Blazin' Saddles

Best of British

Blazin' Saddles

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It's typical that on a day Britain secured its
best ever results in a Grand Tour, the armchair critics get their knives out to
dissect the Woome.

On an historic occasion for both Britain and Team Sky, Chris Froome and Bradley
Wiggins stood either side of Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo in Madrid - the first
time two British riders have made the podium in one of cycling's three biggest
events.

But as the remaining 167 riders zipped through the streets of Madrid, you can
bet fickle British cycling fans wholly devoid of any stage-race sense were
complaining about a lack of attack from Team Sky.

Just like, a day earlier, 'fans' chastised Sky for not blowing apart the field
on the flat run into Vitoria - and Froome for not getting off his lazy backside
and taking the 20 bonus seconds at the finish.

Sadly - or perhaps, thankfully - cycling's not as easy as that.

Yes, 13 seconds may seem like a very precarious lead, but in stage cycling it
is a big enough cushion - the equivalent of an away goal in football in the
second leg, or an eight-point lead in rugby as the game enters the final five
minutes.

Saddles also has some prime Irun Basque beef with those nitpickers who hold
issue with Sky for not making Froome the designated team leader earlier in the
race.

Yes, Froome rode a superb ITT to move into the red jersey - but even then, he
was only 20 seconds clear of Wiggins with 11 stages left to ride. What's more,
a day later, Wiggo leap-frogged his team-mate into red - where he stayed until
Cobo's magnificent ride up the Angliru.

According to most fans who clearly know better, Sky should have made Wiggins
work for Froome on the Angliru.

So that's Wiggins, a rider who was brought into the team to spearhead its GC
chances on the back of his fourth place in the 2009 Tour, to forego his own
ambitions - two months after seeing his Tour shattered along with a collarbone
- for a rider who hadn't completed a Grand Tour for more than two years and
whose highest overall position was 36th.

Supposing Alberto Contador was wearing the yellow jersey on the eve of the
Tour's stage to Alpe d'Huez back in July, do you honestly reckon Bjarne Riis
would have instructed him to ride in support of Riche Porte instead?

Forget the gift of hindsight - cycling works within strict unwritten rules of
hierarchy and honour. Wiggins was Sky's man - that's why they paid so much to
bring him to the team - and with him in red, there was never any way they were
going to humiliate him in favour of - let's face it - an unproven rookie of
dubious provenance.

And lest we forget: in the moments before Wiggins hitting the wall on the
Angliru, Froome himself looked like he was in serious bother; at one stage, he
almost fell off his bike with exhaustion on the arduous 23 percent section 2km
from the finish.

Granted, Froome became the team's leader after that stage - and he confirmed
his class with a glorious ride to Pena Cabarga that saw him inch within 13
seconds of the summit.

That he failed to make up that seemingly tiny time margin - despite his best
efforts in the Basque Country - shouldn't be seen as a failure. The fact that
he came so close should be celebrated - it could even be the making of a new
British sports star.
The public should be over the moon instead of over the Froome. Wiggins has
confirmed his ability - and Froome, four years his junior, offers much promise
for his Sky team going forward.

Of course, such promise could be shackled by a need to ride in support of Mark
Cavendish - but that eventuality will be dealt with if and when it happens.

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