Sir Bradley Wiggins is like the old family cat – loved, feared and afraid of the rain

The fiasco of Florence has left Sky and their sometime leader at a critical crossroads

Florence

As the British coach, its black and blue colours appropriate given the day its occupants had endured, waited for the race to finish at Sunday’s World Championships with its full complement of eight riders already on board, Mark Cavendish took the chance to have a nap. He had earned it.

This is Cavendish’s neck of the woods. He lives in Tuscany, not far from Florence, where the road race came to its soggy and, for the British, dispiriting conclusion. He knows the roads, but then so do many of his team-mates. The Tuscan town of Quarrata was the training base from which so much of the work to turn the talents of a true golden generation into something tangible was done.

These are heady days for British cycling, which is what made Sunday such a shock. They counted them out from Lucca and counted them back on to the bus long before the race reached its finale. Cavendish did his job, grimacing at the front of the peloton as he hurried it across the Tuscan countryside. Only he and Luke Rowe, a late replacement for Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, were absolved of any blame by Chris Froome.

Rod Ellingworth, the team’s coach, excused nobody. It is unusual for a coach to speak with such candour; he wondered even about their spirit. Josh Edmondson crashed and Steve Cummings had a puncture, which at least gives them a defence. Ian Stannard survived longer than most. Froome was left alone and Geraint Thomas was last man standing.

Which leaves Bradley Wiggins. Sunday was a dreadful day for Wiggins, and one that will leave Ellingworth and Dave Brailsford puzzling once again what to do with Wiggo.

There are two sides here. One would suggest that Wiggins has become like the ageing family cat, well loved, slightly feared for its unpredictability and a steadfast refusal to go out in the wet. On the other there is the evidence of the Tour of Britain and even more so his silver medal in the time trial here last Wednesday.

On his (dry) day he remains a formidable rider and at 33 he is eight years younger than Chris Horner, the American who won the Vuelta a España last month. This is not the end of the road but it does feel like Wiggins and Team Sky have reached a crossroads.

The alacrity of his departure on Sunday raised questions once again over his willingness to ride for others, and in particular Froome. Thomas said recently that Wiggins’ mood can at times spread across the team as a whole. Wiggins, as befits a Tour de France winner and a multiple Olympic champion, has a strong influence, sometimes for good, sometimes not.

He led Sky in the Tour of Britain and rode well, even though the weather was not kind during the early part of the race. He was supposed to ride for Froome on Sunday, supposed to be a team player, and he was not.

Ellingworth rejects the idea that Wiggins cannot be a team rider, pointing to his part in helping Cavendish win the world title in Denmark two years ago and then setting the Manxman up to win on the final day of the 2012 Tour.

“He did a fantastic job in Copenhagen, [and on] the Champs-Elysées,” said Ellingworth. “It is in there. People will read into it further, but it was just circumstances on Sunday. If it had been dry, I think he’d have been OK. He has the form. If you were in the car behind him in the time trial, you’d never have thought that could have happened on Sunday.”

Ellingworth and Brailsford, the masterminds behind Britain’s and Sky’s successes, have some big questions to chew over when they sit down to plan next season. The ability of Rui Costa, Sunday’s winner, to ride more or less on his own – Portugal had a team of three – and make instant decisions stood in contrast to what often appears a more rigid approach from the British teams.

In 2014, Froome will defend his Tour title – the overall success of this season cannot be forgotten – but what will Wiggins do? After Sunday it is becoming more difficult to see him riding as part of the Tour team – or with Froome full stop – and a return to the track, when his contract ends in a year, grows ever more likely.

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing