Alasdair Fotheringham: Chris Froome's outstanding Tour gives Team Sky a plan B
Will Sky go for broke and try to get two Great Britain riders on the podium in one fell swoop?
Yesterday's victory for Bradley Wiggins and second place for Chris Froome give Team Sky a stranglehold on the race that will prove difficult, though by no means impossible, for the other Tour contenders to overcome.
The time gaps Sky have already established less than halfway through the Tour would look respectable at the end. Wiggins' closest rival, Cadel Evans, is now at 1min 53sec; beyond that, 2010 Tour of Spain winner Vincenzo Nibali is at 2min 23sec, with 2009 Tour of Italy winner Denis Menchov at 3min 2 sec. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that Wiggins' Tour is now for him to lose.
The most interesting element of the equation is, oddly enough, within Wiggins' team – Chris Froome. Will Sky go for broke and after 108 years of Great Britain failing even to place a rider on the Tour de France podium, try to get two in one fell swoop? Or will they play a more conservative game and simply use Froome as an extra deterrent for the Londoner?
Of all Sky's immaculately ordered strategy, Froome's outstanding performance is the one ingredient, as Wiggins admitted, they had not counted on: things have almost gone too well, to the point where, for now, nothing is ruled out.
"Chris has always been there as a back-up plan, riding shotgun for me and we want to keep him there as long as possible," Wiggins said yesterday. "Last year, one problem we had was that when I crashed out we didn't have a plan B. It wasn't part of the plan [this year] to have two in the top three, so we can perhaps sacrifice one of those positions, or go for two out of three on the podium."
Today's rest day represents the ideal opportunity for Sky to take stock of what they have achieved and what their strategy should be – and the same goes for their rivals. It goes without saying that Evans, as well as Nibali and Menchov, will not let matters rest as they are. Sky are strong in the mountains, but without the presence of their expert climber Kanstantsin Sivtsov – their one big setback so far – this is the one area where they are most vulnerable. That, and Wiggins' lack of experience at leading the Tour de France.
But for now, the Londoner and Team Sky can sit back and see what their rivals can throw at them, particularly with the knowledge that in the final time trial outside Paris, Wiggins has another opportunity to regain time.
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