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Sir Brad reckons Sky yet to decide who will spearhead challenge in July... but Froome says he's got management's backing...

Days before he begins his campaign to become the first British rider to win the Giro d’Italia, Sir Bradley Wiggins has said he is aiming to defend his Tour de France title, rather than riding in support of team mate Chris Froome in July. Froome, however, insists he has the full backing of Team Sky’s management and will lead its challenge in the race. His fiancée, Michelle Cound, has appealed to the team to step in and sort out the row.

That wasn’t the impression Wiggins gave when he spoke to the BBC yesterday, however. The defending Tour de France champion, asked whether the team had decided who would spearhead its challenge, replied: "Not yet, no. I think that decision will be made probably in the last three days before we get to the Tour.

"I think whoever is in the best shape should be really. It is too early to decide but we are both, as we have now for the last six months, been going towards that same goal. Someone will get the nod."

Froome, who finished second to Wiggins last year, issued a statement yesterday evening in which he said: "There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year. I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013.

"Attempting to win the Tour de France, is a massive undertaking and will take total commitment from each and every team member.

"The Tour team has yet to be selected but with the depth of talent that we have at Team Sky, I have no doubt that the strongest and most willing riders will be there to support me," added Froome, who on Sunday sealed the biggest win in his career to date at the Tour de Romandie.

This afternoon, Froome's fiancée Michelle Cound, who clashed on Twitter with Wiggins' wife Cath during last year's Tour, took to the social network to appeal to Team Sky's management to sort out the row - and presumably have a quiet word with Wiggins.

"Chris & Brad on the same start line, in the same kit? Mmmmmm… doubt it!" she said, rather cryptically, in an initial tweet.

She went on: "To those claiming that this Wiggins/Froome thing is some sort of publicity stunt, you are wrong," and concluded: "I look forward to @TeamSky clearing up this mess (ASAP) #fedup"

Wiggins, however, insists that the matter of leadership during the Tour is one "for the team management to decide.

"We are both on different paths and we're both professionals," he went on.

"We have been there before. We're on the same team and know what needs to be done.

"I would be comfortable in a supporting role but it's not like I'm going to ride 200km on the front and swing off and lose 30 minutes. I want to be there at the death, I want to be on the podium."

Wiggins added: "Somebody will need to make that decision. It will be quite hard, and I'm glad it's not me, but Dave [Brailsford] is good at it."

Turning to the Giro, Wiggins reflected: "It's a huge challenge, probably bigger than the Tour de France.

"The Tour de France is my focus, it's just that I'm doing the Giro before," he added.

"It's like last year and the Olympics," added Wiggins, who won time trial gold in London just ten days after winning the Tour de France.

"I was focused on that and the Tour. This year the Giro comes first"

No rider has completed the Tour-Giro double in the same season since Marco Pantani in 1998. but Wiggins is confident he can compete in both races.

"My saving grace is that I haven't gone out and tried to cash in on the Olympics and got my face everywhere - got on game shows and all this stuff - like most of them have done," he continued.

"I went back to work on 1 January. I've been out there grafting with my team. I've gone back to trying to do what we do best - and that's trying to win bike races."

Wiggins’ comments about the Tour appear to contradict previous statements from team principal Sir Dave Brailsford that Froome would be the prime focus during the race, and underline what many see as a rivalry between the two riders dating back to the 2011 Vuelta.

There, Froome had taken the race lead following a time trial in Salamanca but the following day rode in support of Wiggins, who took over the red jersey from him. In the final week of the race, Froome proved stronger, but would finish 13 seconds behind winner Juan Jose Cobo, with Wiggins more than a minute back in third.

Had Sky got behind Froome when he took the race lead, there’s every chance he would have won the Vuelta, and those looking for signs of a feud between the riders got plenty of ammunition during last year’s Tour de France, particularly when Froome appeared to attack Wiggins towards the end of a mountain stage.

Froome, who had lost a minute and a half earlier in the race to a puncture, insists he was trying to make up time on riders including Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans, and points out that Wiggins’ dominance in the time trials would have seen him win the race anyway.

While Froome, aged 27, could challenge at the top for the best part of a decade, Wiggins may also be aware that he is running out of time - he turned 33 on Sunday. Only one man – Cadel Evans in 2011 – has won the Tour de France beyond that age within the past six decades.

Uncertainty over exactly what Sky’s plans for the Tour could also have a psychological effect on their rivals, and Brailsford of course is a master at mind games – remember the talk about Team GB’s ‘magic wheels’ prior to the Olympics last year?

So unless the issue is clarified one way or another, a seed of doubt is sown in opponents’ minds over which rider may present the greater threat.

