Bradley Wiggins to Sky? Vaughters still says NO!
The will he won't he Wiggins to Team Sky saga took another couple of twists this weekend with a report in yesterday's edition of L'Equipe that his current team, Garmin Slipstream, were releasing him from the final year of his contract only for that to be flatly denied by Slipstream boss Jonathan Vaughters today.
The Wiggins deal has now come back to life more times than a psycho in a Hollywood horror film, and although Vaughters appeared to despatch it once and for all this deal may not be a corpse just yet.
"It's important to remember that he signed a contract with us for two years,"
"I understand his desire to be part of the first UK pro-team, but I also have responsibilities to Garmin and the team's sponsors," Vaughters told BBC Sport.
However, Vaughters' admission to the BBC that Wiggins had told him he wanted to leave Garmin Slipstream for Sky means that there is still at least the possibility it will spring back to life one more time. "He has let it be known to me that he'd like to be with Sky."
"I haven't spoken to him recently, but I think he has a strong desire to be part of the first UK pro team."
Before anyone gets too excited though, it should be noted that Wiggins made his desire to join Sky clear to Vaughters some time ago and that doesn't seem to have made any difference so far to the situation.
The situation has the appearance of a game of poker between Vaughters and Sky and that Vaughters is holding out for a significant amount of componsation from Sky. While for their part Sky, knowing there will be no compensation and that Garmin will be stuck with a rider that doesn't want to be there once the UCI deadline for registering riders with teams for 2010 expires, is hoping that Vaughters will fold under the pressure. Or it may just be that Vaughters means what he says and everybody should just deal with and move on.
Garmin have shown that they can get the best out of Wiggins once already, transforming him from a maverick under-achiever on the road to a grand tour contender in one season. Vaughters has a strong case to put to Wiggins that they can achieve even more given two seasons at the end of which Wiggins' value will have increased substantially again, and he will be a free agent.
Indeed the nightmare scenario for Wiggins is that Sky over-pay to get him and he is then saddled with a weight of expectation from team management and the British media that he is unable to live up to. In the bleakest scenario there is the, admittedly slight, possibility that he could sign for Sky and miss out on a Tour de France invite.
What isn't in doubt is that Sky needs a big name signing to ensure an they get to next year's Tour and that the pool of big names available is shrinking fast. Sky need Wiggins more than he needs them.
“Team Sky does not comment on other team's riders” is the mantra from the Sky press office and yet the names of the already under contract riders they are allegedly interested in always seem to become known somehow, as with Ben Swift a few days ago.
Where the latest twists in the Wiggins saga leave the supposed signing of Swift is unclear with Boasson Hagen, Sutton, Kennaugh and Vigano Sky has the makings of a nice sprint train who would be at its head though is the question Swift might ask himself although given that the Katusha team management are adamant he is going nowhere he may not need to ponder too long.