Sir Bradley Wiggins, who in 2012 became the first British winner of the Tour de France while riding for Team Sky, has told young riders that signing for his former employers will “ruin you.”
The 37-year-old was speaking at the presentation in London on Tuesday evening of his Team Wiggins development squad, which includes the hottest young prospect in British cycling, Tom Pidcock.
The Guardian reports that when Wiggins was asked what advice he would give to youngsters such as Pidcock looking to build a career in the sport, he said: “Don’t go to Sky, steer clear of them. Go somewhere else because they’ll ruin you.”
While Wiggins would not be drawn on the Chris Froome salbutamol case, he was scathing in his opinion of his former employers, saying that their dominance of the Tour de France and recent controversies were to blame for a “negative” climate in cycling.
Wiggins himself has been under scrutiny due to the revelation after the Rio Olympic Games, where he won team pursuit gold, that he took a banned corticosteroid under a therapeutic use exemption ahead of key races including the 2012 Tour de France.
Subsequently, he was at the centre of a UK Anti-doping (UKAD) investigation into the contents of the Jiffy Bag delivered to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné and containing a drug for Wiggins.
The UKAD probe was eventually shelved, with the agency unable to establish exactly what was in the package. Wiggins claimed afterwards that he had been the victim of a “malicious witch hunt.”
Regarding his comments on Team Sky, Wiggins said: “They are not barbed jokes or digs, that’s the reality of the sport at the moment.”
Referring to this month’s Ruta del Sol race in Spain, where Chris Froome made his 2018 debut, he said: “I saw the reports only last week from Andalusia, or wherever it was, and they are the best team in the world.
“How many races did they win last week? And there’s a lot of talk about them at the moment and there’s a lot of negative talk as well.”
He added: “Something has got to happen. Sky are running away with it. With the office blocks they bring with them” – a reference to the ‘Race Hub’ that Team Sky unveiled at last year’s Vuelta, won by Froome – “it’s difficult to compete, isn’t it?
“Whether that helps performance or not, I don’t know. Something has to change to even it out a bit,” he added.
Wiggins was Team Sky's marquee signing when it launched ahead of the 2010 season as he made a controversial switch from Garmin-Slipstream with whom he had finished fourth in the 2009 Tour de France, later upgraded to third after Lance Armstrong's disqualification.
Sky's domination of cycling's biggest race beganwith his own victory in 2012 when the team first mastered the by-now familiar tactic of its riders controlling the race in the mountains to prevent rivals from attacking, but it was also a race that highlighted the fraught relationship between Wiggins and Froome.
After abandoning the 2013 Giro d’Italia through injury, Wiggins missed out on the 2013 Tour de France as well as the following year’s edition, which began in Yorkshire. While he did win the 2014 world time trial championship, he left Team Sky the following April after racing Paris-Roubaix.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.