And then there were four. One of the five Brits, Mark Cavendish left the Tour at Tignes, a few hours ahead of schedule, when he climbed off after being dropped early on the second Alpine stage. T-Mobile had always planned to pull him out at Tignes after giving the 22-year-old a crash course in what the Tour de France is all about.
‘Crash’ course is probably an apt phrase, too, given how much time the Manxman spent picking himself up off the deck. He even enjoyed the dubious honour of being last man overall – the Lanterne Rouge – for a day.
But his self-confidence and the faith his team managers have in him have not been dented a jot. In fact, even though he didn’t win a stage – his best placings were a ninth and a tenth – the rumours are he’s increased his earning potential significantly this year, courtesy of his two stage wins in the Tour of Catalonia.
The only disappointment, given that T-Mobile’s managers have been so encouraging about Cavendish, was that his team-mate Marcus Burghardt sprinted for himself a couple of times, instead of dedicating himself to lead-out duties.
Geraint Thomas had his eyes opened by the severity of the stage to Tignes, getting dropped on the second category Col de Tamie after 46 kilometres and riding on his own until he caught the ‘autobus’ on the early stages of the climb to Tignes. Good job he didn’t opt to slip
back with Robbie McEwen, when the Australian slipped out of the bunch – McEwen finished more than 20 minutes outside the time limit and was eliminated.
The Welshman is determined to get to Paris and has enjoyed getting up to the front to lead-out his Barloworld team-mate Robbie Hunter.
Bradley Wiggins stole the headlines of the week, spending almost all of stage six out front by himself. He enjoyed his day in the sun, although he likened riding through stretches of empty French countryside between villages to a solo training run.
He even had time to wave when he spotted our Cycle Sport banner on the side of the road.
At the finish he was usual calm, understated self. The attack won’t have done his chances of attracting a new team any harm. Rumours are that he’s close to putting pen to paper with a team a bit higher up the food chain than Cofidis but it’s all very hush-hush at the moment.
Another Brit on the move appears to be David Millar. His contract with Saunier Duval is up at the end of the year and he’s strongly rumoured to be bound for Jonathan Vaughters’ Slipstream squad. In fact, on rest day morning in Tignes Millar sat down for a coffee and a chat with JV, and ITV commentators Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett. Millar’s highlight of the week was when he tried a surprise late attack in the final kilometre of the stage to Autun.
And Charly Wegelius discovered what a cruel mistress the Tour de France can be. Day one in the Alps saw the flyweight Liquigas man find his climbing legs in style, sticking with the main group of favourites over the Col de la Colombiere. Next day he crashed early on, though his injuries were not too serious, he was knocked out of his stride and was the last man over the line in the ‘autobus’ more than 39 minutes behind Michael Rasmussen.