Sean Yates: Bradley Wiggins nearly quit 2012 Tour de France after Chris Froome 'attack'

Sky's former sports director says Wiggins felt Froome had "stabbed him in the back"

by Simon_MacMichael   September 12, 2013  

Wiggins and Froome (pic Bettini Photo, courtesy Pinarello)

Sir Bradley Wiggins nearly quit the 2012 Tour de France – a race that ended with him becoming the first British winner of the event – after believing team mate Chris Froome had “stabbed him in the back,” according to Sean Yates, Team Sky’s sports director on the race.

The claim, made in Yates’s autobiography, relates to Stage 11 of the race, which finished on the summit of La Toussuire, when Froome rode off ahead of Wiggins around 4km from the end of the stage, only slowing down after Yates ordered him to do so through his radio earpiece.

The incident gave rise to the infamous ‘WAG Wars’ on Twitter in which Wiggins’ wife Cath and Froome’s girlfriend Michelle Cound, now his fiancée, each sought to fight their respective partners’ corner.

According to The Times [£], in his book, Yates reveals that following the stage, Wiggins sent a text message saying, “I think it would be better for everyone if I went home.”

Going into that stage, Wiggins led the race by 2 minutes 3 seconds from Froome, with Liquigas-Cannondale rider Vincenzo Nibali a further 18 seconds back in third place. They would occupy the same positions on the final podium in Paris.

Froome insists that with defending champion Cadel Evans in trouble, and Nibali up the road, he was simply trying to consolidate his second place overall.

Wiggins himself has said that the episode left him shaken and that he considered abandoning the race, and Yates’s recollection of events confirms that was no idle boast after the event, but a very real prospect at the time.

According to The Times, in his book Yates says that it was only thanks to him and team principal Sir Dave Brailsford that Wiggins was dissuaded from leaving the race, adding that he “felt like Froomey had stabbed him in the back.”

Yates, who left Team Sky last October citing health and personal reasons said that before the stage, the team’s tactics envisaged Froome being permitted to attack inside the final half kilometre.

He maintained that Froome continued to seek permission to go on the attack prior to that point in the stage, however, and added that Brailsford, whom he says has a “dislike of confrontation” did not take the day’s events up with Froome after the stage.

Wiggins, of course, would go on to win the race while Froome, runner-up last year, won the 100th edition of the race in July this year. Less than a fortnight after Wiggins’ victory, he would win the time trial at the London Olympics, with Froome taking bronze.

For Wiggins, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year title would follow, as well as a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List, and he will forever listed in the record books as the first Briton to win the Tour de France.

Earlier this year, despite Sky’s insistence that Froome was the designated leader for the 2013 edition, Wiggins said that he would seek to defend his title and try and become the first man to complete a Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.

Illness forced him out of the Giro halfway through, however, and with almost four weeks remaining until the Tour started on Corsica, Team Sky confirmed he would not be selected for the Tour, citing his recovery from a knee injury – something many viewed as a convenient expedience.

Yates’s departure from Team Sky in October last year coincided with the fallout from the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s publication of its Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case which saw fellow sports director Stephen De Jongh and race coach Bobby Julich also depart the British WorldTour team.

Speaking to The Times, Yates revealed that he is not impressed with Sky’s current management and that the only member of the team set-up he is still close to is sports director Nicolas Portal.

“Nicolas rings me for advice because I’ve been there, done that,” he explained.

“To be brutally honest, there is no one at Sky who knows much about bike riding.

“In general, this year especially, the guys running the team don’t know enough about bike-riding and a lot of the riders went into the Tour overtired. They are made to race too much, too long, too hard.”

He added that he had been offered a role with another top team, but turned it down partly because he can see Froome dominating the sport for the next few years.

“It was a big team, big money,” he revealed.

“But, in my opinion, Chris Froome is too good for anyone to unsettle him. If there were cracks in his armour, that would be more motivating.”

32 user comments

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I quite like Yates for his no nonsense words. However I think he'd be more successful if he wrote a cycling manual rather than an autobiography. It'd be very interesting to get an inside view into the Sky machine and modern day pro racing. If anyone knows of such a book, let me know!

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

sm's picture

posted by sm [355 posts]
12th September 2013 - 6:10

15 Likes

He has a coaching business I think if you want his technical advice.

posted by BigMat [5 posts]
12th September 2013 - 7:14

13 Likes

Pot shots from the cheap seats.

Sounds a little bit like sour grapes. Although his account does sound convincing given how precious Wiggins can be. I say that, but I can understand why he felt upset, his big stage and he is being upstaged by his understudy. But it is all history now.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
12th September 2013 - 7:27

14 Likes

Yates is a no-nonsense stand up bloke. The hardman's hardman. Grew up idolising him. Yep, he's got a book to sell, but that's also when this stuff would come out anyway. Its hardly "Froome is called Sandra at weekends and has a hangbag addiction" salaciousnessness.

It all feels authentic. Plus he has massive veins in his legs. Which I am in love with.

