Chris Froome, runner-up to Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France in July, has said that he will follow whatever plan Team Sky devises for next year’s 100th edition of the race, even if that means playing second fiddle to his team mate again.
After the route of the 2013 Tour was announced in Paris in late October, Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said that Froome would spearhead its challenge when the race gets under way on Corsica on 29 June, with Wiggins targeting the Giro d’Italia instead and playing a supporting role in the Tour.
However, Wiggins, named BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2013 last night, has now said that he wants to defend his title and is also aiming to complete a Giro and Tour double in the same season – a feat not achieved since the late Marco Pantani managed it in 1998.
“The main focus for next year will be the Tour for me. It’s a course which plays to my strengths,” Froome told Metro.
“I can only do so much and that’s to make sure I’m in the best position possible to be competitive,” he went on
‘When we get to the Tour we’re going to have to go with whatever plan the team has got.
“If it’s to back Bradley, back myself, or go in with a two-pronged attack – whatever that position would be. I’m quite sure all of us are professional enough to go along with that.”
Froome acknowledges that such a strategy does carry risks, and certainly during this year’s Tour many people sharing their thoughts about it on Twitter perceived a rift between the riders – an exchange of tweets between their respective partners after Froome appeared to attack Wiggins on Stage 11 pouring fuel on the fire.
Wiggins’ performances in the two time trials at the Tour provided firm evidence that Sky had backed the right horse.
As Brailsford pointed out, his ability to deal with the added pressures of being race leader, not least the obligatory post-stage press conferences the maillot jaune must attend, had been forged during his earlier victories in Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine.
Froome himself spent a day in the race leader’s jersey in the 2011 Vuelta but team orders meant he had to work for Wiggins the following day, surrendering the top spot in the GC to his colleague.
The Kenya-born Briton would finish the race second overall to Juan Jose Cobo with Wiggins third, and many insist that had Sky given him their full backing, he could have become the first British Grand Tour winner.
Others point out that since he Froome, aged 27, is five years younger than Wiggins, time is on his side and he will get his chance.
Reflecting on both he and Wiggins potentially targeting victory in the Tour next year, Froome acknowledged: “It would have to be planned very carefully.
“You would have to make sure there’s no conflict or it’s not going to split the team in any way. But it’s definitely a possibility. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Froome rode this year’s Tour as a supporting rider to Wiggins from the outset, as he had done in those stage races earlier in the season.
However, his own chances of a high finish on GC encountered a setback on the opening road stage when he suffered a puncture inside the closing kilometres, losing nearly a minute and a half to his team mate.
By the time the Tour finished in Paris, Froome had overhauled everyone bar Wiggins, won the first summit finish of the race on La Planche des Belles Filles, and he would go on to clinch Olympic bronze in the time trial in London.
Some 12 months earlier, Wiggins had crashed out of the Tour with a broken collarbone during the opening week.
With the first few days of next summer’s race certain to see the usual nervousness within the peloton and resulting crashes, it’s therefore a as much an insurance policy as it is a dilemma for Sky that they have two riders each capable of winning the overall title.
“It just goes to show what strength we have in numbers at the moment,” Froome highlighted. “And what a pleasure to be in that position."
Next summer, whoever leads Sky will have to deal with the challenge of Alberto Contador, likely to return to the race after being banned this year. The Spaniard returned to competition in August and the following month won the Vuelta, outclassing a field including Froome, who finished fourth overall.
“It’s going to be a tough Tour," Froome concluded. "The competition is going to be a step harder than this year. Everyone’s going to be out to win it.”
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.