David Millar believes that Britain's prime contender Bradley Wiggins is capable of a top 10 performance overall in the Tour de France, but that a podium finish in Paris remains out of the Sky leader's reach.
Fourth in the 2009 Tour but a disappointing 24th a year later, after a strong build-up to this year's race Wiggins himself believes a top three place is feasible.
However, despite admiring Wiggins' recent victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné, traditionally considered the best form guide for the Tour, Britain's most experienced Tour de France pro in the current peloton does not agree.
"I wouldn't put him on the podium, I think the top 10 is realistic and he should be very happy with that," said Millar. "The Tour is a lot harder than the Dauphiné and a lot more riders are going to be going a lot better. Maybe fifth is possible, but the podium is just out of his reach."
Ironically enough, Millar's World Time Trial Championships performance last year, in which he took silver, was what provoked the Sky team principal Dave Brailsford's late-night phone call to Wiggins telling him to pull his socks up after his poor 2010 Tour performance and lacklustre end to the season.
Millar points to other factors as well, such as a considerable drop between 2010 and 2011 in the levels of what some thought was Sky's collective arrogance – a characteristic that alienated some teams even before they had started performing.
"That had to happen because they were a bit too much in everybody's face last year – 2010 gave them a lot of humility, and they've benefited from that as well. They've learnt a lot of lessons from last year, really progressed."
Wiggins and Sky have bounced back with a vengeance, and Millar admits that "their winning the Tour of Bayern" – Germany's biggest stage race – "then the Dauphiné, was very impressive, a massive win."
He added: "The bottom line is that he won the Dauphiné, which is one of the Classics. Unfortunately, the Dauphiné isn't a pure indicator of Tour de France form, so I hope he's rested up and taken it easy. If he's got the same condition, then he could do a very good Tour. But being realistic – top 10."
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