Score one for the former-robots.
Bradley Wiggins and team guy worked their posteriors off today in stage six of the Critérium du Dauphiné. He was under pressure as both Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Team Astana) kept the pressure on and the attacks coming.
Last year was a supreme downer for Wiggins. He came into the Tour de France stressed, over-burdened and wiped out after a hard Giro. He finished 24th and both he and Sky learned some hard lessons.
This year, different story. Happier Wiggins, better schedule, less pressure and everybody is riding loose and confident. The emergence of young Brit Geraint Thomas has taken some of the load off and the “robotic” approach that manager David Brailsford admitted to is long gone.
All that was apparent in today’s 192k stage from Les Gets to Le Collet d’Allevard. The entire squad worked to protect Wiggins’ lead on GC and Edvald Boasson Hagen in particular killed himself on the final category two climb.
Wiggins himself dug way deep and showed his resolve, tenacity and form. It was a day to be proud of for Sky. The Briton put time on Cadel Evans and kept Vino and Van Den Broeck from taking his GC away. The man who likes his Sex Pistols and Jam is still one last mountain stage from victory but barring disaster, the money is in the bank.
The victory today went to pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha, the Russian Global Cycling Shindig. After a number of disappointing second places to show for his terrific form, the Spaniard finally rammed one home. On the steepest section of Le Collet d’Allevard, Rodriguez accelerated and immediately did major damage on the 12% grade.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Vinokourov followed Rodriguez in, 31 and 39 seconds behind and happy it wasn’t worse. Cadel Evans had a tough time hanging on and lost seconds to Wiggins, who now has a cushion of 1:26 on the Aussie.
So two Dauphiné parties tonight: Katusha’s Andre Tchmil will be pouring a vodka shot or two for his boys and Brailsford might be cracking a vintage port. It was a good day for Sky and a good sign for France in early July.