Can Wiggins win this?
'Wiggins will win this by at least 3 minutes. Sky are going to boss the shit out of this, dominant to the point where people will start saying they ruined it. He could've won last year had he not crashed.'
And in the event, that's exactly what happened. Wiggins won, and by just over 3 minutes. What the cyclist didn't predict, what I think few prior to the Tour would have predicted, is that the winning margin separated him from a teammate rather than a 'rival'. The time gap back to Nibali in third was 6' 19". And Team Sky were a masterclass in bossing the shit out of it, dominant to the point where people started yawning loudly and asking how long it was 'til the Vuelta and saying things like 'UK Postal' and sniggering.
Can they (Sky) win both jerseys?
Will they try?
'No. They're sending Cav home early for the Olympics. He's going for stage wins; my prediction - 3. The Green Jersey is not his focus for the season like it was last year. I'm sure he'd love another, but he wants the Olympic title more.'
Spooky, innit? Another 3 stage wins for Cav, phenomenal sprinter that he is. There were mutterings that Sky were doing the World Champion wrong. I'm not sure I would agree with that assessment - Sky always made it crystal clear they were all about a TdF GC win, and he only pulled two fewer stage wins than when he had the World's Most Awesome Sprint Train. I am so glad he stayed the course; I genuinely was expecting for him to pull out and go straight to an Olympics holding pen (the word I so desperately want to use is Gulag), but watching the Sky Team, Yellow Jersey and Norwegian National Champion lead out the World Champion for such a definitive win on the Champs Elysee really was pretty special.
Is Cadel a contender?
'He might podium, but he doesn't seem to have the edge he had last year, the edge that Wiggins has now.'
I'm sorry Cadel, I really am. Big fan of your work, like your style, and sorry you were laid low with some fairly obvious stomach trouble. And I thought the way you conducted yourself in the post stage soundbites you gave was admirable, especially when it became clear the race had slipped from your grasp. But you just didn't have it this year.
But has Brad peaked too soon?
'Don't be fooled. Just because he's so dominant and taking big wins doesn't mean he's peaked, it's just the level he's at. Another's 100% is his 95%. Cadel is secretly shitting his pants.'
The state of Cadel's pants is, of course, between him and his washing machine, but I think from day 1 it was pretty clear Brad hadn't lost any of the stonking form he's had this year.
Who's going to win Green?
'Sagan. He's clearly a fantastic rider, but he needs to learn how to conduct himself a little more professionally, he's in danger of stepping on toes. He needs to learn which battles to fight, he's taking the mick rather than making his mark. There's a lot of hype, and he's an awesome rider but he could quickly get too big for his boots. He needs to mix it with the big boys and show what he's got.'
Sagan was a bit of a revelation for me tbh - I wasn't sure how well he'd adapt to the unique pressures of the Tour. But adapt he did, and with some style. There have been some questions raised about his 'antics', of which I can say only this; if I was a 22-year-old Slovakian kicking ass and taking names in my first Tour de France, I'd be doing impressions of the Incredible Hulk and signing boobs too. And saying it once and owning it - I love Daniel Oss's hair.
And the Mountains?
'Samuel Sanchez. He'll win with consistency rather than fireworks.'
Our survey says - Eeee-Errrrr. Well, I suppose the cyclist had to get something wrong, he's been pretty scarily accurate up 'til now. Sammy Sanchez of course, crashed out Stage 8. King of the Mountains was instead decided by consistent fireworks - Thomas Voeckler riding his way first over 11 mountains to two well-deserved stage wins, and some dubious spotty shorts in the process.
Talk to me about the other contenders. Frank Schleck? Vincenzo Nibali?
'Both could top 5 and win stages, but neither can force an upset on GC. Even if they do manage to take some time out of Wiggins on the big climbs, which is going to be a big ask given the team support Wiggins has, Brad will more than make this up on the time trials. The time trials will be decisive.'
The time trials were, of course, decisive. Wiggins, who was never lower than 2nd on GC, took yellow on the second time trial and secured it on the third. In the event, no-one was able to take any time out of Wiggins on any climb, as Sky were so well drilled in the mountains. I , who know little about cycling, was surprised to see Wiggins seated in the mountains, rather than up and bouncing on his pedals like some of the others. I put this to the cyclist, concerned that this meant Wiggins was tired or struggling. He laughed. He told me the guy in the saddle, tapping out his rhythm was the one to be afraid of.
Frank Schleck. Diuretics. I simply don't know enough about the to make any sort of valid or informed comment. Please feel free to check out Anna Zimmerman's 150 Watts of Awesome post here where she explains it in college terms (this really is a very good blog - while you're there check out her Hypocrisy of Cycling Fans Post and her Brad Wiggins is a Total Prostitute one - in fact just get yourself a cup of tea and a couple biscuits and read the lot). I find myself hoping it's some sort of contamination issue, then wondering what the hell he was taking that got contaminated. The sorriest part of it all is that this has the potential to drag on and on until it becomes as confusing and meaningless to us mere fans as the Contador case. Depressing. Meh.
Do Team Sky have a plan B?
'To win it, no. I'm sure there are various plan B's in the event of a crash like last year; I expect they'd ride for stages and possibly the Mountains Classification for Froome.'
The answer is moot. Team Sky placed their faith in Bradley Wiggins as team leader, rode to that end, and secured victory. Chris Froome has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he is a very real contender in his own right, and I trust that he, like Wiggins, will have the opportunity to lead the team to GC glory in the future - possibly as soon as the Vuelta. He deserves it. But this is the team sport where one man wins. Teams are organised with specific goals in mind, and riders designated roles. Things may change, out there on the road; but they change to the demands of the team, of the race and of the riders, NOT of the fans.
'I wish Froome rode for another team' was a pretty consistent theme on Twitter during the Tour. I had wished Chris Froome didn't ride for team Sky either, for 10 minutes on the Friday before the Tour started, as I was picking my fantasy TdF team for the grudge match with the cyclist. You see, I'd come up with a fiendishly clever rule, which I was regretting immensely at this point - that you could only pick 1 rider from each 'real' team for your fantasy team. Having already bid a tearful, heart-wrenching goodbye to my beloved Cav at this point, I was in real agonies about letting Froome go, even though my heart was always with Wiggins; his name was on my list written in red pen and underlined twice with smiley faces over the i's. (I imagine this is a bit how Brailsford feels at times too.)
But let us not forget this is the Chris Froome who had offers tabled by, what was it, 8 World Tour teams following his excellent performance in the Vuelta last year, before signing a three-year contract with Sky. I'd say he'd made a pretty informed decision about who he wanted to ride for, wouldn't you? How exactly would he be better off elsewhere? He obviously didn't think so. And however impressive Froome was, I would also like to take a moment to mention the riders I was equally impressed by, Mick Rogers, Eddy Boasson Hagen and Richie Porte, who's combined efforts made Team Sky virtually untouchable. This was very much their Tour.