Almost every halfwit in professional cycling has offered an opinion on the Tour de France conundrum for Team Sky. How do they juggle the conflicting agendas of red hot GC favorite Bradley Wiggins and the fastest sprinter in the peloton, World Champion Mark Cavendish?
It’s like John Lennon singing the old Beatles lyric — “Christ, you know it ain’t easy.” There may never be a more ideal tour route for Wiggins than this edition with 100 kilometers of time trailing. His big wins in Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandie show him at the height of his physical powers, confidence and team command. A podium is there for the taking and perhaps the final maillot jaune — that’s if his boney body can stay upright through the first week.
Most teams would gladly throw all eight riders into total support for a rider like Wiggins but then there’s the Manxman. Nearly unbeatable in France with over twenty stage wins and the guarantee of at least three if not five stages this year. So that battle for team resources is an agonizing call for Sky and more than one expert witness — former HTC-Highroad Rolf Aldag — said it’s impossible to aim for both the yellow and green jersey.
If there’s a Sky lite version of this juggling act, it’s at Liquigas-Cannondale with GC star Vincenzo Nibali and top sprinter Peter Sagan. Nibali has made the Tour de France his numero uno priority this season and he’s also in the final stages of contract negations — most likely with Astana. He’s motivated on both a sporting and financial level and expects major support from The Men In Lime.
Then there’s the man-child, the phenomenal Peter Sagan, who just recently dominated the Tour of California, winning five stages — and almost a six on the long steady climb up to Big Bear Lake. Back from his post classics vacation, Tom Boonen could do no better than one second place against the Slovak. Sagan can win on almost any terrain except the high mountains — he’s a superb bike handler, supremely confident — get him near the finish and he doesn’t often disappoint. While not a pure, line-up-the-Cipollini-train kind of sprinter, he certainly can take his shots at Cavendish.
The temptation would be to support Nibali and let the versatile and aggressive Sagan freelance and pick his moments. However, factor in the high probability that Nibali is leaving Liquigas and the scenario becomes more complicated and company loyalties open up for re-evaluation. There’s already plenty of irritation between Nibali and team management. What if Sagan had three or four dedicated guys to shut down breaks and bring him into town? Sponsors like Cannondale gladly pay for stage wins in the biggest race in the world. Maybe it’s Nibali who might have to freelance.
Our advice to Liquigas-Cannondale is not to call Team Sky. Because they sure don’t have an answer yet.