Irish legend Sean Kelly expects Team Sky duo Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins to be hungry for more Tour de France glory if they are selected to ride together next year.
Kenyan-born Brit Froome emulated Wiggins’ success in cycling’s greatest race after comprehensively storming to the maillot jaune this month and team supremo Dave Brailsford wants both to challenge for success next year.
Kelly, a four-time winner of the green jersey and former Vuelta a Espana champion, admitted it could be a tricky situation but expects both to be in contention for victory next year.
“It’s going to be a difficult one,” Kelly told RoadCyclingUK. “Both are pretty much the same style of rider. Froome is better in the climbs, certainly on the steep ones he has the advantage, but in the time trials we saw last year there is not much between them in the big ones.
It’s normal to want to win a Tour de France, and now they have got one, they’ll be hungry to get another.
“It certainly looks like the two of them could be very much in contention for an overall win next year. It is a tricky one. Are we going to see both of them working towards the same objective? If that’s the case it looks like a complicated one for me.
“If they are both in contention in the final week – well we saw that last year. It’s normal to want to win a Tour de France, and now they have got one they’ll be hungry to get another.
“They have now got a taste of winning the Tour de France and they will be hungry to win another one. If they ride next year, they’ll both go into it wanting to win.”
Wiggins returns to action this weekend when the Tour of Poland begins, but Kelly does not believe the Londoner is under more pressure despite Froome’s stunning performance in France.
“I don’t know if there is more to prove now for Bradley Wiggins,” he explained. “It has been a difficult year for him. The Giro was not the style we expected because of the weather conditions.
“If he was in good shape in normal conditions, it could have been a different situation. That will make him more hungry to prove himself next year, and maybe in the Tour too.
“The other teams this year were always testing Chris Froome to see if they could find any cracks, but he rode magnificently well, especially when he found himself alone.”
“When we see the route for next year we’ll have a clearer idea of what Sky might plan, but before the route’s announced it is difficult to say.”
Best Tour ever?
Organisers promised the hundredth edition of the Tour de France would be the best yet, and Kelly was able to observe it all first-hand in his role as a commentator for Eurosport.
And he believes it was certainly a high quality Tour despite the margin of pre-race favourite Froome’s victory.
“I think maybe it was not the best ever, but it was a really good Tour,” he said. “The way Froome was riding – it was scary that he could win so comfortably.
“He totally dominated, the way they were riding and with Richie Porte as well it looked like it could be a total domination and we were all thinking it’s over after stage eight.
“Then of course the next day it opened up again and you thought the other teams had a chance. I think the other teams challenged this year – Movistar were impressive, Saxo-Bank were impressive but they both lacked a big leader.
I think maybe it was not the best ever, but it was a really good Tour. The way Froome was riding – it was scary that he could win so comfortably
“Alberto Contador was not as good as we had hoped to be, it would have been a different situation altogether if he had managed to get a win over Froome, such as in the individual time trial, it would have been very different.
“Movistar were very impressive – considering all of that it was interesting and, while remembering that Chris Froome was always in control, there was still a fight for second and third.”
Is the Tourminator unstoppable?
Another classification won in style by the pre-race favourite was the race for the green jersey, with Sagan retaining the title he won last year.
Kelly, who also topped the points classification four times at the Vuelta and bagged 21 Grand Tour stage victories during his illustrious career, certainly knows what it takes to win the maillot vert however.
And he believes the other riders are still capable of stopping the Slovakian sprint star.
All the real fast men – so that’s Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and now, of course, Marcel Kittel – they were unlucky in the beginning and that always played to Peter Sagan
He explained: “This year it went wrong for the sprinters. They needed to get up there in the sprints in the earlier part of the days when they missed out.
“All the real fast men – so that’s Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and now, of course, Marcel Kittel – they were unlucky in the beginning and that always played to Peter Sagan. He is always going to pick up points and the others missed out on big occasions.
“He is going to be a difficult one in the future because of his all-round ability. You only have to look at the stage in Albi, where the intermediate sprint was after a climb. He won points there and then he went and won the stage too.
“But again. Next year you have to wait and see the route. There could be five days of totally flat racing and then in that case it will be perfect for the sprinters. I certainly don’t think Mark Cavendish’s chances of winning the green jersey again are gone.”
Next stop – Yorkshire
The next stage of the Grand Boucle will take place in England, with Leeds hosting the Grand Dèpart in just shy of 49 weeks’ time.
And Kelly, having enjoyed first-hand this year’s Tour rolling out in Corsica for the first time, he hopes for more of the same Yorkshire next year.
“I think Yorkshire will have good racing,” he added. “The roads and the countryside will be nice for racing.
“We are always saying, ‘how can they better last time?’ – why do they have to better it? The style of racing in Corsica, that’s Tour de France ingredients.
“Having no prologue and going straight into it made for good racing. If we get something the same next year, then it will be a good race. That will be sufficient.”
Sean Kelly, four times a winner of the maillot vert, was co-commentator for British Eurosport throughout the 2013 Tour de France