Wiggins, Froome, Team Sky and the 2012 Tour de France

One of the saddest days of the summer: The Tour de France is over for another year.  Some in the media and in online commentaries have complained that this year’s tour was boring.  They tried to sell the idea that Team Sky was torn by internal competition between Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.  They claimed that Froome humiliated Wiggins by waiting for him on the final climb on the Peyragudes.  That’s not how it looked from here.

(Analyze, plan, test, evaluate, revise) iterate, train, execute.  Win.  That’s what Team Sky’s Tour de France looked like to me.  I thought it was brilliant. But more than that, I thought the entire Sky team carried out their Tour de France with integrity, dignity and class.

Bradley Wiggins showed himself to be everything you would want in a team and race leader.  He didn’t just ride for himself, he rode for his team.  When was the last time you saw the man in the yellow jersey at the front of the entire peloton going under the 1K flag on the final lap around the Champs-Elysees leading out his team’s sprinter?  Rather than ride safely in the peloton Wiggins performed the same service for Cavendish on Stage 18’s sprint finish the day before the final time trial that Wiggins needed to cement his overall victory.

When Cadel Evans (who was still in contention as one of Wiggins’ main rivals) flatted because some moron threw nails on the road on the Mur de Péguère, Wiggins tried to slow the peloton down so that Evans could catch up.

In his press comments Wiggins always praised his team.  While this is the standard response riders give to the press, Wiggins appeared to mean it, unlike some others who sound like they are reciting a memorized script.  Moreover, Wiggins appeared to be genuinely pleased on the road when his teammates did well.  While he showed triumphant emotion at the finish of the penultimate day’s time trial when he locked up the Tour victory, he never engaged in self-conscious displays of ego or self-aggrandizement. Compare Wiggins demeanor with Thomas Voeckler’s seemingly self-absorbed “Adore Me. Worship Me” freewheel to the line in his terrific Stage 16 victory, or Peter Sagan’s self-conscious what-victory-display-should-I-do-today-to-draw-attention-to-myself behavior during the first week of the Tour.

Wiggins’ behavior reflected that of his team.  After a foolish tweet by Chris Froome’s girlfriend, the media reacted like a bunch of hysterical little girls with their panties in a twist about internal division within Team Sky or about Sky sacrificing Froome for Wiggins.  Team Sky responded in a way that I wish more people and organizations would when the media creates ridiculous tempests in teapots.  They basically told the media they were being silly and then disengaged and ignored them.  The TV commentators’ indignant and self-righteous “We’re not making this up!” response was hilarious and seemed an apt demonstration of just how lame the media can be.

As for Froome, when asked about his role on the team, he appeared to answer honestly when he said he thought he had a chance to win the Tour, not taking that chance and possibly becoming the first British rider to win the Tour was a personal sacrifice, and it was a sacrifice he was going to make because he was there to ride for the team and the team was there to win the tour with Wiggins.  Of much more importance, he rode the truth of what he said.  Some interpreted his waiting for Wiggins on the Peyragudes as Froome humiliating Wiggins by showing the world that he was the stronger rider.  What I saw was a loyal rider supporting his team leader and doing exactly what he said he was there to do.  After watching him in this Tour de France, if I was putting together a professional cycling team I would take one Chris Froome over ten Frank Schlecks on the basis of personal demeanor and integrity alone.

I thought that throughout the 2012 Tour de France Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Team Sky behaved with irreproachable dignity, integrity and class. They gave professional cycling exactly what it needed after years of doping allegations and controversy. Brilliant.

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