Nothing would please Anthony Tan more than to see Bradley Wiggins capture his first Grand Tour. But with nine stages remaining, he wonders if Team Sky is using the right strategy.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

With 10 days to go, I would like nothing better than to see Bradley Wiggins win this year's Vuelta a España.

Leading into the 2011 Tour de France, he had the form that comes around perhaps a couple of times in one's career, only to fall victim – one of many, as it turned out – in the crash-marred opening week, exiting the race on Stage 7, collarbone not intact.

When it was announced Wiggo would be riding the Vuelta, I immediately saw him as a contender.

Not a favourite, for he was on a race against time to rebuild his condition, but a contender nonetheless.

Following the eleventh stage to the mountain finish of Estación de Montaña Manzaneda, where he took the race lead from his team-mate Christopher Froome, he has led the race for all of one day, so both his form and leadership qualities are yet to be tested.

Enviably, Team Sky has the luxury of having the first two guys on the overall classification in their camp.

But Stage 11 revealed Wiggins, not Froome, is the undisputed leader, for the latter worked his tush off for Wiggo on the long but not overly steep Manzaneda finishing climb.

* * *

When I heard Eurosport commentator, Sean Kelly, a Vuelta champion himself in 1988, call Thursday's Stage 12 to Pontevedra, I wondered if using Froome like Team Sky have, so early on, is the best strategy, as Wiggins' third-week form remains a mystery on par with Alberto Contador's sometime-this-year-or-maybe-next-year-or-perhaps-never hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"From experience, I did a collarbone on three occasions. And when you come back," Kelly said, "sometimes, you get back on the bike and you get into training, you come very quickly into shape, and very good shape.

"And you can do a 10-day race, two-week race; you can ride very well.

"But sometimes," said the Irishman, "some riders have difficulty holding [their form] for the third week – and that would be my little concern for Bradley Wiggins; that he might start suffering fatigue, not recovering enough."

Kelly also said Froome "is capable of enjoying a very good result in this race, the way he's going, the way he's climbing".

* * *

Let's also briefly revisit the Stage 10 time trial in Salamanca, where in the 47 kilometre time test, Froome did the surprise ride of the day, finishing second to stage winner, Tony Martin of HTC-High Road, 59 seconds adrift of the German juggernaut.

Contrast this with the ride of Wiggins, a noted time trial specialist who normally measures his effort to perfection (and by default, would save his best for last), who was just one second behind Martin at the first intermediate time check, but then proceeded to lose ground to both Froome and Martin, finishing a further 23 seconds back on his British team-mate.

Depsite a creditable third on the day, I found this to be a very un-Wiggo-like performance.

* * *

And before we even get into this final week, which, to put it mildly, is something of a bitch, there are the next three days to contend with.

"Stage 13, Stage 14, Stage 15, all difficult days, and especially Stage 15, with that horrible finish up the Angliru," Kelly noted.

"But the other days, [Stages] 13 and 14, really difficult for a team to control. And if there's a lot of attacks, big breakaways getting away, the team is going to be really pushed to control the leadership of Bradley Wiggins.

"Wiggins, in the shape that he's in at the moment, he should not lose too much time on [Joaquin] Rodriguez; you have a little bit of a buffer there in the time Rodriguez lost in the individual time trial. But again, this Vuelta is going to be really difficult in the final week."

The plus is that Team Sky still has eight riders left, and so far, there is no one GC contender who is shown to be riding better than Wiggins.

The minus is that there are still nine stages to go.

The question is, then, can Wiggo go all the way?

"Yes, I think he's in really good position [to win overall]," said Kelly.

"The form is really good, and he has a good a chance as anybody. And the position he has at the moment, as leader, I feel he has a good chance of going all the way and winning this Vuelta."

I hope Kelly's right.

But if I were Team Sky's sports director, Steven de Jongh, I'd be saving 'Froomey' as much as possible, because come the final week, he may be Wiggins' greatest asset, or should Wiggo falter, become the team's go-to guy, and the revelation of the race.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan