Confidence men. Not the slang term for two guys who are about to con you out of your money. No, the two gentleman from Team Sky who came into this Tour de France with overwhelming confidence.
Today in Tournai, stage two of Le Grand Shindig, Mark Cavendish showed that even with a new diet and weight loss, new training plan and no train, he’s still the man to beat. He didn’t embarrass the rest of the sprinters but he still crossed the line as boss man.
Between Cavendish and Wiggins, these two riders are supremely confident about their skills at the Tour de France. Wiggins blasted through the prologue in Liege and only fabulous Fabian Cancellara could beat his time. Many questioned if he had peaked too soon after his wins in Paris-Nice, Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine. He doesn’t look like remotely the same guy who was stressed out, miserable and off form two years again France.
While the Manx Missile has switched his training to prepare himself for the Olympic Road Race, he showed the rest of the peloton his versatility. He’s never had to sprint sans train yet he demonstrated his talents for finding gaps and picking the right wheels and doing it at high speed. His judgment, instincts and fearlessness got him the win today.
We also forgot “plucky” — which is the cartoon adventure version of confidence. “I had to do it by myself, but I came in to the race with no pressure so I could be plucky about it,” said Cavendish. Yeah, Tour de France stage win plucked.
It was a face-smack to all his former lead out men who had hoped to finally get him on even terms. Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Andre Greipel have to be shaking their heads — the only sprinter with an OBE — Order of the British Empire — reasserted his rule, train or no train. Teammate Bernie Eisel left his superstar on his own with a kilometer to go; it was all Cav, all one thousand meters.
Cavendish had downplayed his chances for this Tour but as American TV announcer Bob Roll said the other day, the guy is an animal. He turns pedals in anger and turns them at blistering speeds. The big German Greipel had his train working to perfection yet still lost under ideal conditions. Renshaw misjudged his effort and got himself boxed. Goss and Orica put together a concerted effort that fell short to the freelancer, the opportunist, the HTC-Free Cavendish.
Right now Team Sky is firing on all cylinders or to use the new Wiggins “swimming” coach lingo, things are “flowing” perfectly. Cavendish and Wiggins are both super confident and that is a scary thing.