Richie Porte out of Giro;Wiggins still not in
Richie Porte has been withdrawn from Team Sky’s squad for next months Giro d’Italia, due to a lack of preparation following a bout of gastroenteritis that saw him pull out of both Tirreno-Adriatico & the Tour of Catalunya. The rider will now concentrate on being first lieutenant for Chris Froome in the Tour de France, kicking off in Yorkshire on the 5th July.
Tim Kerrison, Sky’s Head of Performance Support commented – “Richie was always going to ride the Tour de France this year, but this now means that he can fully focus on being in the best possible shape without the added challenge of having ride the Giro as well.”
Many would speculate that this could see the return of Sir Bradley Wiggins to the race he retired from last year, even with his stated intention to promote cycling in the US through his involvement with the Tour of California – May 11-18. However Team Sky confirmed last night that the rider would not be taking part in the Giro:
The rider’s role this season has been seen as somewhat of a mystery, with Team Sky’s major goals in 2014 being well reported – Chris Froome in the Tour de France, Richie Porte had planned to make his first lead role in a Grand Tour for the Giro (the Vuelta traditionally being a reshuffle after these results) and the spring classic riders – Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas etc – looking for podium places also. In several interviews Wiggins has stated that the Paris-Roubaix – the most prestigious one-day race in cycling, taking place this weekend – was one of his main targets this season, followed by a support role at the Tour de France. “I’m looking forward to going back to the Tour as an ex-winner, doing myself justice and the team justice, and being part of that. A lot of it was coming to terms with [the Tour win] – I left home as an unknown and five weeks later came back as one of the most famous people in the country. I’m not carrying the burden that I did carry for four years of is he going to win the Tour?”
[Video – Just didn’t go to plan for Wiggins – pulled out with chest infection on stage 11]
Even though Wiggins appears to be excited at the prospects of going for the win at the 257km Paris Roubaix next weekend – “Once the fighting is done in the early [cobbled] sectors, it’s about spending long periods of time on your own, which I’m good at. It gives me a different dimension” – Fabian Cancellara, 3 time winner & aiming for the double from Sunday’s Tour of Flanders win, questioned whether he could be a real challenger – “Wiggins? Why? Of course he’s welcome. Everyone is welcome to Roubaix. Everyone. Even [Nairo] Quintana is welcome” – [Quintana is a 57kg climber who won the polka dot jersey at the Tour & placed second].
Apart from his well know Tour de France victory (aside from his Olympic victories) Wiggins has won the 2012 editions of Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and the Criterium du Dauphine stage races; but has only placed 25th in the Roubaix back in 2009 [raced it 3 times]. Even with his preparation in the Scheldeprijs race on April 9 – which favours sprinters like Mark Cavendish, who has won it 3 times, because it features smooth pave rather than the punishing cobble sectors of ‘Hell of the North’ – Wiggins will have to hope for the last 60 to 70 kilometres being ‘like a time trial’ [which he told Cycling Weekly last month]. However don’t completely discount the rider, after he improved massively in his climbing ability for the 2012 Tour and pulled out a very respectable 32nd in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday (notably just behind cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar, who is one of the favourites for Paris-Roubaix).
Looking at the 2014 Giro d’Italia route, from May 9 to June 1, there is a 46.4km time trial from Barbaresco to Barolo, but with six summit finishes in the second half of the 21 stage race – Santuario di Oropa (1174m) in Piedmont, Montecampione (1744m) north of Bergamo, Val Martello (2059m), Panarotta (1780m) and Zoncolan (1730m) – I can’t seen Wiggins as a possible last minute selection for Team Sky’s GC challenge – particularly how he has put on 3-4kgs specially for Roubaix.
I think it would be more likely that Team Sky could put Geraint Thomas in the limelight for the Giro – he has hinted on stage racing from 2015 with a bit of work in the mountain stages – particularly after Shane Sutton, British Cycling’s Performance Director, mentioned only 3 weeks ago that he was “in a prime position to lead his own team and become a future tour winner”. He has certainly not harmed his chances with a stellar performance in the Paris-Nice stage race only to crash in the penultimate stage, a 3rd place in the E3 Harelbeke and eighth in last week’s Tour of Flanders. Would it be rash to say he might be pulled out of the support role – for Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boassen Hagen – that had been planned for Paris-Roubaix?