17 May 2013

Why Wiggo pulling out of the Giro isn’t all bad news

It’s a miserable old thing, being forced to pull out of a race or a game because of illness. Don’t be tempted into smelling a convenient rat here: Wiggins and other riders have been complaining for several days that there’s a bug doing the rounds of the peleton.

Ever wondered why the Tour de France and multiple Olympic champ declines to shake hands with all and sundry who queue up for autographs? Well, cycling just ain’t like football or cricket, where you can still play for a half, or bowl a few overs, even if you’re not feeling entirely ship shape. You just can’t ride a bike for 250km day in day out unless the engine is in top condition. And those pesky germs are everywhere.

You may have heard the riders referring to something called the GC in a kind of misty-eyed aspirational daze – that’s the rider who finishes the entire course in the fastest time overall. Well, Wiggins had laboured on for the past few days thinking he might shake his lurgie. But after losing more time in yesterday’s stage it was all too obvious – his personal chase for the GC was over.

Now, if Wiggins wasn’t team leader – if he was a mere domestique or bottle-carrier – there might be some point in him toiling on. But his role is win or nothing. And if he can’t win here, he needs to be fit and feisty for his next job – which is to, ahem, fetch bottles in the Tour de France.

But for followers of the soap operas that festoon all the best sporting events, Bradley Wiggins pulling out of the Giro D’Italia isn’t all bad news. Because it means the rivalry with fellow Sky rider Chris Froome over the next big race – the Tour de France – will only intensify.

Froome is, of course, the team leader, but Wiggins has made it very clear he isn’t going to relinquish his Tour title lightly. While the defending champ has promised he’ll do for Froome what Froome did for him last year – returning the favour of dutiful domestique – the slightest slip, the slightest sign of, say, Froome developing a chest infection and losing sight of the leading riders, and Wiggins will be agitating behind the scenes for Sky to give him back the lead.

OK, so this might be the cycling equivalent of explaining catennaccio and 4-4-2 to the uninitiated, but it’s the backdrop to what’s going to be the sporting drama of the year.

Follow Keme Nzerem on Twitter: @nzerem_c4