Buying.

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aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [331 posts]
12th September 2013 - 7:40

12 Likes

Yawn, boring story to sell a book with.

Does Sean's auto-bio include any juicy details of his time as room mate with Lance Armstrong on the Motorola team? That would be worth a read.

posted by seanbolton [145 posts]
12th September 2013 - 7:52

12 Likes

sm wrote:
I quite like Yates for his no nonsense words. However I think he'd be more successful if he wrote a cycling manual rather than an autobiography. It'd be very interesting to get an inside view into the Sky machine and modern day pro racing. If anyone knows of such a book, let me know!

It would be a short book:

Push hard on the pedals.
When it gets steep - push harder.
At the end of the race - push as hard as you can.

Finis!

nostromo's picture

posted by nostromo [65 posts]
12th September 2013 - 8:08

9 Likes

Only real light this sheds is the fragility of team Sky.

I can see many leaving Sky next year if there is a team to go to. They still lead in efficiency but as Sean rightly states, tactics and knowledge of the sport are maybe not as high a quality as the riders within.

If they could tempt Charly Wegelius....theat would be a big step forward.

posted by Farky [183 posts]
12th September 2013 - 8:26

9 Likes

One rather ambiguous text message does not imply that a man, who had sacrificed so much to win one race, would jack it in and sulk off back to Chorley.
Rolling Eyes

posted by Some Fella [822 posts]
12th September 2013 - 8:32

10 Likes

Farky wrote:
Only real light this sheds is the fragility of team Sky.

I can see many leaving Sky next year if there is a team to go to. They still lead in efficiency but as Sean rightly states, tactics and knowledge of the sport are maybe not as high a quality as the riders within.

If they could tempt Charly Wegelius....theat would be a big step forward.

Erm....

No 1 in the UCI Team rankings
No 1 rider in the UCI rankings

Sound like a sinking ship?

Charly burned his matches when he took the 3000 euros bribe to ride for Italy instead of Roger Hammond and GB at the 05 Worlds

posted by Sim1 [57 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:15

11 Likes

Who cares, the history books still say Wiggins was 2012 Tour de France winner!!

posted by mickcee [38 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:29

13 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Pot shots from the cheap seats.

I don't think that's fair. Sean Yates is not known for mouthing off for a few quid, far from it. If The Times and road.cc are picking the juicy bits that's because it's their job, but I'm sure his story will be fascinating for anyone who follows pro racing. Yates is involved in coaching with Trainsharp.

The fact that Wiggins even felt he should pack up shows the mental fragility some have described (and this is an observation, not a criticism. Brad has many strengths too). The contrast with Froome's demeanour this year was like chalk and cheese. Sky's vulnerability in the Tour this year was obvious, you have to wonder if some decisions would have been different if Yates had been involved.

And look at the Vuelta - a big-money team with two excellent Colombian climbers and they're nowhere. All they can manage is Eddy in the mix in the sprints (getting 1cm away from a stage win is not really a serious goal for a team of this calibre).

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2054 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:38

13 Likes

It sounds rather childish and maybe for the best that Wiggins has decided to give up road racing. I get that he felt betrayed, but really. Toys back in pram, you're a big boy now

posted by md6 [161 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:39

11 Likes

Wiggins has decided to give up road racing? Um, what?

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
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aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [331 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:43

9 Likes

“To be brutally honest, there is no one at Sky who knows much about bike riding.

“In general, this year especially, the guys running the team don’t know enough about bike-riding and a lot of the riders went into the Tour overtired. They are made to race too much, too long, too hard.”

Which, IMHO, translates to:
"Doping was so rife in the past that if you want an entirely clean support staff, you're going to struggle to find anyone who has raced at the top flight in the last 20 years. Sure they're out there, but how many and at what cost?"

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3469 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:46

6 Likes

aslongasicycle wrote:
Yates is a no-nonsense stand up bloke. The hardman's hardman. Grew up idolising him. Yep, he's got a book to sell, but that's also when this stuff would come out anyway. Its hardly "Froome is called Sandra at weekends and has a hangbag addiction" salaciousnessness.

It all feels authentic. Plus he has massive veins in his legs. Which I am in love with.

Buying.

No nonsense, but no drug revelations. Not sure that's true then. If he knows when to keep his powder dry he should know when he's stepping on people's toes. I appreciate you like his directness, but think about that when he is being cutting about his fellow pros.

Criticism of Brailesford is easy in his shoes. Brailesford has to manage many different egos and so he can't be direct or confrontational. He would soon have no team - management (as you will know) has to measured.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
12th September 2013 - 9:49

7 Likes

Wiggins has decided to give up road racing? Um, what?

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
@vulpinecc

after next year to return to the track, or have i had a moment and made that up... Drooling

posted by md6 [161 posts]
12th September 2013 - 10:35

9 Likes

I'm very surprised that he said Brailsford had a dislike of confrontation - for a seriously, almost hyper-competitive man, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't come down like a ton of bricks on anyone threatening that.

