Will Cav and Froome remain with Sky? What if Froome was on another team at the Tour, could he have won? Sky looks to be the most dominant team in cycling for the foreseeable future. But that depends on them holding it together.
- By Joe Lindsey
The podium on the Champs-Elysees had barely been dismantled before talk began of whether Bradley Wiggins could repeat his historic victory in the Tour de France.
There are a lot of variables at play in answering that question, starting with the 2013 route, to be announced this October. But team makeup plays a role as well.
Team Sky was absolutely dominant in the Tour; it won six stages via three riders, took first and second places overall, and was second in the teams classification. Wiggins was in second or first place overall the entire race.
Most important to Wiggins’ win, Sky’s leader had at least one teammate with him for every kilometre of the race outside of time trials. The only time Wiggins was isolated was when his own teammate, Chris Froome, distanced him at La Toussuire, a move that was quickly reined in when Froome realised that Wiggins had been dropped. Often, Sky went over big climbs with four or even five riders at the front.
But such success creates problems of its own.
Sunday night, one of the big alternate storylines was whether Mark Cavendish would leave the team.
Cavendish won three stages, including two where Wiggins himself played a role in the leadout while wearing yellow. But word is he may want more. And Sky manager Dave Brailsford, who made pursuit of Cavendish last year such a heavy focus, seemed quite philosophical about letting the best sprinter of the last 30 years go his own way.
“If he felt, or if it was felt, that he would like a dedicated team around him, then he is quite within his rights to want to do that,” said Brailsford at the finish in Paris.
Brailsford added that the team isn’t exactly kicking Cavendish out the door. “He’s a prolific British winner and we would love to have a prolific British winner on the team,” he said.
There was a rumour early in the Tour that Cavendish was already set on leaving Sky. He’d joined the team primarily to aim for Olympic gold and, with that accomplishment looming in just over a week, would depart for a team that could support his sprinting ambitions with undivided attention.
I’m not entirely sure that’s true. For one thing, Cavendish signed a three-year deal. If he’d only ever intended to ride for Sky for a year, why sign a deal that will necessitate a buyout? My guess is Cavendish signed hoping things would work out in a more balanced way.
But Sky has been singularly focused on yellow, and if three stage wins would be an incredible haul for almost any rider, the tally is actually two or three stages shy of what Cavendish has managed in each of the three previous Tours.
Ultimately, whatever Cavendish does may be a sideshow to the main off-season event at Sky, which is the future of Chris Froome. The breakout star of the 2012 Tour, Froome was said by some to be the strongest rider in the race.
When he accelerated on the finish to Peyragudes and dropped Wiggins briefly, he seemed hesitant to unleash his power completely and go for the stage win, or to sit up and pace Wiggins. That created an awkward scene: Froome looking back as Wiggins struggled to gain back the few bike lengths between them.
There’s been much talk of whether or not Froome would have won on his own, with most observers saying no, Wiggins was the more complete rider. Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters weighed in with this tweet:
The blog Inner Ring had the most comprehensive look, which suggested that even with the time trial results (where Wiggins gained most of his advantage) stripped out, he still would have won.
With all respect, that’s the wrong question.