Cycling: How will Sky stop Olympics wrecking 2012 Tour campaign?

With Wiggins chasing gold in London, UK team need new strategy to continue this year's progress


One of the big appeals of an annual sporting event like the Tour is that even as they were clearing away the barriers from the finish on the Champs-Elysées here in Paris yesterday, speculation was already rising as to the route and the contenders for 2012.

The podium of the Schleck brothers and winner Cadel Evans will be back for sure, as will others such as Alberto Contador, who has left Paris swearing he will never again repeat the Giro d'Italia-Tour double that partly wrecked his chances over the last three weeks.

But what of Bradley Wiggins, last seen on the Tour de France roads during stage eight as he wandered dizzily through a battlefield of broken bikes and fallen riders with a smashed collarbone? Sadly, if Sky's sports director Sean Yates's calculations are anything to go by, Wiggins probably won't be there – and neither will Geraint Thomas, or even possibly Ben Swift, three of the team's top players in this year's race.

According to Yates, doing the Tour-Olympic double in 2012 is not feasible, and with the team pursuit in London just 10 days after the Tour finishes, they are too close together to make doing both possible.

"I can't see how it would happen," Yates says. "It's not up to me, but if you're doing the Olympics, then I don't see how riding the Tour is ideal."

The conventional wisdom is that while doing a major Tour is good for team pursuit riders as it increases overall endurance – as Wiggins and Thomas both did in 2008, taking part in the Giro d'Italia before going on to gold in the pursuit in Beijing – there has to be enough of a margin for riders to adapt to the track afterwards.

Regrettably next year, that margin isn't there, meaning that any Sky rider aiming at the track will almost certainly have to decide shun the Tour.

British Cycling's Dave Brailsford, who is also Sky's team principal, has said that the Olympics will take priority. But after Sky's superb Tour de France, the pressure for them to field their best of British next summer in cycling's top race will also be strong. According to Yates, though, thanks to London 2012, that's not going to be possible.

"If the Olympics were one month or six weeks after [the Tour], you'd have time to do a bit of track work, but [with 10 days] there's not enough time to ease back and come up to form like you should," Yates says. "I can't see how that'd happen. I can't see it being an option. It's a tricky one and it doesn't just apply to the UK boys. There are riders from other countries on the team who may be doing the Olympics as well. That could scupper their Tour in a way, too."

For Mark Cavendish – not a Sky rider, although there are suggestions he will be joining in 2012 – there is no such issue despite his event, the Olympic road race, being just six days after the Tour ends next year on 21 July. Track racers face very different physical demands to "roadies", and Cavendish will be back on familiar terrain in London. Tiredness could be a factor, but Sunday's stage win on the Champs-Elysées was more than ample proof of how beneficial the Tour can be to his underlying form.

Cavendish did abandon the 2008 Tour to go to the Olympics, but he swore he would never do so again, and, according to Yates, in any case "pulling out of the Tour isn't an option".

But for Wiggins and the rest, the lure of London 2012 could be too great for them to risk it with the Tour de France, particularly as the Tour is an annual event. "It's not up to me, but if you've got a chance of a gold medal in your own country in the Olympics, it is a massive once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Yates says.

And if Wiggins may well not be present when the Tour begins in Liège on 30 June next year – with a prologue that would be right up his street – then it would be a pity, given how his team have improved so dramatically this season in the Tour.

"We didn't underperform that much in 2010, overall, although Bradley didn't quite live up to all the expectations and hype," Yates says.

"The guys were still working in the sprints last year, and they were there in breaks too. But a successful Tour means a jersey, it means stage wins and the podium, and this year we've got the results to show it."

It could have been even more, had Colombian Rigoberto Uran and – according to other sources – some of the rest of the team not got sick in the last week, just when Uran seemed to be in line for taking the white jersey for the best young rider. But, for now, the team's first podium finish in Paris will have to wait.

"The last three days have been quite tough for the boys," Yates adds, "but the good thing is that, come what may, everybody has risen to the occasion."

Next year, though, with London 2012 dwarfing even the Tour de France, it may well be tougher for Sky to perform in the Tour, although the possible signing of Cavendish, of course, could well ease the pressure on the rest of the team.

But for now, although Cavendish may well come flying down the Champs-Elysées as brilliantly in 2012 as he has done for the last three years, there is no indication of what colours he will be wearing when he does so. And with the barriers for the Olympics going up in London just as they come down here in Paris, Sky's short-term Tour future could be equally unpredictable, too.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk