BRADLEY WIGGINS, fourth overall this year, was not in Paris for the launch of the 2010 Tour de France route. Instead he’s racing at the Sun Tour in Australia.
Had he been in the auditorium, it’s likely his heart would have sunk just a little. This year’s Tour route gave the 29-year-old British rider a great introduction to life as a grand tour contender. The 2010 race presents a wake-up call.
With everything hinging on the penultimate stage on Mont Ventoux, the Alps and Pyrenees did not pack their usual punch. The summit finish at Verbier was difficult, but not in the same league as Alpe d’Huez, for example.
And the Pyrenees were softened considerably. The stage to Arcalis was long and hard, but there was not a succession of mountain cols to scale. The stage which went over the Aspin and Tourmalet lacked bite because there was a huge flat run-in to the finish.
Next year will be a different story. The Pyrenees are brutal, with successive days of climbing and mountains to cross back-to-back. It will be the biggest test yet of Wiggins’s climbing ability.
Another factor that goes against him is the lack of time trialling kilometres in which to gain time over the other climbers.
Like Lance Armstrong, Wiggins will have reason to be extremely nervous at the sight of the route through the Pyrenees.
Armstrong has plenty of experience in this terrain, but he will be almost 39 years old next July. The repeated climbing will test him to the limit and with the cols coming in quick succession he will be vulnerable to repeated attacks. In fact, Armstrong looked quite weary simply talking to reporters about the route.
This year, with so few real opportunities to gain time, the Tour was very much a waiting game. Next year invites the climbers to get on with it. It is far from a delicate approach to the Pyrenees either. There are obstacles plotted all along the way, from Belgium to the Alps.