Dave Brailsford, Team Sky’s team principal, has admitted that the British squad’s priorities have changed after Bradley Wiggins’s podium ambitions faded in the Alps, with top ten in the overall classification and a stage win now the twin aims.
“Is it still feasible to think about the podium?” said Brailsford. “It’s four minutes away, but it’s looking unlikely, let’s be honest.”
The British team will therefore look for an opportunity for a stage win. “Without a doubt - it’s the obvious thing to do,” said Brailsford. “It frees up the likes of Edvald [Boasson Hagen], Geraint [Thomas] and [Juan Antonio] Flecha.
“We tried to get in the break [on stage ten], it didn’t work out, but it wasn’t for the want of trying,” Brailsford continued. “We think Thursday [stage eleven] will end with a sprint, so we’ll have a go with Edvald, but there are other days when we’ll have a go at getting in the break. And if the opportunity presents itself, what’s stopping Bradley going up the road? He’s up for it, that’s for sure.”
Brailsford said that his team leader, though disappointed that his podium ambitions look unlikely to be realised this year, is determined to “fight” until Paris, with a top ten finish the revised ambition.
“There are a lot of very tired people out there,” said Brailsford, “and this race is only half way through. Some riders are going to get better with the fatigue, and some are going to fall away, and we really don’t know what’s going to happen in the Pyrenees.
“The main thing is that Brad wants to be able to look back and think that he found himself in a situation here, and what did he do - how did he react. And he wants to react by going all the way, and keeping fighting.”
As for so many riders, it was the Col de la Madeleine that appeared to end Wiggins’s prospects of improving on his fourth place finish last year. “I think he was disappointed,” admitted Brailsford. “He’s a human being and he came here with an expectation, and when you think it’s not going to quite work out as you’d hoped, you’re naturally disappointed.
“I think, for most of these guys, their first reaction when that happens is that they’ve let people down,” Brailsford continued. “But Brad absolutely hasn’t. If he’s flogged himself almost to death, which he has, then what more can you ask?
“He had a good day [on stage ten, the day after the Madeleine stage] and his morale is good. And he’s still close to a top ten finish. If you were considering that without taking into account his fourth place last year, you’d be thinking: Wow, he’s close to a top ten finish. That’s achievable, I think, and we’re not going to stop fighting for that.”
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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.