And as we have seen in the last two editions of the Tour, luck can also play a part – Wiggins’ broken collarbone in the 2011 race, or the minute and a half Froome lost to that puncture towards the end of the first road stage last year. Having a Plan B – or even two Plan As – is no bad thing.

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.

44 comments

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ragtag [218 posts] 3 years ago
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Le sigh

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 3 years ago
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Dare I say, although he hasnt 'got on game shows and all this stuff - like most of them have done' the "SIR" bit has gone to ones head a touch.

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 3 years ago
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Brailsford's played a blinder here. I've no doubt he's told Froome he's the GC contender but he wants Wiggins to provide the threat - whether he knows he's being played like that or not. Hopefully, both will be approaching peak form in July.

My own view is that Froome will prove himself over the course of the last week or the Tour as he won't have a GT in his legs. It's a far stiffer parcours in the Tour this year. However, with no sprinter to babysit, they effectively have 7 domestiques so can afford to look after both GC contenders.

Brailsford will have to earn his money when the race is on though. This will be harder without Sean Yates there as a DS. I just hope it doesn't turn into Astana of 2009. At least Sky don't have to pacify an egocentric, doped old giffer.

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antonio [1134 posts] 3 years ago
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A bit disrespectful for the reigning champion to enter the ring and say I'm not trying to win.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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antonio wrote:

A bit disrespectful for the reigning champion to enter the ring and say I'm not trying to win.

You mean like all the pissing and moaning of last year when Cav was carrying water for the team in his rainbow jersey to help win yellow?

Even if Wiggins is going to support Froome, I'd be stunned if he came out and said he wasn't trying to win it.

And if Wiggins actually has the nod and Froome is going to be supporting Wiggins, I'd fully expect Froome to come out all guns blazing about trying to win.

This is a team having its bowels pumped to bursting by Sky's cash cock, a company who revels in ramping up hype and clamour for sporting fixtures. They need this sort of drama to exist for them to exist. Don't be surprised if Sky start to run a "behind the scenes" docu-drama about this in all the over-blown, hyperbolic shitfest, sorry, 'build up' to the Tour this summer.

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notfastenough [3716 posts] 3 years ago
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Just all feels a bit Hinault/Lemond to me. Sure, Brad is the defending champion etc, but the season goals were decided a long time ago, and Froome was put on a path to build up for the TdF.

Ultimately, I think what might happen is that DB keeps quietish, the whole team ride near the front to keep out of danger for the first 10 days, they hit the mountains, TTT up the first few cols, then with just Wiggo, Froome, Nibali, Contador etc left, Froome launches the attack and Wiggo loses a little time, but not much. Rinse and repeat to increase margin. Wiggo then pulls back a little time in the ITTs but it isn't enough because there is less TT kms in this year's edition. Wiggo is also then too knackered to attempt the Vuelta as well.

Surely he would be better trying for both the Giro and the Vuelta in one year? I would much prefer to see a settled team where everyone knows (and is happy with) their role.

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Stumps [3415 posts] 3 years ago
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It's all mind games so the opposition are clueless as to who they have to watch.

If it all goesa to plan a Sky 1 - 2 will do me fine, not saying which way though  3

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arrieredupeleton [576 posts] 3 years ago
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farrell. Thanks for enlightening me. And for the graphic metaphorical prose. You're probably right but I think you might need to see a professional mind doctor.

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RouleurTwo [20 posts] 3 years ago
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farrell][quote=antonio wrote:

This is a team having its bowels pumped to bursting by Sky's cash cock, a company who revels in ramping up hype and clamour for sporting fixtures. They need this sort of drama to exist for them to exist. Don't be surprised if Sky start to run a "behind the scenes" docu-drama about this in all the over-blown, hyperbolic shitfest, sorry, 'build up' to the Tour this summer.

While that's evidently true of the three ring circus that's football on Sky, it's probably worth remembering that Rupe and his merry band have hardly any rights to the TdF or many other high profile cycling events. So, not really in their interests to indulge in that kind of bollox.
And the biggest hypers of the lot are the media, including the cycling specialist media. They don't really need a great deal of help from Sky or anybody else. They're perfectly capable of doing it on their own.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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RouleurTwo wrote:

it's probably worth remembering that Rupe and his merry band have hardly any rights to the TdF or many other high profile cycling events. So, not really in their interests to indulge in that kind of bollox.

At the moment they don't. Let's see how long that lasts.

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badback [302 posts] 3 years ago
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I hope that Wiggo and Froome do not go off all diva-ish and Sky's tour does not implode because they cannot function as a team because they are having hissy fit's about who is the leader.

I think they will have a much tougher time in the Tour (never mind the Giro) as some of the other teams look like they are starting to get their head around the idea of marginal gains and Sky's race strategies.

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notfastenough [3716 posts] 3 years ago
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This feel like deja vu to anyone else? Chris' mrs getting the hump again, although I can't say I blame her.

