Wiggins vows to be back to full strength for Tour de France

Sir Bradley Wiggins puts Giro woes behind him to focus on hitting peak fitness for Tour de France… but leaves open question of whether he aims to defend title or support Chris Froome

by Tony Farrelly   May 18, 2013  

Bradley Wiggins - image by Brendan A Ryan via Flickr

Team Sky's decision to withdraw Sir Bradley Wiggins from the Giro d'Italia ahead of yesterday's 13th stage was taken with a view to ensuring the defending Tour champion was at peak fitness for the start of this year's Tour de France in Corsica at the end of June.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Sir Bradley said, “The decision was made with a view to being back to full strength for the Tour… Had we continued in this Giro, the risk was that I did more damage long-term. The team have taken the decision to put a stop to it now and start thinking about getting back to full strength for the Tour.”

Wiggins, who was speaking as he left the Team Sky hotel in Teviso, did not elaborate on whether he would be returning to full strength to support Chris Froome, Sky's designated leader for the Tour, or whether he saw mounting a defence as being a realistic prospect.

For Froome the prospect of having a rejuvenated Wiggins on the team, in theory fresher than he would have been had he completed the hardest half of this year's Giro, can be viewed as either a glass half empty or glass half full proposition. A fighting fit Wiggins pulling for the team would be a powerful ally in Froome's quest for yellow, a fighting fit Wiggins intent on defending his 2012 win would, by contrast, be massively destabilising.

The issue of who will lead Team Sky at this year's Tour is one that has stayed a live one despite the best efforts of Sir Dave Brailsford and the Team Sky management to lay it to rest. That it has refused to go away is mainly due to the  regular interventions from Wiggins who has suggested variously that Sky might ride the race with two leaders - an idea subsequently shot down by Brailsford - and that he still intends to defend his title and that the issue of who will lead the Team is still up for discussion. That last  point is technically true - a fact acknowledged by Brailsford prior to the start of the Giro. The Team Sky principal said that while Froome was the designated leader for this year's Tour, a final decision on exactly who would be in the team and who would lead it would be taken after the Dauphiné stage race, based on form.

Barring a fast recovery and a surge in form by Wiggins coupled with either injury or a dramatic dip in form by Froome, it is still hard to see how Froome could be dislodged from his position as Sky's designated lead rider. Wiggins' withdrawal from the Giro caps a wretched run of form so far this season while Froome has enjoyed a run of success.

It also has to be said that the drama of who will lead being played out in the media may well turn out to be just that - a drama for our benefit. Wiggins is nothing if not a showman. He will be keenly aware that the parcours of this year's race decisively favours Froome, and also that if there was an agreement at last year's Tour - that Froome would support him in return for his support this year - that Sky will expect him to stick to it. The counter to the argument that this is all Sky hype though, would seem to be Froome's pained reaction. If it's all a game, nobody appears to have told him.

Team Sky's management has proved loyal to Wiggins - he is their most marketable rider - too loyal say some critics who point out that while Wiggins may have won the team one Grand Tour, he has arguably cost them two, with team orders requiring younger, better placed riders to support him rather than going for the win - Froome at the 2011 Vuelta,and Uran at this year's Giro. Is one Tour win worth more than a Giro and a Vuelta? Commercially, it probably is.

If nothing else, this week's events at the Giro illustrate once again that when things start to go wrong what is one of Team Sky's greatest strengths - the ability to follow a plan to the letter - can also be one of its greatest weaknesses when the plan fails to keep pace with events on the ground.

11 user comments

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a very good summary of the current state of affairs.

As pointed out, commercial impact has to be to the fore of any current worldtour team (and today's no live pictures and tomorrow's all but cancelled stage will not help teams currently struggling to find sponsors wanting their logos admired by the wider cycling fraternity). By the same token though, personally I believe in fair play and sticking to your promises and therefore Wiggo should ride in support of Froome. I find it less than forthright that he fails to say so publicly right now, and I would think that corporate Sky has no advantage in being perceived as sponsoring this sort of in-fighting. Otherwise they 'd have their own premier league football team?

Anyway, it was an exciting ten seconds or so to see Nibali emerge from the mists today to confirm he is the strongest GC contender in this year's Giro, at least so far.

posted by Metjas [303 posts]
18th May 2013 - 17:09

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false hopes and broken promises, this boy isn't going to be a worthy champion imo.

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
18th May 2013 - 18:01

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Brailsford will have the last say on the matter and he has already said Froome is the leader. Wiggins will want to defend his title, who wouldn't, but you just have to look at the course and its obvious he wont be able to be the leader, the course does not suit him at all, but it does Froome.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

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posted by stumps [2824 posts]
18th May 2013 - 18:33

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Sky does have an advantage of this in-fighting, publicity, this is fantastic for Sky as a sponsor as it gets their name all over the press and forums like this, far more than "just another win", sensationalism like this is good for the sport and it creates interest outside of the sport.

However from a purist view, I think Wiggo should shut up and support Froome, he had a below par Giro before he got ill, and this talk of a double has come back to haunt him.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
18th May 2013 - 19:41

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It's a great problem for Sky in a way. Better than all eggs in one basket.

I seem to remember Brad saying he'd help froome this year so hopefully he will honour that but be a great plan b. As the Giro has shown, anything can happen.

posted by Super Domestique [1634 posts]
18th May 2013 - 20:05

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After what he pulled with Garmin I am not sure this Sir is all about honour, tbh.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [115 posts]
18th May 2013 - 20:17

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Strathlubnaig wrote:
After what he pulled with Garmin I am not sure this Sir is all about honour, tbh.

posted by northstar [1109 posts]
18th May 2013 - 20:20

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We will see who will lead come the dauphine and tour de suisse, I'm not counting wiggo out yet!

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
18th May 2013 - 20:37

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Best rider on the road should be the leader.

Honour/broken promises? Froome knows all about that, of course. He couldn't be trusted last year, Wiggins should ride as if Froome is going to try to backstab him again this year.

posted by andyp [1013 posts]
19th May 2013 - 13:47

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Defending champion or not, I wouldn't take wiggo to the tour at all, even if his form sky rockets. Froome deserves the shot and porte is a worthy lieutenant. A smart team would end this nonsense now! Last year was one thing, as it was unexpected, but this is a different matter.

posted by frankstatto53 [1 posts]
19th May 2013 - 22:11

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Froome is clearly their man and the rest is smoke and mirrors.

But the question of who is their better option as super-DS and potential lead man in the event of a crash in the first week (as per Brad 2011) is harder. Wiggo has done it before and has the experience. But he has no form, clearly doesn't like Froome and remains an excellent time triallist. If Froome doesn't have any hiccups and remains team leader, would Wiggo simply attack him in the TT (it would be difficult to order him to slow down...), or maybe even try and crack him up Ventoux?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [928 posts]
20th May 2013 - 8:27

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