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Tour Notebook, Stage 2: Brailsford hoping for last laugh at Sky; grand tour possible for Sagan?

Team Sky manager David Brailsford is hoping to have the last laugh this year if Bradley Wiggins manages to win the Tour de France

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TOURNAI, Belgium (VN) — Team Sky manager David Brailsford is hoping to have the last laugh this year if Bradley Wiggins manages to win the Tour de France.

Many rolled their eyes when Brailsford suggested a few years ago that a British rider on a British team could win cycling’s most important race.

With Wiggins entering this year’s Tour as a top favorite for the yellow jersey, Brailsford is crossing his fingers the team can live up to his aspirations in just its third year in operation.

“I was derided a bit a few years back when I said I thought we could win the Tour de France with a British team and a British rider. They did laugh at me then,” Brailsford told VeloNews. “I like to think, why cannot you do something? Why not? Why cannot we achieve that? It’s based on reality. It’s based on good research and sound information. I always believed it was possible.”

Since finding the backing to create Team Sky, Brailsford has quickly put things into motion to help realize his once-outrageous goal for the Tour.

After he rode to fourth in the 2009 Tour with Garmin, Brailsford saw Wiggins as the man for the task of carrying the UK’s colors into the Tour. He fell flat in his first year leading Sky, however, only managing to finish 24th. Last year, Wiggins looked strong and won the Critérium du Dauphiné, but crashed out of the Tour with a broken clavicle.

After rebounding to finish third in the Vuelta a España and earn silver in the world time trial championship last fall, Wiggins has been unstoppable so far through 2012.

“Everything has gone pretty much to plan, and perhaps even better than we expected so far,” he said. “Of course, we hope things go to plan for a few more weeks. The team has done its work.”

For Brailsford, Wiggins’ and Team Sky’s success have come in a parallel struggle to compete at the highest levels with a strong anti-doping platform. Brailsford said the team’s success reveals just how much cycling has changed.

“I think that Bradley coming here as one of the favorites says a lot about how far the sport has come,” he said. “It’s important to take that into the story. Right here, right now, looking forward, we know that Bradley is doing it in a very clean, but very sophisticated way.

“That bodes well for the sport. It bodes well for all the youngsters who want to maybe think about a future in the sport, but they wonder if they have to take something. Well, no you don’t, you have to work hard. That’s the sacrifice you have to make.”

Amadio says Sagan can win a Tour

Just how far can Peter Sagan go? That’s the question on everyone’s mind after his impressive debut at the Tour de France.

Known for his intense finish-line punch, Sagan is quickly developing into a multi-level threat for bunch sprints, hilly finales and one-day classics.

Liquigas-Cannondale team boss Roberto Amadio says Sagan’s potential is still unknown and suggests that the young Slovak could develop into a grand tour rider.

“I believe that in the future, Sagan could win a grand tour,” Amadio told VeloNews. “With more experience and more maturity, he can develop into a grand tour rider.”

Liquigas has been slowly nurturing Sagan since he turned pro in 2010. Rather than fold to pressure too early, Amadio kept Sagan out of last year’s Tour and brought him to the Vuelta a España instead, where he quickly won three stages.

Sagan’s 2012 spring campaign already proved that he’s poised to dominate the one-day races in the future. Amadio said Sagan would focus on winning such races as Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège over the next two or three years.

In the meantime, Amadio is intent on expanding that prowess toward stage racing. Next year, Sagan will target GC in shorter, one-week stage races, with an eye one day on a grand tour.

“Next year, he will try to win a race like Paris-Nice or the Tour of Switzerland. Even this year, we saw that he can get over the longer climbs in good position,” he said. “I think it’s only a question of maturity, development and more work.”

With his stage win Sunday, Sagan has already met expectations for his Tour debut.

With victory in Sunday’s first stage, the 22-year-old became the youngest Tour stage winner since Lance Armstrong in 1993.

On Monday, Sagan took ownership of the green jersey he wore for Wiggins on the race’s second road stage and he will be a major contender to win the points competition in Paris.

Amadio is hoping it’s just the beginning of something big. Liquigas has already locked him up through 2014.

“Sagan is just incredible. He can manage to win in all kinds of terrain. The harder the terrain, the more likely it is that he will win,” Amadio said. “This Tour will be an important test for him, but it’s just the next step of his progression.”

The jerseys

Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) won his career 21st Tour stage, also his first Tour stage in the rainbow jersey

Yellow jersey: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) finished safely in the bunch to defend the maillot jaune and deliver on his promise to “carry the jersey into France”

Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) took 29 points to move into the points lead, 78-63, ahead of Cavendish

Polka dot jersey: Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) snuck into the day’s main breakaway for the second day in a row to win the lone climb and defend his King of the Mountains jersey

White jersey: Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) finished safely in the bunch to keep the young rider’s jersey

Best team: Team Sky kept it right to wear the yellow helmets as the top squad in the team rankings

Medical report

Christophe Kern (Europcar), pain in Achille’s tendon
Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Belisol), digestive troubles
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan), local discomfort from his crash in stage 1
Crash 65km: Borut Bozic (Astana) scrapes to right elbow
J.J. Rojas (Movistar), hip pain due to his crash in stage 1
Michael Rogers (Team Sky), knee pain due to his crash in stage 1
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), skin irritation
Jéremy Roy (FDJ), pain due to his fall in stage 1

Jury decisions

D.S. Herman Frison (Lotto), Christian Guiberteau (Argos-Shimano) and riders Jelle Vanendert (Lotto), Johannes Frohlinger (Argos) all fined 50CHF for taking a feed and comportement that was bad for the image of cycling. Art.

Michael Rogers (Team Sky), fined 50CHF for following a team car too closely.

Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM), fined 50CHF and penalized 20 seconds for following too long behind a team car; D.S. Hilaire Van de Schueren (Vacansoleil) fined 200CHF for above offense.

Weather: Chance of rain

Continued mild weather across northern France, with temperatures in the mid-60s F, partly cloudy skies, with a 70-percent chance of afternoon showers and moderate SW winds of 10-15mph.

Tomorrow’s stage

The 99th Tour continues Tuesday with the hilly 197km third stage from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer that features six rated climbs in the final half of the stage.

The route carries the Tour back into France after three days in Belgium and will present a challenging stage for GC riders as the hilly finale, which includes two third-category climbs and a fourth-category hilltop finish. Forecasted showers and gusting winds off the English Channel will make it even more difficult.

The stage will present a real opportunity for attacking riders to stay clear of the peloton to chase the stage win and the yellow jersey. The hilltop finale favors riders such as Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky). Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma) sits in third, just seven seconds behind Cancellara, and won his 2011 French road title in Boulogne-ser-Mer.