The biggest names in the Dolphin

With respect to the bairns of this year’s Giro, it wasn’t the most stellar field. Nairo Quintana is a big name, but once Joaquim Rodriguez had pulled out, he was racing against riders we were all fairly certain were inferior. You can quibble with that and point to Rigoberto Uran, but I’d say he merely confirmed his status as being a worthy rider who’s always ever-so-slightly off the pace.

The Tour, however? There’s a reason why it’s the biggest race of the year. This chapter of the year is set in France and features very familiar characters.

Froome, Contador and Nibali

These three are all riding the Dauphiné (literally, ‘the dolphin‘) which starts tomorrow. It’s a mountainous stage race, they’re Tour contenders and the race is in France a month before the big ‘un. It’s easy to see why this race is of interest.

It’s even more interesting to me this year, because I’ve just finished cycling the length of France with my dad (who’s 70). Now I too know what it’s like to travel great distances along French roads by bike. In summary: hills go on, roundabouts are admirably well-decorated and it’s surprisingly hard to get a morning coffee north of Provence.

Neither of us will be racing this year, however. And nor will…

Bradley Wiggins

There’s an outside chance that Sky are playing some elaborate game by pretending that Bradley Wiggins isn’t going to ride the Tour. I doubt it though. I can’t see why they’d do that. They like things to be nice and predictable and his late inclusion would instigate kerfuffle. Sky hate all forms of rumples, irregularities and imperfections. They even wear black so that you can’t see the creases.

No, it seems like Sir Wiggo may be suffering from having been a bit of a diva in years gone by. When you’re winning the Tour, you can be indulged. When you’re looking to take on the ‘third-to-last to peel off on a mountain stage’ role, your unpredictable moods and tense relationship with Chris Froome suddenly seem more trouble than they’re worth. Why not instead opt for the blank, stainless steel metronomy of Vasil Kiryienka, a man who has heard of emotions, but long ago thought to himself: ‘Why risk it?’

I guess the new plan is for Wiggins to ride the Vuelta and then he may well be off to Orica GreenEDGE. He’ll also be riding the Tour de Suisse from next Saturday. He might be out to make a point, or he might just have a megasulk.