Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins? Who should Team Sky ride for? Should both be given dual-leader status and be allowed to ride for themselves? Or should Froome remain subservient to Britain’s best-loved Bradley who just happens to be in Yellow?
So far in the Tour, it is plain that Froome is undoubtedly the stronger climber of the two, at least with regard to punchy accelerations and distancing the other main protagonists, whilst Wiggins appears second to none at riding up the Alpine passes a figure of invincible diesel-engine efficiency. Either way, Messrs Nibali, Evans and Van den Broeck appear to have little answer to the two pronged Sky assault, save for opportunistic downhill breakaways, or stealing a few seconds on flat finishes.
Many a tweeter, forum contributor and man on the street believe that Froome’s dominance in the uphill department should result in him being given a free role to win the tour, a view best upheld by Froome’s stage 7 victory and stage 11 attack on the road to La Toussuire that appeared to put Wiggins in the red. Furthermore, the 2011 Vuelta also highlighted the issue of Sky favouring Wiggins over Froome, with Sky refusing to ride for Froome until it was too late, allowing JJ Cobo to seize the GC on the Angliru.
Flaws remain in the arguments supporting Froome. Namely, Froome is currently 2 minutes and 5 seconds in arrears to Wiggins, the result of being held up by a crash in an early stage and 35 seconds lost in the Stage 9 Time Trial. Unlike at the Vuelta last year, Froome headed the GC from Wiggins after the long time trial to Salamanca. The current two-minute cushion in this years Tour allows something of a comfort zone for Wiggins, a view given further credence by Wiggins’ superior time-trialling ability over Nibali et al, as Nibali or Evans are unlikely to be able to make up the 2 minutes plus deficit unless Wiggins has an absolute stinker of a last week, or Nibali morphs into Eddy Merckx. In contrast, the 18 seconds between Froome and Nibali are easily surmountable, as seconds are often lost through a mountain stage attack, an off day, a time trial, or even a descent.
Thereby, it would appear that were Sky to allow parity for Froome as a team leader, they would merely cause a ‘lose/lose’ situation for themselves, where in the worst case scenario Froome would drop Wiggins uphill whilst towing Nibali, Evans and Van den Broeck away with him, only for Froome to then lose 19 seconds or more to Nibali on a descent. It seems far too risky a strategy for Sky to chance losing a two minute lead in GC at this point in the Tour, despite the obvious form of Froome. Doubt remains. However, I can’t realistically see Dave Brailsford, being the master strategist that he appears, to even consider throwing the opportunity of a Wiggins victory out the window in the hope Froome distances the others. Much better to have another super-domestique in the Sky mountain train.