Sir Bradley Wiggins has been left out of Team Sky’s squad for the Critérium du Dauphiné, where Chris Froome will defend the title he won last year, fuelling speculation that Wiggins will not make its line-up for the Tour de France which starts in Leeds on 5 July.
Instead Wiggins, who has said he would be prepared to play a supporting role to defending champion Froome in the Tour de France, will lead Team Sky at the Tour de Suissse, which overlaps with the Critérium du Dauphiné.
His absence from the squad from the latter race and from recent training camps and reconnaissance trips for key Tour de France stages is likely to result in speculation that the man who in 2012 became the first British winner of the race will not be riding this year’s edition.
Last month, while Froome was taking part in a high altitude training camp on Tenerife, Wiggins headed to Mallorca to train after winning the Tour of California.
At the weekend, he was missing when Froome and other Sky riders took a look at the Yorkshire stages, and was also absent yesterday for a reconnaissance of the cobbled sections of Stage 5 of the race.
The pair have not raced together for Team Sky for nearly 18 months, the last time being when Wiggins helped Froome win the Tour of Oman in early 2013.
Froome revealed at the weekend that he has not seen Wiggins since a training camp on Mallorca at the start of this year, and also said that he saw his close friend Richie Porte as a more suitable “Plan B” at the Tour de France.
The Sky team for the Critérium du Dauphiné, which begins on Sunday, includes four of the riders who helped Froome to his Tour de France victory last year: Porte, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez and Geraint Thomas.
They are joined by Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate and Xabier Zandio, and if the past two seasons are a guide, the Dauphiné squad will form the nucleus of the one for the Tour.
That may mean there is only one space left for the three-week race, and besides Wiggins, riders such as Luke Rowe, Joe Dombrowski, Christian Knees or Peter Kennaugh, who rode his first Tour last year, have strong claims to be included.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford insisted that riders racing at both the Dauphiné and in Switzerland would be considered for inclusion in the Tour de France squad.
He said: “Both the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse are WorldTour events and we are looking to perform in both races.
“Chris will be going for GC at the Dauphiné and Bradley is going for GC at the Tour de Suisse.
“Bradley heads to Switzerland with a strong team after a great win in California and we’ve got the right group for the Dauphiné, especially considering the nature of the course.
“Both of these races will form part of our selection for the Tour. We have to name 13 riders in a long list during June and we’ll do that from across the squad, including riders at the Route du Sud, not only those in the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse groups.”
Chris Boardman, who worked alongside Brailsford as head of R&D at British Cycling, believes Wiggins is worth a place on the Tour de France team due to his performances this year.
Quoted in The Times [£], he said: “Knowing Dave he’ll do the best thing for performance and deal with all the politics. Just to be in the top ten [of Paris-Roubaix] says ‘I could’ve won this race’. That was pretty damn cool.
“He’s performing in the mountains at the moment, so I think he’ll get on the team.”
Boardman did point out though that by making Wiggins leader at the Tour de Suisse rather than riding for Froome at the Dauphiné, Sky were missing an opportunity to prepare for the summer’s main event.
“They’re not practising it,” he explained. “It’s dress rehearsal on opening night if you’re not careful. You’re going to find out if someone can do a whole new role. That’s the big unknown.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.