But I guess Sean Yates knows better than me ...

posted by Not KOM [79 posts]
12th September 2013 - 10:38

9 Likes

aslongasicycle wrote:
Wiggins has decided to give up road racing? Um, what?

No doubt a reference to this:

http://road.cc/content/news/90489-wiggins-no-more-tour-wins-rio-2016-new...

posted by stuartp [64 posts]
12th September 2013 - 10:49

12 Likes

Not KOM wrote:
I'm very surprised that he said Brailsford had a dislike of confrontation - for a seriously, almost hyper-competitive man, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't come down like a ton of bricks on anyone threatening that.

But I guess Sean Yates knows better than me ...

In writing this piece, Simon has left out the word 'occasional', when quoting Yates on Brailsford. In the book and the interview, Yates describes Brailsford as having 'an occasional dislike of confrontation'

A little selective there with your quotes, Simon

posted by Sim1 [57 posts]
12th September 2013 - 11:26

8 Likes

I can believe that Wiggins would threaten to leave the TdF after the Froome attack, but I can't believe that he would have ever carried out that threat. He'd have been throwing away his only chance to win it.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1380 posts]
12th September 2013 - 13:20

11 Likes

aslongasicycle wrote:
Yates is a no-nonsense stand up bloke. The hardman's hardman.

Won't argue with that. A straight-talking, no-nonsense bloke by all accounts.

But so far he has kept his mouth firmly shut on the subject of doping, pretending it never happened. If he can't be even remotely honest about that then I can't take much in whatever else he writes about his career. Anyone who claims that "Armstrong is the biggest engine ever to get on a bike" is IMHO either deluded or an out-and-out liar.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2054 posts]
12th September 2013 - 13:46

5 Likes

Sim1 wrote:
In writing this piece, Simon has left out the word 'occasional', when quoting Yates on Brailsford. In the book and the interview, Yates describes Brailsford as having 'an occasional dislike of confrontation'

A little selective there with your quotes, Simon

Not selective at all, at least not knowingly; 'a "dislike of confrontation"' is exactly as it appeared in the Times article we cite and link.

But thanks for clarifying.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8498 posts]
12th September 2013 - 14:12

8 Likes

If he spat his dummy out over that then he has gone right down in my estimation, however i think the truth might be slightly different from whats been claimed.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2845 posts]
12th September 2013 - 14:56

6 Likes

"There is no one at Sky who knows much about bike riding." Bike racing must be exceedingly simple then, if Sky win the TdF two years on the trot, finish 2012 top-ranked team by a stretch and sit atop the 2013 rankings.

"I still believe he [Armstrong] is a phenomenal athlete and still the biggest engine ever to get on a bike, apart from maybe Chris Froome." Not Merckx? Or Anquetil? Or Coppi? Maybe he's never heard of them...

Sean's clearly strong in the legs but weak in the head.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
12th September 2013 - 15:51

8 Likes

“In general, this year especially, the guys running the team don’t know enough about bike-riding and a lot of the riders went into the Tour overtired. They are made to race too much, too long, too hard.”

Hmm, Mr Yates, I take it you didn't include Vasili in that lot after todays performance.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2845 posts]
12th September 2013 - 16:11

9 Likes

They'll say any old rubbish to sell a book!!! hes gone down in my estimations!!

D A Brett

posted by darenbrett [19 posts]
12th September 2013 - 16:29

6 Likes

dullard wrote:

"I still believe he [Armstrong] is a phenomenal athlete and still the biggest engine ever to get on a bike, apart from maybe Chris Froome." Not Merckx? Or Anquetil? Or Coppi? Maybe he's never heard of them...

Sean's clearly strong in the legs but weak in the head.


or perhaps a veiled insinuation of particular similarities between Froome and LA.

posted by daddyELVIS [453 posts]
12th September 2013 - 19:37

8 Likes

“I think it would be better for everyone if I went home.”

Strange, isn't it, how twelve words can mean so many different things?

Maybe Brad was just fed up, as if – like a child on an unwanted day-trip – he was saying: "I don't like it here. I think I'll go home".

Maybe he was thinking about the good of the team. A sort of: "I'm getting in the way here. I'd better shove off."

Whatever he meant, as others have said, history will always record that he was the first Brit to win the Tour – which he might not have done if he hadn't had Yates yelling in his year.

Prams and toys, boys. Prams and toys.

Fran the Man

posted by Fran The Man [72 posts]
13th September 2013 - 16:47

10 Likes

Yea Gods all this fuss, the man sent a tweet when he was pissed off. How many of us have written an e-mail then re read it and found we had declared war on the USA (ok OTT but you get my meaning) when we meant to say I didn't like that,
Get a life folks it was only a tweet Laughing

posted by sodit [75 posts]
14th September 2013 - 3:07

13 Likes

Sky is like High School. Who is he kidding with these idiot comments.

posted by Aapje [196 posts]
14th September 2013 - 7:10

9 Likes