Let the mind games begin

News & Results

12/19/2012| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Christopher Froome can climb and “accidentally” dropped Bradley Wiggins on the La Toussuire in the 2012 Tour de France Fotoreporter Sirotti

Let the mind games begin

The opening salvos of the 2013 Tour de France have already begun.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was quoting Team Sky management regarding the grand tours in 2013. It seemed that Bradley Wiggins wasn’t going to defend his Tour de France victory. Instead he was going to focus on the Giro d’Italia – a race that suited his abilities. His teammate Chris Froome was Sky’s go-to rider for the Grande Boucle, which made sense. While Wiggins is a strong climber, his forte is the individual time trial – something the 2012 Tour had plenty of (including the prologue, 100 kilometers worth). However, in the 2013 Tour de France there is only 65 kilometers of racing against the clock. If you include stage 4’s team time trial in Nice it bumps the total to 90 kilometers.

There was also the late breaking news last week of Saxo-Tinkoff Bank awarded a place in the WorldTour meaning Alberto Contador will return to the Tour in 2013. Like Wiggins, Contador is a double threat: he can time trial and climb. Contador’s style of climbing, in comparison to Wiggins’, is explosive. The Englishman grinds along at a steady tempo with few changes. How many attacks would it take before Contador pops Wiggins on a climb?

Fortunately in the Sky stables is a rider who could match the Spanish rider, Chris Froome. As we witnessed in this year’s Tour, Froome can climb and “accidentally” dropped Wiggins on the La Toussuire.

Froome was asked after that stage if he knew he could win the Tour and he replied, “Maybe one day.”

That day seemed to be now as Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford told Froome he would be the protected rider at the 2013 Tour de France. That made sense. With the 2013 route heavy on the climbs and light on the time trials Froome was a logical choice. Even Bradley stated that much at the Tour de France presentation saying he was probably going to focus on the Giro d’Italia.

Wiggo told Eurosport, “It is just beautiful. I’d love to win that pink jersey as well as the yellow.”

There we go – Wiggins for the Giro, which I would bet even money for the win and Froome battling Contador in July. But hold the horses ... that might have changed.

This past weekend was the BBC Sports Person of the Year Awards (SPOTY). It’s the British version of the ESPY Award, but instead of an academy that votes for the winner, the British public calls in deciding the winner – very democratic. Not even the Queen can decide the winner, but she does get a phone call.

Among the list of 12 SPOTY contenders was Bradley Wiggins. The award has the word “personality” in the beginning, so that should tell you that the winner must have that in spades in order to win. Oh, and be British too.

So going down the personality check list let’s see how Brad did.

1. Calling people who questioned his dominance during the Tour, “F-ing wankers”, “bone idle” and “c***s” during a press conference is an indication of personality? Okay – that’s debatable between being an act of someone with personality and just being a douchebag.
2. After winning the gold medal in the time trial at the London Olympics Wiggo tweeted, “Well what a day, blind drunk at the minute and overwhelmed with all the messages." I’m sure whomever gave the Team Sky social media lesson would not have signed off on that message, but it shows Wiggo isn’t afraid to “go off script.”
3. Various tattoos. Sure they’re not of the Pippo Pozzato, “Only God Can Judge” variety, but it’s a start. And really, how long is it before we see a neck tattoo of Roger Daltrey peeking up over his shirt collar?
4. Giving “the bird” to photographers as he was trying to get home from hospital. He later apologized, but you didn’t see Princess Kate giving the paparazzi the finger when she left hospital after her bout of severe morning sickness.
5. He plays a guitar. Being a professional anything takes a lot of time. Being a professional athlete takes a lot of time and effort. But there was Wiggins at the post-SPOTY party on stage playing the guitar covering a Stone Roses song. While not shredding like his idol Pete Townshend with windmill-like arm motions, it didn’t sound like he embarrassed himself, musically speaking, so it appears that he’s carved out time to learn the instrument with some proficiency.
6. He stumbled out of the post-SPOTY party looking a little worse for wear. His shirt buttons were now undone showing off his almost translucent white chest and he looked to have enjoyed the open bar the BBC had provided.
7. Ridiculous sideburns and haircut.

Second place finisher in the SPOTY awards was Jessica Ennis who I have never seen reported as being drunk, dropping “F-bombs” or showing off her chest. Or maybe Ennis does and she’s low-key about it. Regardless, the British public spoke, and in my opinion chose wisely because Bradley Wiggins does indeed have personality.

Hold on – just to show that he has even more swag, Wiggins backtracked on his previous statement of focusing on the Giro.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said, “As it stands I’m probably going to try and win a second Tour de France, so I don’t know, maybe we’ll have two leaders. That’s more than likely, I guess. How that’s going to work with the team I don’t know, it’s more Dave’s (Brailsford) problem, really.”

If Froomedog was listening I hope he wasn’t drinking hot tea, spitting it out in surprise all over his girlfriend Michelle Cound. As I’m sure Froome is well aware of history has shown that two leaders on a squad is a recipe for disaster.

Anyone remember the Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault inter-team squabble? Cast your mind back to the 1985 Tour de France.

Due to a knee injury Hinault sat out the 1983 edition, and came back in ’84 beaten by over ten minutes from fellow Frenchman Laurent Fignon.

However in ‘85 it was Fignon who was felled by a knee injury and Hinault took his historic fifth Tour win. His American lieutenant Greg LeMond was there to help – which he did. In fact LeMond did such a good job that Hinault promised he’d help Greg win the ’86 Tour. We all know how well that turned out.

Alliances were made within the team, splitting the squad. Hinault, instead of assisting, attacked LeMond. In the end LeMond scored his first of three Tour wins and Hinault claimed that his aggressive riding was just his way of wearing down the competition. If you believe that, Bernard can also sell you the Eiffel Tower at a deal...

Fast forward to more recent Tours and we have the famous Contador versus Lance Armstrong battle in 2009 when both were teammates on Astana. Early on Armstrong took every advantage to make the Tour more difficult for Contador. In the fifth stage the now disgraced Armstrong attacked on a crosswind that split the field, not waiting for Contador. Armstrong also took to Twitter to snipe at Contador – all during the Tour! Not really examples of team building. In the end Contador was victorious and Armstrong finished third (now stripped from him) – taking his loyal foot soldiers with him to a new formation, Team RadioShack.

Fast forwarding again to 2012 and we’re set for another inter-team battle: Froome versus Wiggins. On the surface Wiggins is playing it cool by saying the team will see how the race plays out to determine leadership. Froome is also playing the game by stating that Sky could go with a two-pronged attack. The way to determine who is telling the truth could be revealed in their Christmas card list.

If we could get a list of riders Froome sent a holiday card to it would be telling. Did he send any to some teammates that would protect him in the hills? How about a card to the rouleurs on the team who will keep him in the running during the team time trial? And importantly, did Brad get a card?

The same can be asked of Brad – who made his Christmas card list? You can be certain that Michelle and Catherine Wiggins aren’t exchanging “Secret Santa” gifts at the Team Sky Christmas party. Those two WAGS took to twitter to sling mud at each other’s partner during this year’s Tour. I so wish there was television cameras at that Sky Christmas party. That’s one reality show I’d watch – The Ladies of Sky.

While we’re months away from the 2013 Tour de France it looks like the battle for leadership has already begun: Wiggins versus Froome. I for one can’t wait for the opening salvos of Paris-Nice. This is where we will see who is gunning for the Giro or the Tour. Let the mind games begin!

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