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Stephen Roche backs Bradley Wiggins to win Tour de France

Updated: Tuesday, 17 Jul 2012 13:11 | Comments

Stephen Roche believes that this year's Tour de France is Bradley Wiggins' to lose
Stephen Roche believes that this year's Tour de France is Bradley Wiggins' to lose

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Five days of racing stand between Bradley Wiggins and Tour de France glory and Stephen Roche, the champion 25 years' ago, finds it difficult to see beyond the Briton as winner of the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday.

Wiggins was set to begin tomorrow's 197km 16th stage from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon with an advantage of two minutes five seconds over Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, with the nearest hostile rival Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who sits 2mins 23secs adrift.

Two Pyrenees stages and Saturday's 53.5km time-trial to Chartres will decide the Tour winner - and Wiggins is imperious against the clock.

Hotchillee ambassador and 1987 Tour champion Roche said: "Nibali has to gain at least four minutes now on Bradley to win the Tour.

"He needs two minutes, at least, going into the time-trial.

"Without spoiling the suspense, the guys that are there I can't see them putting Bradley in difficulty, unless he has a really, really bad day."

Although only 3:19 adrift in fourth, defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) is out of contention at today's second rest day, according to Roche.

Roche said: "I don't think he has the condition to put Bradley in difficulty."

One potential stumbling block for Wiggins is the presence of Froome in the top two.

Wiggins bridged a gap to Nibali's group on stage 11 to La Toussuire before Froome forged forward again, without the yellow jersey on his wheel.

The move created much debate, with many believing superior climber Froome should be Team Sky's leader.

Roche, though, thinks Froome's actions were out of enthusiasm, rather than an attack on Wiggins' leadership.

Roche said: "It was an acceleration and a half-hearted attack. It wasn't an attack on Wiggins.

"He accelerated quickly. I don't think he realised Wiggins wasn't able to follow him. It wasn't an attack on the jersey."

The acceleration showed Wiggins' vulnerability - he can ride at high tempo, but can struggle with short, sharp accelerations.

Roche anticipates Team Sky will aim to keep the pace high, limiting the prospect of attacks, in the two Pyrenean mountain stages to come.

It is anticipated there will be more summit finishes and challenging mountains in the 100th edition of Le Tour in 2013 and Froome has already stated his claim to be leader.

It would be unusual for a defending champion not to be Tour leader, but Roche believes Wiggins, if in that position, may be happy to defer to Froome.

"It's a luxury having two leaders of this calibre in one team," Roche said.

"They could play off each other very, very nicely. Bradley knows if a route is not good enough for him, he knows.

"This year he knew from the start this was the Tour for him, with not as many mountain top finishes and 100km of time-trials."

Froome could have greater leadership responsibility at a rival squad, but has two years remaining on his Team Sky contract and Roche advises him not to move.

"It would be an error for Froome to leave Sky," Roche added.

"He is maybe not mature or experienced enough to be a unique leader."

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