IT WILL TAKE a concerted and sustained effort to destabilise Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky at the Tour de France, but the Briton’s rivals are queuing up to have a go.
Sky leader Wiggins resumes the race today with a significant lead of 1min 53sec over Australia’s defending champion Cadel Evans, of BMC.
But with several other challengers even further off the pace, Sky may have to be extra vigilant.
Former Tour of Spain winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy could be one of Evans’ strategic allies in the mountains and, sitting 2:23 off the pace, believes in his chances.
“Nobody is unbeatable,” said the Liquigas team leader, who believes the key is to split Wiggins and his key climbing helper Chris Froome from the rest of the formidable Sky team in the mountains.
“We have to have faith and try to separate Wiggins and Froome from their teammates and attack them one by one. We have to use our heads, as well as our legs.”
Russian Denis Menchov, fifth at 3:02, believes a podium place is possible and he’s counting on the remaining 11 stages to move up the standings.
“I lost a bit of time in the time trial, but there are still quite a few stages where I can claw back some time,” said the former Tour of Spain and Giro d’Italia winner who rides for Katusha. I can get on the podium. We’ll see later if I can get any higher.”
Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck, a fourth place finisher in 2010, was one of the riders in the Lotto team that tried to shake up Wiggins and Sky in the hilly eighth stage, but to no avail. Now nearly five minutes down, he has launched a rallying call in Wednesday’s 10th stage over the first ‘hors categorie’ (unclassified) climb of the race.
“As of tomorrow I’m expecting a real war against Wiggins,” said Van den Broeck, who spent some of his rest day putting himself through an intense three and a half hour training session.
“The only reason I’ve lost time is because I’ve been unlucky.”
Evans, meanwhile, said: “I suspect it’s going to get harder, riders always get more tired and we’ve got a lot of hard stages to go. I think it’s going to open up more and more.” Wiggins, despite his advantage, says he’s ready for the battle ahead.
“We’re in a dream scenario at the moment almost two minutes ahead, which is something we’d never really hoped for or imagined having. But we’re taking it one day at a time.
“I don’t expect anyone to say that Sky have won it. We expect this to be a shit fight for the next two weeks.”