Not bad for Brad – but will there be one last hurrah?
Chris Froome’s back injury just days before the race created a late vacancy for the position of team leader. Richie Porte was swiftly pulled from Paris-Nice, where he would have defended his 2013 title, and parachuted into Italy, assuring reporters that he and not Bradley Wiggins would lead the team. The 2012 Tour de France champion had new priorities, the Australian said.
Wiggins’ new priorities have created a sense of intrigue among close observers of professional cycling. Porte identified time trials as the Londoner’s new goal, but Wiggins himself has talked of a desire to contest races as disparate as Paris-Roubaix and the Vuelta a Espana. He will join Team Sky’s Classics squad – a unit with Boasson Hagen, Eisel, Rowe, Stannard and Thomas as its spine – for the Hell of the North in a month’s time.
If time trials are to be Wiggins’ focus before a return to the track in time for a serious assault on Rio 2016, then he showed more than a glimpse on stage seven of what might be achieved before heading once more for the velodrome. By finishing third behind Adriano Mallori, rapidly gaining the status of short test specialist, and Fabian Cancellara, Wiggins proved that while his days as a Grand Tour contender have finished, he will remain a formidable presence against the clock as long as he continues to race a bike.
The dizzying heights of 2012 may be impossible to repeat, but for a rider of such proven talent, seeing out a road career in the role of domestique and time trial specialist seems unsatisfactory, for Wiggins and his fans. The British cycling public longs for one last hurrah from the nation’s greatest rider. A rainbow jersey at the world time trial championships in Ponferrada this September would provide a fitting finale.