If I told you Malcolm Turnbull AND Barnaby Joyce were running for Prime Minister together at the next election, completely equal and equally backed by their party, how would you feel? What if I said Andrew Dimitriou wanted to give AFL CEO another go, so he and Gill McLachlan lead the league together in equilibrium? Please, let me guess your initial thoughts: confusion, uncertainty, a sense of it not quite panning out how it’s been envisioned, maybe even a kerfuffle at some point in the not-so-distant future? Don’t try and tell me I’m wrong.
Thus, when Team Sky announced that Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas would be leading the formidable team at the Giro d’Italia in May, your thoughts probably gravitated to the same clouded, doubtful thoughts. Two riders on the same team vying for the overall classification in a grand tour has never been an overwhelmingly positive thought and often evokes a sense of uncertainty from spectators, journalists and other teams on the World Tour circuits.
Geraint Thomas is a rider that, when given a task, won’t lie down until he’s completed it to a level he is content with. This level, from the outside, can be seen as success. He’s cemented himself as an individual with the strength to domestique his was at the past four consecutive Tours de France, with a Team SKY victory in three out of four events. A Spring Classic title under his belt, reigning Commonwealth Champion for one more year and a former Tour de France jersey winner. As a rider he’s a powerhouse, an envious powerhouse whether he’s riding for himself or in support of a teammate.
Likewise, Mikel Landa is the complete modern racing cyclist. Landa was the leader of Sky at the 2016 Giro until stomach problems forced an abandonment mid-May and placed third overall in the 2015 addition of the Grand Tour. He impressed at the Chianti time trial at the last edition of the race and had the capacity to look towards a Grand Tour victory. However, in the following stage he abandoned the race.
Yet it’s when you bring two riders to the front who are riding with the same ambition that arises a bubbling competition to succeed. It is the natural urge and desire of an athlete to race, when given the shot, for the win. No one is racing for second place yet in a dual-contested assault of a Grand Tour, there is a designated loser to winner. If Sky are to be successful, how is the success measured? An overall victory is the natural assumption, but could it be a 1-2 victory that is the ultimate goal? When does that second placed rider become finalised? And does he then wish to race in favour of the rider he came in equally with and is leaving him for the glory. The questions are endless.
Take Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews at the 2015 Road World Championships, an example of where dual leadership sensationally combusted into a ball of underlying disunity. It was never publicized by either rider in an explosive manner yet the public and the spectator could sense something not being quite right between the two acclaimed athletes. Matthews eventually defected from Orica Scott to Team Sunweb in 2017. Is this a precedent for what is to come?
Come May, the cynics and naysayers could be put in their places. This Giro could be the one that bucks the trend of equally contested general classifications. The dual leadership dilemma has been tried and tested on many teams at an array of races, yet no one has been able to perfect it…yet. Who’s to say Sky will follow suit and fail too? After all, it’s them.
Images C/O Eurosport and Sportal