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Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 1; Leeds – Harrogate, 191 km. Kittel from Sagan!

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Welcome to VeloVeritas‘ coverage of the Tour de France 2014.

Stage one looked like a “truce” to VV – except for that finale, of course.

We give our views on Cav and a few other aspects of the 2014 “Grand Boucle” (with a bittie to Yorkshire tacked on, that is.)

Cavendish says ‘sorry’

You’d have to be devoid of a soul not to feel sorry for the man – even more so when he puts his hand up and says; “my fault!”

Last year he wasn’t at his best in le Tour, despite the stage wins.

He’d finished a very hard Giro – aren’t they all? – and then rode the Tour.

To finish a Grand Tour you have to go “deep” no matter who you are and really deep if you’re no climber – remember that sometimes the gruppetto is on the road 45 minutes more than the winner and that may be the case on at least half-a-dozen stages.

One of the reasons that Cipo stayed so fast for so long was that he rarely dragged his big torso all the way to the finish of a Grand Tour. Usually calling it a day before the mega mountain pain started.

Le Tour de France 2014
Mark Cavendish rides through Ilkley in the wheels of his team. Photo©Martin Williamson

As is the modern trend, Kittel hasn’t ridden a killing programme, picking his races very carefully and treading a line between lacking race fitness and staying fresh.

If Stage One is anything to go by – he’s got it just right.

Le Tour de France 2014
Kittel takes Stage One. Photo©ASO

Cav has ridden a similarly lighter programme to keep him sharper – all in vain, now.

Le Tour de France 2014
Cav knows it’s serious. Photo©AP

One of our VV pundits reckons Cav should have sussed he wasn’t going to win, backed off and lived to fight another day – but then he wouldn’t be the best sprinter in the world.

Or should that be second best ?

Le Tour de France 2014
Chris Froome is going to have his work cut out over the next three weeks. Photo©AAP

The Mod and the Dog or ‘who rules at Sky?’

To get to the root of this one you have to go all the way back to 2011 and the Vuelta.

At the start of that race Froome was “just another rider;” by the finish, when he stepped on to that podium he was the most sought after rider on the planet with anything between 13 and all of the Pro Tour squads after him, depending on who you listen to.

But he chose to re-sign for Sky.

When he made that choice he knew that Bradley Wiggins was ‘the special one’ and that the man from Kilburn would lead the Tour team.

Attacking your team leader – as Froome did in the 2012 Tour – isn’t cricket and Wiggins had every right to be displeased about Froome’s move.

I’m a better climber and could win if I was let off the leash” was what Froome was saying.

If he really wanted to prove that he shouldn’t have re-signed with Sky.

Last year, Wiggins struggled with motivation in the rain and guerrilla warfare of the Giro before recording a DNF.

Froome duly triumphed in le Tour as unchallenged leader of Sky.

Wiggins saved his 2013 season with a magnificent time trial win in the Tour of Poland, the GC in the Tour of Britain and silver in the World Time Trial Championship.

This season, Wiggins head was back on straight and from the start he said he wanted to ride the Tour in his home nation but in a support role to Froome.

He rode well in Paris-Roubaix and won the Tour of California.

But it was apparent that Froome didn’t want Wiggins anywhere near his Tour team – releasing choice tit bits from his autobiography which painted Wiggins in a less than flattering light.

Froome knows Wiggins better than most and knew his statements would negatively impact upon the Londoner’s often fragile psyche.

It demonstrates the clout that Froome has as a Grand Tour winner that he’s allowed to put divisive, negative comments about a team mate into print with no consequences from his team management.

What also surprises is that Wiggins wasn’t told early that he wouldn’t be on le Tour – he was left to figure that out by the fact that he wasn’t on the right training camps with the right guys.

There are faults on both side but personally, I think Brailsford made the correct decision – Wiggins in the team would divide it before a pedal is turned.

And if Froome didn’t have that streak of ruthlessness then he wouldn’t be a Grand Tour winner.

And as for having Brad on the team for ‘insurance’ – like Mrs. Thatcher used to say; ‘there can be no fall back plan!’

And with sixth spot in the bunch sprint Froome has already delivered a huge statement of intent