Matthew Keenan argues Bradley Wiggins is on track to winning the Tour de France if Team Sky places its bets on yellow.
"Yes," is the short answer to the headline.
But there are three major challenges, that Bradley Wiggins and/or Team Sky can control, that need to be overcome to turn that "yes" into a Tour de France winning reality – team balance, maintaining form and handling the pressure.
Determining the division of resources at Sky will be a delicate process – Mark Cavendish for a bag full of stage wins and the green jersey or Wiggins and his tilt at yellow?
In a recent article on Cycling Central by Sophie Smith, Erik Zabel is quoted as saying he would send Cavendish with at least six riders and Wiggins with (Vuelta a Espana runner-up) Christopher Froome for the yellow.
Zabel bases this on Cavendish being a safer bet, which he is. But racing for yellow at the Tour de France is the biggest prize in cycling and must be the priority.
It’s hard to disagree with someone of Zabel’s stature but on this occasion, I do.
Cavendish is capable of winning on his own. The disqualification of Mark Renshaw in 2010 didn’t seem to slow him down. I would have Edvald Bossan Hagen do the job for Cavendish and let the Manx Missile take care of the rest.
Wiggins will be 32 come Tour time and may never get another opportunity like 2012.
The course couldn’t be better suited to his strengths. There will be 101.1km of individual time trialing. That’s more than double last year. And just three mountain-top finishes. It’s the perfect storm for Wiggins.
The fact that Sky is keeping the nucleus of a Tour general classification team around Wiggins all season, with Cavendish only scheduled to join him July, indicates the team balance is falling in his favour.
Managing the already stunning form of Wiggins will be a challenge. This is a better problem to have than chasing your tail searching for form.
But it’s a challenge nonetheless and one recognized by Lance Armstrong, who Wiggins revealed after his Paris-Nice win, sent a message to the Brit saying not to burn too many matches before July.
Born out of the successful British track cycling program, Team Sky has enough science behind it to rival the CSIRO. But cycling is more than just lab testing and scientific training. There’s an art to it. Team Sky has the art part covered with Shane Sutton.
Sutton has been a critical figure in Wiggins’s career, almost of surrogate father proportions.
With the balance of resources available at Sky there's every reason to believe Wiggins won’t just maintain his form but he will improve on it, to arrive on the start line in Liege in the form of his career.
And don't forget, Cadel Evans won Tirreno-Adriatico at this time last year.
Handling the pressure
Wiggins has a proven track record of handling pressure.
Of the pressure in the final time trial at Paris-Nice he said it was, "nothing compared to the pressure of being in an Olympic final on the velodrome."
Four years of preparation for a four-minute race, under the scrutiny of a few billion television viewers. Yeah, that’s genuine sporting pressure.
Plus winning Paris-Nice and last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, with extended defences of the yellow jersey, is a good apprenticeship for defending yellow at the Tour. But it’s still not the Tour.
The pressure at the Tour is relentless. And it’s only under the July spotlight that we’ll really know the answer to this question.
My Sky nine for the Tour
Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Christopher Froome, Edvald Boassan Hagen, Christian Knees, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Rigoberto Uran.
If he continues on his current trajectory, Wiggins will be one of the biggest rivals to Cadel Evans come Tour time.