Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins insists that his Tour de France challenge is still very much alive despite a disappointing day on Sunday when he fell nearly two minutes behind eventual stage winner Andy Schleck during the closing three klometres of the final climb up to Morzine-Avoriaz.
"You just take what it was on each day and move forward. It was one of those days, not bad, not good, somewhere in the middle,” Wiggins told The Guardian. “If I keep having those kind of days I'll be in the ballpark in Paris,” he added.
“Obviously it wasn't great, it wasn't fantastic but what am I going to do? Go home, or stay here and battle for the next two weeks? A month ago if you had said to me that I would be in this position, I'd have taken it,” he maintained.
According to Team Sky coach Rod Ellingworth, Wiggins’ problems on Sunday may have been due to his not eating enough, meaning that there was no fuel left in the tank as the leaders headed up towards the finish.
The bare facts are, however, that Wiggins, already off the pace after a disappointing prologue in Rotterdam in which he gambled and lost on making an early start to avoid the forecast rain – the British rider ended up enduring the worst of the day’s conditions – now lies 14th overall, 2 minutes 45 seconds behind race leader Cadel Evans.
Wiggins revealed his climbing abilities on last year’s first mountain stage from Barcelona to Andorra, when he kept pace with most of the general classification contenders to remain in fifth place overall, and would eventually finish just off the podium places in fourth place in Paris.
His problems on this year’s first mountain test therefore puts a question mark over whether he can match or even improve on that performance, with Lance Armstrong, one of the trio ahead of him 12 months ago, dropping out of contention on this year’s Tour on Sunday.
Wiggins has an opportunity to put those concerns to rest today with another stage in the Alps following a 204.5km route from Morzine Avoriaz to Saint-Jean-de-Mourienne, with four big climbs, the last of which is the Hors-Categorie Col de la Madeleine.
One team that won’t be forcing the pace today, unlike on Sunday when it upped the tempo the put Lance Armstrong into trouble on the day’s penultimate climb, will be Astana, with defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador saying that he was happy with the position he was in and was content to let other teams do the work today.
The Spaniard also expressed sympathy for his former team-mates problems on Sunday, saying: "When I saw it on TV I thought about Armstrong's career. Yesterday he was very unlucky - I don't enjoy watching great riders like him suffer. But my admiration is still the same, maybe my admiration is even stronger now."
Meanwhile race leader Cadel Evans took things easy yesterday as he recovered from injuries to his arm received during the crash early on Sunday’s stage that also involved Lance Armstrong and put Team Sky’s Simon Gerrans out of the race with a broken arm.
“I have a very sore left arm,” the World Champion explained to the BMC Racing website, “but the legs are still going. That's the important thing. It's a little bit uncomfortable right now, but hopefully by tomorrow it will come around. With another good night's sleep, I should be all right.”
Evans, who received a surprise visit on Sunday evening from wife Chiara, who had driven over from their home in Switzerland, and dog Mollie – the one that journalists have been warned not to stand on – said that he was relishing the opportunity of riding in the maillot jaune.
“For me personally, getting the yellow jersey at the Tour is always something special,” he said. “To swap the rainbow jersey for the yellow jersey is a rare honour that I have had the honour to experience. But also for the team and all the work we've put in together – not just for the Tour – but everyone who has been involved in building up the BMC Racing Team, it's a nice reward.”
The jersey he was presented with on Sunday has already found a new home. “I walked down to the dinner table with the yellow jersey and gave it to Jacques Michaud [BMC Racing Team Assistant Director], whose birthday it was.” Explained the Australian rider. “I think he was happy to see that,” he added.
Meanwhile, there was further good news for Team Saxo Bank, already celebrating Sunday’s success when Andy Schleck won in Morzine-Avoriaz and moved to second place in the general classification, as the Danish outfit signed IT firm Sungard as its new main sponsor.
Sungard will be joined by a second, as yet unnamed sponsor, and the deal ends months of uncertainty for the Danish outfit, after Saxo Bank said earlier this year that it was terminating its sponsorship a year early.
Team onwer Bjarne Riis said: “We started our relationship with Sungard last year and I have been able to prove to them just what we are capable of and they will now be a very important partner for us over the next two years. The sponsorship means that we will be able to maintain our high ambitions and goals for the future where we will keep being a major influence in the world of cycling.”
He added: “Another firm has agreed to sign with us but because of business strategy reasons we can not announce their name yet. Now, we are looking forward to focus on the rest of the Tour. We are going for the overall win.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.