Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.
Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters a great deal.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
Whether or not, as popularised by The Simpsons, the Chinese use the same word to describe a crisis as they do for an opportunity (they don’t) and whether or not you think Team Sky are in the throes of a crisis at all (they’re not), the 100th Giro d’Italia has, most assuredly, not gone the way the British-registered team had planned.
Having been criticised in the past for putting all their Grand Tour eggs in a single basket – see the examples of Wiggins and Froome at the 2010 and 2014 Tours – it’s particularly unfortunate, on the occasion when they do bring more than one leader, for both A and B (or G and M, if you prefer) to be involved in the same crash.
Having reclaimed a chunk of time on most of the other GC contenders in the race’s first time-trial, Geraint Thomas fought on, but was forced to withdraw with his injuries before stage 13.
Now, their closest man overall is Philip Deignan, a distant 42 minutes down. But out of misfortune, Team Sky now have an opportunity to tear up the Giro and their conservative stereotype, with a team of footloose climbers, such as Diego Rosa, Kenny Elissonde and Sebastian Henao.
Mikel Landa was one of the most entertaining bike racers in the world before he joined Team Sky. He has since looked a shadow of his Astana self, but here is an opportunity to show racing instincts that may have been stifled by his team’s previous conservative game plans – providing that his condition wasn’t compromised in the same crash on the road to Blockhaus.
Even if they fail to win a stage, getting into breakaways in the race’s final week would show that Team Sky are more than the single-minded stormtroopers that many take them for; that they are prepared to place risky bets even when they have less than a 90 per cent chance of paying out; that they are able to animate and add excitement to races, not merely control them.
It’s been suggested that Brailsford et al don’t care about PR, or that they feel winning is all the PR they need. But if they ever believed that, then the last twelve months ought to have disavowed them of the notion. The TUEs, the jiffy bag and the Shane Sutton scandal did damage to their image.
Compare Team Sky to Cannondale-Drapac. While the latter hasn’t won a World Tour race in over two years, the way they haven’t won them – audacious breakaway bids, displays of leadership and personality from many of their riders – has delivered followers, fans and friends.
Still, if the panache line is not persuasive, there is a less romantic, more technocratic argument to be made for Team Sky mixing things up as well.
Long ago, Quintana laid out his intention to target the elusive Giro-Tour double. Looking ahead to the latter, the boys in black at least have an interest in making it as hard for him and his team as possible.
The yellow jersey will be won by a few minutes and a weakened Movistar and Quintana – even by two or three per cent – could make all the difference.
It’s time to admit that the Giro GC is long gone but in its wake, it has left an opportunity that Team Sky should grasp.