It's been a rather tasty week for Team Sky after a
leaked 2012 Tour route revealed more time trials and flat stages than recent
years. But will it be enough to keep both Bradley Wiggins and new arrival Mark
Yes, the close season's worst-kept secret was finally
confirmed this week: world champion Cavendish will ride alongside Dave
Brailsford's men next season - much like he did in the streets of Copenhagen a
fortnight ago. Joining the Manx Missile is Teutonic lead-out chum Bernie Eisel,
making it a picture perfect double swoop.
With Cav and Sky's (previous?) team leader Wiggins now
back on good terms and singing from the same hymn sheet (Be Thou My Vision?),
it looks like the British-based team could have quite a harmonious assault on
honours across the board next season.
Throw in the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Geraint
Thomas and new recruit Richie Porte, and you have quite a roster.
The Tour will be thrilling - especially with the
London 2012 Olympic sub-plot.
If the leak is to be believed, there will be two time
trials and a prologue next July - that's a total of 90km racing against the
clock. Talk about p****** on the parade that is the new LeopardShack mega conglomerate:
it's going to take more than Johan Bruyneel and a few hours in the wind-tunnel
to make Andy Schleck a serious Tour contender - especially in light of the
apparent considerable reduction of mountain stages in the next Grande Boucle.
The route became viewable on the Tour's official
website after a pre-prepared link was erroneously activated - in all likelihood
by some poor work experience chap (the godson of Christian Prudhomme, perhaps)
who was overly eager to impress.
Of course, it's yet to be confirmed - and the official
release date of 18 October may still allow for some last-minute rethinks - but
as it is, it looks a rather peculiar route.
Besides the opening and closing towns (Liege and
Paris) and a few of the usual suspects (such as Pau and Besancon), the 40-odd
start and finish towns hardly jump off the page.
Perhaps we'll still see some brutal climbs included in
some of the stages, but as it is, even Tony Martin will be rubbing his hands
with glee: not only is he in line to win three stages, the soon-to-be
QuickStepper could well find himself a GC man...
Perhaps Martin will even lead the race from start to
finish - much like he did at last week's Tour of Beijing, where he won the
opening prologue before managing to survive the Chinese smog for five days and
take the spoils (which did or did not include a whole year's worth of special
It was an odd race, the inaugural Tour of Beijing. One
thing is for sure: the Chinese are definitely rather proud of their Bird's Nest
Olympic Stadium, for the race passed by on three separate occasions.
There was also a first for cycling when one rider was
knocked off his bike by a billboard blown in his path by the blades of a
low-flying television helicopter. Laurent Fignon would be turning in his grave.
The final stage in Beijing was won by Russia's Denis
Galimzyanov. The young Katusha sprinter is having a fine end to the season.
We'll hear a lot about him in the future - along with the likes of Daniel Oss,
Marcel Kittel, Davide Appollonio and Peter Sagan. Indeed, it's really time for
the McEwens and Freires of the peloton to step aside and do what Erik Zabel did
perhaps two seasons too late.
But the young bucks will still struggle to find the
powers to beat Cavendish in one of the Tour's bunch sprints. Wearing the
rainbow jersey and at home with many of his British team-mates, Cav will be a
safe bet to retain his green jersey in July.
It remains to be seen how - or even if - him and
Wiggins can fit into the same Grand Tour team, but it's going to be an
interesting soap opera to follow. It's much like the first years of Manchester
City's renaissance in the Premier League: the signings have been made, now it's
a question of finding the right mix and getting it to gel.
As for the 2012 Tour's final Paris podium - whether
it's the leaked route or another - we still have no idea whether or not Alberto
Contador will be there. If he is, you'd imagine he'd be better prepared than
Provided Bertie sits out the Giro, plus avoids get
carpeted by some irate Russian with a suspect hair-do, the Spaniard should
enter the race as firm favourite.
After all, at this rate it's not as if CAS are going
to actually have Contador's hearing before the riders take to the streets of
Liege, is it?