they've shown big strength and they believe in what they are doing. This is what counts."
He added that with RadioShack-Nissan riders crowded into the top of the GC –four in the top 15 – he said the team was focusing on its own race in the two remaining weeks.
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