If a team like Sky is aiming for overall victory in the Tour de France, normally it will have one leading man going for the main prize, four or five climbing domestiques, three or four riders racing on the flat and – very occasionally – a sprinter.
Some cyclists, such as Lance Armstrong, refuse to contemplate the presence of another potential contender in their team. However, as Bradley Wiggins has said, given the number of crashes, illnesses, poor form or other misfortunes that can befall a rider in the Tour, for the overall win, Sky had, and have, a Plan B – which they were lacking last year – in case Wiggins went under. Take a bow, Chris Froome.
This is all to the good, provided everybody follows the script. But when Plan B (Froome) makes an attack that leaves the Plan A rider (Wiggins) all but reeling, as happened on the Col de la Toussuire on Thursday, it looks as if the team hierarchy could easily be reversed. Except it wasn't: Froome, rather than getting his chance, was stopped.
It looked odd, unquestionably. But sending Froome up the road at a point where Wiggins was flailing slightly would also have been a gamble for Sky to take – and they opted not to. Froome could have ended up as leader, but Wiggins might have cracked completely.
"It's logical that he [Brad] should be up there, we're in a perfect situation and we don't want to jeopardise that. That's the end of the story really," Sean Yates, Sky's director, explained yesterday. "Circumstances sometimes dictate that not necessarily the best man wins. At the moment he [Wiggins] has got two minutes up on Froomey. When we look at what's left for us in the Tour, then you put two and two together and you come up with Bradley, don't you?"
The Pyrenees, and the final time trial, will provide the answer to that particular question.