Emotions run high in the heat of battle in a major stage race and things can be said that might be better left unsaid… it can get pretty stressful on the bike too, but out there on Twitter everybody can hear you scream, especially when you've got 6,543 followers and the person who shouts back has 2,662. On the social network, one unguarded remark can set of a chain reaction unimagined when you hit the return key in the heat of the moment. Such was the case today when Cath Wiggins, wife of Bradley, and Michelle Cound, Chris Froome's girlfriend became embroiled in a what for all the world looked like a Twitter-spat moments after the two riders crossed the finish line on Stage 11.
Clearly, many of the people who follow both women on Twitter do so because of who their partners are, and many weren’t shy in chipping in with their own opinions in response to those tweets – it is, after all, a public forum. As a result, the episode took on a life of its own, to the bemusement of some and amusement of others – David Milar, watching from the sidelines, tweeted, “Oh SNAP! Sky have WAG WAR on Twitter. This shit just got real.”
The comments followed a gripping conclusion to the stage, with Froome riding away from team mate and maillot jaune Wiggins just after the pair had closed down a move from Vincenzo Nibali, with defending champion Cadel Evans already dropped. Shortly after his sudden acceleration, Froome slowed right down, pressing the radio button under his jersey, we’re guessing because someone – Wiggins, or sports director Sean Yates? – was screaming in his ear. Wiggins, perhaps diplomatically, said afterwards that it was difficult to hear over the sound of the crowd.
Froome would finish third in the stage, just ahead of Nibali and Wiggins, and immediately afterwards, Froome’s girlfriend tweeted: “Beyond disappointed…,” adding, “I know what happened just then.”
In another tweet a few minutes later, she continued: “If you want loyalty, get a Froome dog… a quality I value… although being taken advantage of by others!”
Mrs Wiggins, who earlier had tweeted with unwitting prescience, “Down tools everyone, the merde is about to hit the fan #whatgoesdownmustgoup,” tweeted after the stage – and after Ms Cound’s tweet about “loyalty” – “See Mick Rogers and Richie Porte for examples of genuine, selfless effort and true professionalism.”
That tweet was immediately retweeted by Ms Cound, prefaced by the word, “Typical!”
The tweets attracted attention from many Twitter users, with several picking up the fact that Froome’s name was missing from Mrs Wiggins’ tweet; she replied to one by saying, “I am sure he [Froome] gave everything he had too,” and to another by pointing out, “Mick and Richie's efforts will not really be acknowledged in the news, that's all.”
To Ms Cound’s comment of ‘Typical!” she replied, “It is true they rode their hearts out today.”
One Twitter user asked Mrs Wiggins, “Telling choice of phrase. Please tell me there are not any genuine issues between our 2 british heroes?!” to which there came the less than unequivocal response, “I only know Bradley and there certainly is not from him.”
As we said, the tweets and the reaction to them could simply reflect emotions running high at the end of the day’s racing – certainly, subsequent ones made by Mrs Wiggins suggest that’s the way she sees things – or it could be that it’s a sign that Froome and Wiggins view each other more as potential rivals than team mates; there’s no way of telling for sure, and as the maillot jaune’s wife herself points out, “I think people read far too much into 140 characters sometimes.”
In answer to the inevitable question, ‘is it news,’ we’d say it certainly is; it’s not every day that you have two British riders leading the Tour de France, with their partners taking to a public forum to give their version of events to followers running in both cases into the thousands, if nothing else it’s a glimpse of the tension that those closest to the men chasing the sport’s biggest prize feel, and moreover one unfiltered by a team’s PR machine. Similarly, Mark Cavendish’s girlfriend Peta Todd took to Twitter last week to bemoan the lack of protection he was receiving after he was caught up in a crash.
We expect both women’s accounts will be monitored particularly keenly by fans as the race progresses for any other signs of tension, and in the meantime perhaps the best third-party tweet on the episode came from cycling writer Richard Moore, author of Slaying The Badger, who said: “Just trying to imagine the Kathy LeMond / Martine Hinault exchange had twitter been around during @1986Tour.”
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.