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Sky's Tour superstar talks frankly about what went on between him and Wiggins in last year's mountain stages...

He hasn't held back about his absent team-mate. Sir Bradley Wiggins's withdrawal from the 2013 Tour de France has, Chris Froome has said, brought "clarity" to Team Sky and "made both our lives a lot simpler".

But an in-depth interview with The Times (£) ahead of the start of the Tour de France, Froome lifts the lid on the power struggle between him and Wiggins, which he hints was played out in public during the 2012 Tour de France because Wiggins kept his feelings to himself so much that Froome 'didn't know where he stood.'

When it came to Stage 11, from Albertville to La Toussuire, one of the key mountain stages, in which Froome unexpectedly accelerated past Wiggins with four kilometres to go and had to be recalled by the Sky sporting director Sean Yates, (who later said the stunt 'lacked tact') Froome said: "I put in an acceleration for 5 or 6km before the final climb, but as soon as I heard that Brad was in difficulty and he was struggling to stay with the guys I backed off completely.

“I knew that the correct thing to do would be to stay with Brad and look after him until the finish. He was only a few seconds back so I eased off, let him catch up to me again and escorted him to the finish line. So it just meant that I rode at his pace as opposed to the pace that I felt I could go if I was to try and get that advantage on the other guys.”

In discussion about Stage 17 in the Pyrenees, where Froome appeared to be continually demonstrating to Wiggins that he was the stronger man in the moutains by pulling off and watching back over his shoulder, he said: “I didn’t leave Brad at all. He started losing my wheel a bit, but every time he’d lose my wheel I’d ease up and let him get back on.”

Perhaps it was all down to communication though. 

“Brad keeps to himself at the best of times, and especially on a race like the Tour de France he doesn’t really speak much to anyone. So he’s a difficult guy like that. You don’t know where you really stand with him," said Froome.

It's clear though, that the rivalry between Froome and Wiggins has pushed the younger rider to achieve his best. As Alberto Contador told ESPN this weeek: "If my experiences with Lance Armstrong [his Astana team-mate and rival at the 2009 Tour, won by Contador] are anything to go by, it'll have given him extra motivation.

"Had Wiggins been there, he'd have been a sure-fire candidate for the Tour victory. But, to be honest, if Froome had pulled out, say, it would have affected things for me more, because the 2013 route suits him better."

 

To read the interview in full, click here.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.