As Wiggins tackles the challenge of the Giro with it's even harder climbs than the TdF, or at least climbs that are less suited to Wiggins' style at least, he will have the aid of a very complete set of helpers. There are no side agendas, no sprinters, no stagehunters no distractions. At least not as long as the captain is in contention. Should he falter or abandon for some reason there are plenty of Plan B options here to salvage the race should the need arise. In fact, most other teams would be happy to field the other eight as a very respectable Plan A. So who do we have:
Rouleurs, Guys to get Wiggo through the flat stages and do the hard work of controlling the race when the time comes:
- Danny Pate - One of those that can sit on the front and grind away virtually endlessly. Did the same job for Cav on HTC and is probably one of the top 3-4 guys for that type of work along with Bert Grabsch and one or two more.
- Christian Knees - Once thought to perhaps become a winning stageracer himself Knees has settled into the Jens Voigt role of tireless worker. Really a strong allrounder but mostly used for the heavy work, at least on Sky who are stacked with even greater talent for the mountains.
- Salvatore Puccio - Perhaps the weakest link in this squad? Puccio has already ridden the full classics program as a support rider. Presumably the team want an Italian presence for the Giro and the second year pro is certainly strong enough to be useful if he is still fresh so this isn't a charity selection by any means.
-Allrounders. Two guys who can be useful in any terrain.
- Kanstantin Siutsou - Took an impressive mountain stage-win in Trentino the other day and is a great climber. Otoh he's been chasing breaks and setting up sprints for Cavendish when that has been asked of him too. There's very little he can't do.
- Xabier Zandio .- Zandio has been riding GC support for some of the best for over ten years and not without reason.
- Dario Cataldo - This is a guy who has been touted as a future contender in the Giro. He's won the BabyGiro and he won the hardest stage in the Vuelta last year. And here he is probably the third best mountain domestique. Excuse me while I pick my jaw up from the floor.
- Rigoberto Uran Uran Uran Uran - Seventh last year in the Giro. Seventh! And he's just helper no 2. Because....
- Sergio Henao - Has been absolutely on fire this year. Two mountain stagewins and podiums in Fleche and Pais Vasco. Had his TT been stronger he would probably have won two stageraces this year too. Finished 9th in the Giro last year in his debut-season in Europe. The two Colombians are no doubt the strongest mountain helpers anyone has in this race but I suppose it remains to be seen if they can be as useful as pacemakers for the less explosive Wiggins as they are as climbers on their own. Judging by the warmup races it looks like the answer is clearly yes but the Giro is a different beast.
The most notable absentees compared to last years Tour are of course Froome and Porte and to some degree Boasson Hagen. These are all held in reserve for July but I find it hard to say that this team would be much stronger with them. Cataldo for example has looked like awe-inspiring in both Tirreno and Trentino and could very well be the revelation of this Giro even if he is resigned to the helper role for the full three weeks. The whole purpose of this squad is quite clearly to make sure the three weeks play out on Wiggins's terms. To see to it that the race is hard when he wants to and controlled and even-paced when he prefers that. It will be up to other teams to come up with ways to disrupt that but I have to say I can't really see the chinks in Sky's armor right now? Aggressive riding in "unexpected" places like Nibali exhibited at Tirreno looks like the most promising idea at this point but the potential gains from that type of strategy is perhaps limited over three weeks. I suppose there is a case to be made for it after Contador's Vuelta strike though if the contenders can avoid losing too much time to Wiggo in the TT's .
One problem is that none of the major contenders are on teams that have multiple cards to play. Had that been the case we could hope for them to try and wear down the Sky support but unless people are prepared to cooperate a little across team-borders chances are we might get a very conservative race, even in the high mountains. My theory is that Sky's strategy isn't merely to win the race but also to try and do it in as comfortable manner as humanly possible. If Wiggins can expend as little energy as possible by controlling the mountain stages and merely focus on taking time in the timetrials that increases his chances exponentially to go fresh into the Tour and take the double . Wouldn't that be wonderful for Froome? The most important thing is that the team wins, right?