Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Could Siutsou Crash Unravel Wiggin's Tour Again?

As is so often the case in the Tour de France, the early stages are often marred by crashes as riders nervously fight for positioning within the bunch. Nobody knows this better than Bradley Wiggins who crashed out early in last years Tour with a broken collarbone. Today's stage saw a couple of crashes, one within the final 3km that held up some race favourites, including Bradley Wiggins, though they were given the same finish time as Peter Sagan as is customary following an accident in the final 3 kilometres. Worse for team Sky and in particular Bradley Wiggins though was an earlier crash which saw Kanstantsin Siutsou abandon the Tour with a fractured left tibia. The question is, how will this effect Wiggins and his chances of success...

Siutsou of Belarus was a new addition to Team Sky for the 2012 season, already hailed as one of the most talented all-rounders in the peloton, he came in on the back of an 8th place in the 2011 Dauphine and a top 10 placing in the Giro d'Italia. A very strong rider on the flat his 6ft, 69kg build doesn't slow him down any in the mountains either as his performance in the Giro would suggest, he isn't a super strong climber but a tireless workhorse with the legs to get up the steep stuff all the same.

He didn't waste any time fitting in with the Sky Team and instantly struck up a good pairing with Bradley Wiggins - for whom he is now a wingman of considerable proportions, one indeed Wiggins would rather not leave behind. In fact Siutsou has been present in all of Wiggins major victories this year: Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie and the Dauphine and has become an invaluable domestique in his support of Wiggins. Rather than out and out climbing support which comes in the form of Chris Froome and Richie Porte, Siutsou provides shelter for Wiggins within the peloton using his large frame to block the wind and protect from crashes and bashes in the shape of other riders, then when they hit the slopes Siutsou will drive it along on the front in an effort to make everybodys legs burn before dropping off in the latter kilometres of a long climb leaving Froome and Porte to take over. Its a formula that works, its no coincidence that Siutsou has been there in all of Bradley Wiggins victorious performances.

Dave Brailsford has been quick to play it down, other teams will likely be looking for any weak spot in the Sky camp:

"It's a setback but not a devastating setback, he's a very good climber so he can do that first part in the key mountain stages. But to be honest the climbing department, as it were, is probably where we're at our strongest. It's a real shame, but not the end of the world. It's like boxing -- as long as you're still fighting you can knock the other fella out. That's the approach you've got to take to it."

Wiggins will still have his key support in the high mountains with Froome and Porte, but to get there he will need looking after in the bunch. He looked a little vulnerable being caught up behind today's late crash, certainly not the positioning he would like and of course by this time Siutsou had already abandoned. A coincidence? Maybe. Michael Rodgers and Kristian Knees will now be responsible for keeping Wiggins well looked after in the bunch - they possess many of the same traits as Suitsou with similar builds and work ethic but Wiggins support in the stages that will be key to him winning the tour is now down effectively to a six man team, with Eisel looking after Cavendish in the mountain stages. Six men is good, Seven and your best wingman would have been better.

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