• Loyal - to a degree... Following the 2012 Tour de France won by team-mate Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome later said given the opportunity, he thought he could have won the race. (AFP)Source: AFP
Power struggles, backroom brawls, leadership spills... The past few years in Australian federal politics are not unlike the situations we've seen, and about to see, at some of the big-money WorldTour teams in professional cycling, writes Anthony Tan.
16 Sep 2015 - 2:12 PM  UPDATED 16 Sep 2015 - 2:27 PM

After witnessing three federal leadership spills in five years, I couldn't help but notice the circumstances that led to the ousting of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and, as of this Monday, Tony Abbott, were not that dissimlar to recent events in professional cycling, and provide a portent for a repeat in the future.

Take the situation at Team Sky in 2012, when Bradley Wiggins found himself under threat by one of his own at that year's Tour de France. Chris Froome went into the race as a lieutenant, but soon proved he was the best climber, winning the seventh stage to La Planche des Belles Filles. Two days later, the Kenyan born Brit also demonstrated his prowess in the first individual time trial, a 41.5 kilometre route from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon, finishing second to Wiggins and moving to third overall, 2 minutes and 7 seconds behind his captain, now in the maillot jaune.

"Fabio Aru's victory at the Vuelta last Sunday makes the situation at Astana, er, well, complicated."

Froome, despite his proclivity to let loose in the mountains, was held back by team management, most famously on the eleventh stage to La Toussuire, when sport director Sean Yates, in the first team car, told him via race radio, "Froomey, I hope you know what you're f...king doing...", which was enough to bring the Froome-dog to heel. That night, at the hotel, Wiggins threatened to leave the race, describing the disunity as "bullshit", but team principal Dave Brailsford convinced him otherwise, and as history would have it, he went on to win the Tour. Froome, 3'21" off the pace, finished second, yet despite their success, did not attend the team party that night.

Speculation over team leadership, particularly at the Tour, remained at fever-pitch till May the following year, when Team Sky - finally - announced (albeit towards the bottom of a press release - as you do!) that Froome would be their main man in July. Unsurprisingly given what transpired, Wiggins was left off the roster, as he was the year following, when Froome set out to defend his title, but instead departed in a Jaguar on the cobblestoned fifth stage, having fractured his wrist the day previous, then crashed twice the following day.

Wiggins has since left the team as of this year's Paris-Roubaix, and now rides for a development outfit named after him, leaving Froome as top dog.

The milieu at Movistar, specifically between Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, was less acrimonious, and was largely determined by the latter's superlative performance in his debut Tour de France, where he ran second to Froome in 2013. (Valverde finished eighth, 15'26" down on the winner, though more than 10 minutes of that deficit came as a result of an untimely puncture on the thirteenth stage, when he was lying second overall.)

Last season, Quintana targeted the Giro d'Italia - which he won - and Vuelta a España, where he crashed out while in the race lead, on the tenth stage individual time trial. Valverde, meanwhile, had the Tour leadership all to himself, however by week three it was clear his best was behind him and so ended the race fourth overall behind Vincenzo Nibali, who, in the absence of Quintana and the exits of Froome and Alberto Contador, won by a country mile. Despite a strong showing at the Vuelta to finish third behind Contador and Froome, Valverde understood his place and demonstrated his loyalty at this year's Tour; creditably, he still finished on the podium, a career first for the number one ranked WorldTour rider, the pair flanking Froome in Paris, who almost faltered at the final hurdle.

Next year, party leadership at BMC Racing and Team Astana will be interesting, to say the least.

In the case of the former, Richie Porte, previously the right-hand man to Wiggins and Froome at Team Sky (and before that, Contador at Saxo Bank), joins at a time when the Tour leader incumbent, Tejay van Garderen, inexplicably exited this year's Grande Boucle four days from the finish, then at the Vuelta, failed to make an impact, other than to his shoulder, which he broke in a mass pile-up on the eighth stage, where he was lying 16th overall at the start of the day.

He has a wealth of Grand Tour experience but the Tasmanian is yet to prove himself as a leader at a Grand Tour, so until then, the American is likely to retain ‘the confidence of his party', to use a political term. Still, it appears BMC Racing will hedge their bets next July, as Porte intimated in a press release last month when it was announced he would join the team on an estimated two million Euro (A$3.2M) annual paypacket. And, if van Garderen and Porte both fall short in coming Tours de France, who's to say 25-year-old Rohan Dennis, this year's Tour Down Under champ, previous Hour Record holder, and winner of the mountain-high USA Pro Cycling Challenge last month, won't ‘do a Dumoulin' and surpass them both before too long?

Fabio Aru's victory at the Vuelta last Sunday makes the situation at Astana, er, well, complicated.

Never has there been a Vuelta that began with so many big hitters (the only exception being Contador), and in modern history, so many summit finishes (11 stages finished on a hill or atop a mountain pass). Aru, the 25-year-old Sardinian, watched them all fall by the wayside, either through form or circumstance, then waited till the penultimate day to retake the lead for good off surprise packet Tom Dumoulin, his team waging a military-style mountain ambush in the Sierras of Madrid.

Aru has now finished second and first in arguably the hardest Giro and Vuelta in a decade or more. Nibali, desperate to show 2014 was not a Tour win by default, ran fourth, 8'36" behind Froome this July, then, on the second stage of the Vuelta and when the whole cycling world was watching, cheated his ass off after a front wheel puncture, only to find himself expelled - and no doubt, grossly humiliated - by race officials for so flagrantly breaking the rules.

In Nibali, there are elements of hubris and pig-headedness we saw in Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott which preceded their respective internal party coups, and, ultimately, their downfalls. Can the proud as punch Sicilian imbibe a litre or ten of modesty and/or contrition to right his wrongs, or will he, like Rudd and Abbott, be the architect of his own downfall?