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Defending champion's mentor and father figure says he must follow team orders...

Shane Sutton has told Sir Bradley Wiggins that he needs to get behind Chris Froome’s bid to succeed him as Tour de France champion when this year’s race gets under way on Corsica in five weeks’ time.

The Australian, whom Wiggins has described as a father figure, was a key member of the Team Sky backroom staff that helped the 33-year-old win the maillot jaune last year, but has since stepped down from that role. He continues to act as an advisor to Sir Dave Brailsford at British Cycling.

Sutton, who has a reputation for straight talking, says Wiggins, whose Giro d’Italia challenge ended halfway through the race as a result of illness, must follow team orders in France, even if that means sacrificing his own ambitions of defending his title.

“I think that, at this moment in time, you base it on the evidence before you and Froome will be the nominated rider,” said Sutton, quoted on Mail Online. “Bradley will just have to settle for a support role.”

“Froome has won continually this year,” continued Sutton. “I think just about every race he has ridden he has won.”

The 28-year-old has secured overall victories at the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and the Tour de Romandie. He was also runner-up to Astana's Vincenzo Nibali at Tirenno-Adriatico.

“Brad hasn’t had a win since last August so I think the team will very much be getting behind Chris, as Chris did with Brad last year,” Sutton went on.

“If Brad is riding the Tour and is over his illnesses and whatever, he will have to get behind the team. I think, if we can get that good dynamic environment in there for us and they can forget the past, we can push for another win in the Tour,” he concluded.

Froome finished runner-up to Wiggins in last year's race, which saw episodes of apparent tension between the riders including what many interpreted as an attack by the younger man on his team mate during Stage 11 - an incident which gave rise to a public spat on Twitter between their respective partners - and Froome waiting for Wiggins towards the end of Stage 17, instead of heading off to chase the day's winner, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar.

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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.