Just twelve months ago David Brailsford and Team Sky were promising to shake up the cycling world with a new approach to cycling. Now, after a pretty piss-poor season in which a minor jersey in an end-of-season minor race is seen as something worth bragging about, Brailsford is promising a new new approach.
Among the issues to be corrected in 2011 is, obviously, the Bradley Problem. Just why was Bradley Wiggins so shit in the Tour this year? "He was under a lot of pressure," says Brailsford, "there was a weight of expectation which was hard for everyone." The weight of expectation! Those poor stupid, deluded fans, who were lead by the nose by the hype-meisters of British cycling journalism who were lead by the nose by .... oh, yeah, that'd be Team Sky that would, who cereated all the expectation and the pressure in the first place, wouldn't it? Gonna be fun to watch how that one works out next year.
Of course, Wiggins wasn't the only dissappointment in the Tour for Team Sky. So what other excuses can Brailsford pull from his well-thumbed Very Big Book Of Reasons We're Rubbish? "The guys all gave it 100% but Edvald Boasson Hagen had lost two months racing before the Tour, Simon Gerrans crashed out, Brad's performance was where it was, and plan B didn't quite come off."
Team Sky had a Plan B? That's news. I thought they were like the A-Team, there is no plan B. Certainly watching the Tour there was no sign of a Plan B, not until around about the Tourmalet, when someone seems to have realised that Wiggins really was a waste of space and it was time to send other riders up the road hunting for stage wins. Except they'd run out of stages to win.
One lesson I reckon Team Sky has to learn is to ditch the Peters' Principle. Steve Peters, Team Sky's 'mind mechanic' probably did more damage to the team's overall performance during this year's Tour than Wiggins' super shit efforts on the bike did. From the very first climb of any significance it was obvious that Wiggins wouldn't hack in in the mountains, but Peters and his power of positive thinking shtick kept everyone - especially Wiggins himself - believing that this was just a bad day at the office and the podium was still on.
The more the mountains went up and Wiggins went down the GC rankings, the more positive the thinking seemed to become, with Wiggins sounding ever more ridicuolus as he talked about being 'in the ballpark' come come Paris. Until finally even Wiggins gave up on the psychobabble, opened his eyes, saw the world of trouble he was in and stopped dreaming of the podium, stopped dreaming of top ten and started hoping for one good last time trial (in which he was hopeless). Speaking of that moment of realisation, Wiggins told one journalist that it was like having a weight lifted from his shoulders. If only it'd been lifted sooner maybe the whole team wouldn't have drowned.
I'm not saying there's no role for people like Peters in cycling. There is. Most bike races are lost in the head. VO2 Max and anaerobic thresholds and the like will get you so far, but if you ain't got it going on in your head, well you might as well give up. And without doubt Peters has been a valuable member fo the Team GB squad, where his spanking the monkey routines have helped riders through a track racing programme. But it just doesn't seem to me that Peters' patented shtick translates perfectly to the road. And if Team Sky really are going to change their old 'new' approach, that's one area that needs immediate focus. Especially with a rider like Wiggins, who more than most seems to need to be poked and prodded and pushed in order to get the most out of him.