Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins confirmed his form ahead of the Tour de France, picking up an impressive win in the Criterium du Dauphine.
Able to climb with the mountain goats, Wiggins’ best day came during the stage 4 individual time trial, where he scorched the 53km course in 1:03:12.
The effort was especially stellar as he was nipping at the heels of Cadel Evans, an elite time trialist typically able to hold his own during the race of truth. Evans finished the day 1:43 down on Wiggins and would lose more time throughout the rest of the race.
“It’s been a great effort by the team and a fantastic week,” Team Sky Sports Director Sean Yates said in a press statement. “We couldn’t have asked for more. We came into the race with a clear plan which was to try and win it and obviously Bradley came up with the goods which was mighty impressive. He had a fantastic team to back him up.”
Wiggins has had a very successful season leading up to the Tour, winning GC in Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine. During the past week of racing, Wiggins was also able to fend off attacks from Cadel Evans and other GC rivals.
Does this mean he’s ready to win the Tour de France?
Well, he’s definitely going to make the race more interesting–but I’m not entirely convinced he can win over three weeks.
I expect Evans will emerge with better form in July, when he needs to time trial and race hard. Evans, the 2011 Tour winner, admits he still isn’t on perfect form and will continue to ride himself into tour shape.
Also, despite recent setbacks in Andy Schleck’s Tour preparations, I expect him and older brother Frank to show up ready to race. There is some tension and concern aboard Team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, but both Schleck brothers show up year after year ready to race.
There are numerous outsiders interested in mixing things up as well, including Omega Pharma-Quick-Step’s Levi Leipheimer, Rabobank’s Robert Gesink and Liquigas riders Ivan Basso and Vicenzo Nibali.
Fresh off his recent victory at the Giro d’Italia, it’ll be interesting to see if Team Garmin-Barracuda’s Ryder Hesjedal will have any snap left in his legs to compete in July.
Rival racers aside, it should also be interesting to see how Team Sky handles Wiggins' teammate Mark Cavendish. Sprinter teams will rely on Team Sky to chase down breakaways and drive the peloton towards the line during all flat stages. It’ll be difficult to win flat stages and protect a potential green jersey along with the yellow jersey over the entire race.
There is plenty of intrigue heading into the 2012 Tour de France, and it appears to be a wide-open race for a select few riders. The roads of France will help determine who is able to ride on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, wearing the most coveted jersey in professional cycling.