With Bradley Wiggins in the yellow jersey and Chris Froome climbing like a madman, Team Sky had one of the best days at the Tour possible.
Wiggins’ third place on the day gave him the yellow jersey and a ten second lead on Cadel Evans, on whose wheel he was plastered coming across the line. But perhaps much more important was the elimination of a number of GC contenders, including Andreas Kloden, Frank Schleck, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and even the kolo t.c. favorite Janez Brajkovic. A big chuck of these riders came in just over two minutes down, but with Wiggins and Evans the superior time trialists, it may already be a two man race.
Only Vicenzo Nibali, aka Nibbles, was able to keep the pace, losing just five seconds at the summit to Wiggins and Evans. Froome gained back a lot of time and hopped up the overall standings to give Team Sky three riders in the top ten, with Froome joined by Mick Rodgers in 9th and 10th, respectively.
With two weeks left and the race yet to even come close to its halfway point, Sky has given itself a load of work to do, though Wiggins can help himself in a big way on Monday. With Sunday’s undulations unlikely to alter the GC greatly, Monday’s time trial will be the first glimpse of Wiggins, Evans and Nibali in the Race of Truth. The short effort of the Prologue created some gaps, but those will surely be increased over the 50+km course. GC riders well down on time, like Levi Leipheimer for instance, will hope for a great ride in order to leap up the standings, but after the first weeks’ displays, it’s hard to imagine the showdown to include anyone besides Evans and Wiggins, with perhaps Fabian Cancellara or Tony Martin taking the stage and the GC men doing even more to set themselves apart.
The next dangerous opportunity for Wiggins would be Stage 11’s summit finish on La Toussuire. The day starts with two of some of the best climbs you’ll ever see, the Col de la Madelaine and the Col de la Criox de Fer. Both climbs will whittle away sprinters and helpers, leaving the GC men along with only a teammate or two heading into the final two climbs of the day, Col du Mollard and the finish on the 18km, 6.1% La Toussoire. If Wiggins runs out of teammates early, he’ll have to rely on Froome and Mick Rogers again for the bulk of the work. Look for his rivals to send dangerous men up the road on early climbs to keep the pressure on. RadioShack-Nissan could throw Frank Schleck and Chris Horner up the road in the hopes of letting Haimar Zubeldia and Maxime Monfort hang onto Sky’s chasers and spring away at the end.
Enjoy the Tour, folks!