PARIS, France (VN) — Bradley Wiggins has a message for those who’ve called this Tour de France boring, to those who say his victory has lacked thrilling attacks and panache.
It’s just not possible anymore — unless you cheat.
Speaking to a gaggle of reporters at his press conference in Chartres, after he decimated the field in the individual time trial to cap his maillot jaune campaign, Wiggins said the Tour has become “a lot more human.”
“You know what? Cycling’s changed a bit,” he said. “We’re riding up these climbs at whatever pace now, talking numbers and powers and things. For someone to be able to attack those powers now, and ride away… we’ve seen perhaps why that is, now, in recent years. I think the Tour is a lot more human now, with everything that the UCI is doing and that.
“And maybe if people want to see these incredible 220-kilometer lone breaks in the mountains … maybe that’s not realistic to think that anymore. As wonderful and as magical as they were to watch, in the ’90s, [Richard] Virenque and stuff, you know … maybe the sport has changed now.”
Indeed, the 2012 Tour de France has been a methodical affair for the British-based Sky team. Wiggins and his teammate Chris Froome dominated the two long time trials, finishing one-two in both. In the mountains, the Sky train would line up in front of Wiggins and peel off one by one, each rider upping the pace just enough to sift the general classification until only the yellow jersey and his chief lieutenant remained.
Effectively, Sky squeezed the front of the bike race until it couldn’t respond, resulting in a Tour that never saw true animation in the general classification. Tactically, Sky was clean and precise.
Michael Rogers, Sky’s captain on the road and “the man with the numbers,” according to Wiggins, knew that attacks weren’t sustainable.
“Michael would just say, ‘Leave ’em, he can’t sustain that. It’s not possible to sustain that if we’re riding 450 [watts].’ Someone’s going to have to sustain 500 watts on a 20-minute climb to stay away, and that’s not possible anymore unless you have a few extra liters of blood, you know.”
Wiggins credited the approach of Sky and the “marginal gains” the team made for the more than six minutes’ advantage he built over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), third on GC.
“And that’s the reality of it, it really is,” he said. “It’s all these small little percentages now that make the difference in sport. And that’s what our philosophy [was], which we started at Sky and everyone laughed at first, little things like the warming down, or Dario (Cioni) constantly topping up my hydration all the time.”
As an example, Wiggins mentioned the heat-scorched stage that finished in Luchon before the second day in the Pyrénées.
“That took its toll on a lot of people,” Wiggins said. “And the things you do in between that and the next Pyrenean stage, simple things like hydration, and getting to bed early, you know — having a chef on the Tour so your food is meticulously prepared — the food and that is where all the marginal gains are now, all these small little things now.
“That’s what makes the difference now.”