Wiggins withdrawal reignites Tour talk

I’m not surprised to see

Sir Bradley Wiggins pull out of the Giro d’Italia

through illness.

I felt so sorry for him on

Thursday’s short stage to Treviso,

it must have been one of the hardest days, emotionally and psychologically, that he has ever had to endure.

There are very few riders who have never been in that position and you could see in his face that he wasn’t enjoying it and he wanted to climb off the bike mid-stage. I’ve been in that situation and it’s awful. When you see a wheel disappear up the road on a flat section, which is Brad’s territory, you know that the game is up.

It was good to see his Team Sky team-mates help ride him to the finish, and hopefully he’s taken something from that, but it was an unusual sight to see the Sky train crossing the line more than three minutes behind the leaders when in recent years they’ve been the ones pacing the peloton.

But that’s bike racing. Sometimes it’s not fair. Last year, everything went perfectly as Wiggins became the

first British victor of the Tour de France

and then won the

Olympic time trial.

I know he wouldn’t swap that for winning the Giro, but it can be hard to back that up.

It’s probably easier to see on the track what it takes out of riders in an Olympic year – look at Victoria Pendleton, who was the only Briton to follow her win at the 2008 Beijing Games with victory in the 2009 World Championships and only the women’s pursuit team managed it post-London 2012 at the 2013 Worlds.

Overall standings

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 46:28:14″

2. Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC Racing) +41″

3. Rigoberto Uran (Col/Team Sky) +2’04”

4. Robert Gesink (Ned/Blanco) +2’12”

5. Michele Scarponi (Ita/Lampre) +2’13”

The expectation at the Giro was massive for Brad but all that had come from him and the Sky camp, so in a way they were digging their own hole a bit, although once you get ill there’s nothing you can do about it.

He’s not the only rider to come down with something, defending champion Ryder Hesjedal also pulled out before Friday’s stage, and it’s not a surprise given the weather.

The forecast is for further bad weather as the race heads into the Alpine mountains this weekend so it is better for him to stop now, rather than run the risk of ruining the rest of the season.

Team Sky have got to throw everything behind Rigoberto Uran now to salvage something from the race.

The Colombian is third overall, two minutes, four seconds behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali, and with the benefit of hindsight, the team are probably wishing that they hadn’t ordered him to

drop back and help Wiggins on stage seven.

Uran would have been well within striking distance of Nibali otherwise, although his climbing abilities mean he is certainly not out of the race.

The big question now, though, is where does this leave Wiggins for the Tour de France?

Brad is the defending champion and if he can get himself in a position form-wise, who is anyone to deny him? And given his performance, or lack of, at the Giro, I’m sure he will have more motivation for the Tour.

But then fellow Brit Chris Froome has done everything he’s been asked to do, including supporting Wiggins to Tour victory last year.

If Brad is fit, it will create a huge dilemma for Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford, who said recently that

Froome is going to be their lead man

– but plans are there to be rewritten.

However, the team could be limited as to what they can do with Wiggins pre-Tour. Maybe they have to just use training. The Dauphine, which he won last year and is seen as a Tour warm-up race, has been set up for Froome and it’s his only race between now and the Tour.

Wiggins has hardly raced this year and that may be part of the problem – he’s a little under-raced and although he looked okay at the Giro del Trentino, the Giro d’Italia’s warm-up race, maybe looks can be deceptive.

I think Sky would find it a bit of a problem to go in with a two-pronged attack at the Tour because so many times teams have had dual contenders for jerseys and it’s not worked – you just have to look at last year with Mark Cavendish going for the green points jersey, although the flip side of him not winning was Bradley taking the overall race win.

From a spectator’s point of view, Brad and ‘Froomey’ will create more interest in the race but Sky have got to be careful with what they decide.

The Tour will suit Wiggins better than this Giro – the Italian race is always the tough one and Thursday’s stage showed why there are very few people who can do the double.

The racing is not as controlled in the Giro and Sky have certainly not had the upper hand, which is one of the reasons why Brad has struggled.

When he is in control he is superb, as he showed last year, but when he is on the back foot he seems to struggle.

That was evident when he crashed last Friday on a descent in the rain. After the time trial that followed on the Saturday, he admitted he

“descended like a bit of a girl”

and while he wasn’t being derogatory there, it was appalling and even cycling legend Eddy Merckx had a go in the papers.

Brad has always been a nervous rider and after the crash you could see he wasn’t happy on the descents in the rain. He tensed up and you can’t do that, you’ve got to relax.

His confidence will return and I’ve no doubt he’ll go and talk with Dr Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who helped the British Olympic cycling team to success at London 2012, and Wiggins to Tour de France victory.

For now though, Brad needs to get out of Italy, get home to his family and then resume training and re-evaluate his next target – because if he doesn’t have a goal, he’ll start to drift.

Download BBC Radio 5 live’s

BeSpoke podcast

for analysis of stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/22567234

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