Team Sky may have dominated the previous two editions of the Tour de France with both Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome emerging as victors in the three week race. However, for the 2014 renewal, the ill-fortune of the team has continued the pattern of recent weeks with their main contender Richie Porte failing to maintain contact with the leaders during the final climb on Stage 13 to Chamrousse.
After Froome crashed out of contention on the roads of Northern France, Porte assumed the role of team leader for the Sky sponsored squad and he had been an instrumental rider in helping Froome to the win the 2013 Tour de France. Prior to Friday’s Stage 13, he occupied second place behind Vincenzo Nibali and was viewed as a lively outsider for at least a podium position.
As the riders climbed the 18.2 km road to Chamrousse, near to Grenoble, Porte visibly wilted in the French heat as Nibali cemented his position in the yellow jersey. The performance of Porte perhaps typified the fortunes of Team Sky in recent weeks.
After a solid start in the Criterium du Dauphine, a later crash seemed to affect the form of Froome and he disappeared from the leaderboard on the final day. Meanwhile, Wiggins failed to finish the Tour de Suisse following an early accident and was subsequently not selected for the 2014 Tour de France. Internal rivalry and politics within the squad was deemed to be a prevalent factor.
Only this week Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was dismissed from Team Sky following his acquittal of doping offences committed prior to signing for the squad. He has been stripped of his 2012 Tour of Britain title but the recruitment of the Devon born cyclist is another case of bad publicity for team manager Sir Dave Brailsford.
Until this season, Team Sky had achieved smooth progression in their ultimate aim of nurturing riders capable of winning the Grand Tours of cycling with two successive Tour de France victories as proof of their successful methods. Chris Froome may yet contest the Vuela a Espana and ultimately produce a commendable performance, but 2014 will generally be viewed as a setback for the ambitions of the team.
The team failed to mount a serious challenge in the Giro d’Italia and Porte and Welshman Gerraint Thomas remain best placed riders in the current Le Tour standings at 16th and 18th respectively.
Perhaps the best result possible for Team Sky in the current Tour de France is to win one of the more prestigious remaining stages with all hopes of a general classification victory now extinguished. Only then will they be able to salvage some positive news from a season which appears to be unravelling as the summer progresses.