Tour de France: Stage 9 review

Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans to Besancon, 41.5km individual time trial

Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome smoked the opposition and registered the first ever British one-two in a Tour stage. It was also Wiggins’ maiden win and brings Britain’s – and Sky’s – tally to three victories in this year’s race. The British duo ignited the stage, simultaneously setting the timing screens ablaze. Wiggins put further distance between himself and defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC), while Froome elevated himself to third overall.

Wiggins, last out of the start house and resplendent in a translucent yellow skinsuit, was quickest through both intermediate checks before setting a final time of 51:24 (averaging 48.4kph), 35 seconds ahead of teammate and stage seven winner Froome. Evans put up his trademark gritty fight but finished sixth, 1:43 down on Wiggins, most of which he lost in the first part of the parcours. Wiggins is now 1:53 ahead of the Australian, with Froome a further 14 seconds behind in third.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), conceded 2:07 and slipped from third to fourth, but nonetheless this was a better-than-anticipated performance from the Sicilian. Putting his result into perspective, Russian national time trial champion Denis Menchov (Katusha) finished a second down on Nibali.

Despite another puncture, world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) posted the fastest early time only to see Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) ride 1:19 faster. He was almost ejected by Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), but ultimately Spartacus hung onto third place. But the day belonged to the Sky Tour de Force.

Questioned after the podium presentation, Wiggins expanded on his more than satisfactory day:

VeloVoices rider of the day

2010 Vuelta winner Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) turned in the time-trial of his life to stay within touching distance of the podium. Don’t be deceived by those long-lashed chocolate brown eyes and shy smile, not for nothing is he called the Shark of Messina. While other riders might be expected to attack when the road turns up, expect Nibali, one of the finest proponents of the art of descending, to be eyeing the technical descents. I suspect he’ll be lighting candles and praying for rain on stage 16 to Bagneres du Luchon which features a tricky 16km dash down the Col de Peyresourde to the finish line.

Nibali has expressed a desire to win all three Grand Tours. In my opinion, he could have won the Giro d’Italia in 2010 had he not been required to ride in support of team leader Ivan Basso. If we’re to believe the rumours, he’s off at the end of the season to pastures turquoise and a big fat pay cheque. I appreciate why, but am not convinced it’ll help him achieve his objectives.

Observations

Twitter today was full of comment about Bradley Wiggins‘ inflammatory and profane response in yesterday’s press conference to accusations that he wasn’t riding clean:

Honestly they’re just f*****g w*****s. I can’t be doing with people like that it justifies their own bone idleness … because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives.

And it’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that kind of shit rather than get off their arses and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something.

If today’s storming victory was the result, maybe the Twitterati should wind him up more often!

Meanwhile L’Equipe took to a detailed analysis of his position on the time trial bike while French television poured over the minutiae of Sky’s meticulous planning and preparation as if somehow it wasn’t playing the game. It was all rather amusing. [Damn Sky for being so, well, professional – Ed.]

Tactical analysis

Obviously there was no change today in either the points jersey worn by Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) or the polka dot jersey worn by Frederik Kassiakoff (Astana). Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) almost beat Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) , but was successful in regaining the young rider’s white jersey from Estonian national time trial champion Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), who he now leads by 40 seconds.

To understand today’s winners and losers, you only have to look at the current overall standings:

1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky)

2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:53

3. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:07

4. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale)  +2:23

5. Denis Menchov (Katusha) +3:02

6. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan) +3:19

7. Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan) +4:23

8. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +5:14

9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +5:20

10. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) +5:29

I think it’s fair to say that a large number of teams will be revising their strategy over the dinner tables this evening while Sky will be enjoying a small celebratory glass of champagne. Elsewhere, comparisons are being made with Miguel Indurain. I reckon Wiggins will appreciate being likened to his childhood hero and one who won the Tour five times in succession!

But let’s not get complacent. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen but not if Sky team chief David Brailsford has anything to do with it. He will be mindful of the gathering threat of a temporary Russo-Italian-Aussie alliance when the roads turn uphill upon the resumption after tomorrow’s rest day, and how he chooses to deploy Froome – conservatively, or send him out on the attack to put others on the back foot? – key mountains lieutenant Richie Porte and the powerful Mick Rogers and Edvald Boasson Hagen will be critical to controlling the race over the coming days. There are many miles still to run before Paris.

However, one prominent journalist spotted a worrying sign – at least if you’re the defending champion:

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Tour de France official website

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