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andyp [1473 posts] 3 years ago
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'It's all mind games so the opposition are clueless as to who they have to watch. '

this. And Ms Cound can stfu. What a whinger.

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andyp [1473 posts] 3 years ago
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'This is a team having its bowels pumped to bursting by Sky's cash cock'

Farrell...genius. Love it.

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colinth [191 posts] 3 years ago
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farrell wrote:
RouleurTwo wrote:

it's probably worth remembering that Rupe and his merry band have hardly any rights to the TdF or many other high profile cycling events. So, not really in their interests to indulge in that kind of bollox.

At the moment they don't. Let's see how long that lasts.

Not long I hope, Sky coverage would be fantastic and probably put an end to missing the end of a race on Eurosport because they've cut to sceduled table tennis

Come on Sky, my money is waiting

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robert_obrien [118 posts] 3 years ago
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This reminds me of the Blair / Brown fiasco. If you help someone become master of the universe don't be surprised if they get to like it and delay / renege on their promise to let you have a go.

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WolfieSmith [1329 posts] 3 years ago
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Have to agree with Farrell. Wiggins has to be seen to defend his title. It's a PR's dream. Win or lose the Giro it's going to be a cracking TDF either way.

Can't see Mrs Froome getting a snapping job with Sky until Wiggins retires and that must piss her off. Maybe cranking up the fight will actually help her cause.

Meanwhile over on Twitter Kimmage is still hurt that he wasn't invited on the TDF by Sky last year. '...And I'd bought a camper van.' was my favourite quote from 2012.

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WolfieSmith [1329 posts] 3 years ago
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Looking at the photo I'd have to add that Sir Brad needs to observe Rule #5. He lives just up the road from me where Balaclavas are for sissys.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
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As much as i like Bradley i really would like to see Froome destroy him in the TdF.

(in the nicest possible way you understand?)

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Ghedebrav [1100 posts] 3 years ago
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Wouldn't expect the reigning champ to say anything other than he wants to win, and I'm certainly not about to slag him off for it.

Ditto the mighty Froomedog stating his GC case. Nothing wrong with a bit of intra-team rivalry either - stokes up the contest and makes things more interesting for us spectators as well.

Quite en vogue to hate on the Wigs at the mo, as if his cycling prowess had nothing to do with winning the TdF, it was all number-crunching and sacrificing (not literally) of team-mates. Fact is, he's a superb grand tourist and even though he's on the 'knock him down' phase of the celebrity arc, still deserves respect as one of the finest road cyclists the country has produced (yes, born in Belgium to Aussie dad, but whatever).

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Paulo [112 posts] 3 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde [1773 posts] 3 years ago
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I like it. As notfastenough puts it, it is 1986 all over again and that was an epic Tour De France.

There maybe a bit of added spice to juice up the event. The promoters will not mind it one bit. I think also that Brad and Chris have a score to settle: Did Froome gift the TdF to Brad, or did Brad always have it in the bag? Tough to catagorically say while Froome sat up on a number of stages.

As reigning TdF winner Brad should defend his title. He did also say Froomy will have his day too.

I do think that Sky have this sorted. It certainly makes the game plan harder for other teams if they are unsure who to attack. But equally, if they don't have their team together then they may lose it before the race has even begun.

If this is not PR spin Brailesford has his work cut out. First though, Brad has to come good on the Giro. Anyway, things are looking tasty for July!

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pwake [395 posts] 3 years ago
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You wait a hundred years for a potential British TDF winner and then two come along at once... it's fucking great!  4

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hozza666 [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Lots of medals,tour de France winner,he look good in a suit, now sir Wiggo , but from Italy,,,,,nothing,,,,,,yet.

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andyp [1473 posts] 3 years ago
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'As much as i like Bradley i really would like to see Froome destroy him in the TdF.
'

the same, but the other way round. Just to prove that Froome had no chance last year, orders or no.

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1961BikiE [254 posts] 3 years ago
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Er which channel is showing the Giro this year in the UK? The rot starts here.

I just hope it is mind games. My only concern is that there is internal conflict during TdF which leads to neither winning. I feel the opposition is much closer in ability than at 85/86 and the Hinault/leMond circus.

As for WAGS - I can understand them getting riled up by the hype but I really don't want cycling to become anymore like football where hangers on get as much or more attention than the athletes. I'd rather go back to cycling being anonymous than becoming a media hype fest.

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Metjas [362 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm certain this is no Sky PR stunt, but just Brad changing his mind, maybe unsure about his Giro prospects? Maybe unlikely as he's looking incredibly stong and to me the outright favourite to win the Giro.
Now that Sky have brought us the first british TdF winner, they do not have to stick to a single plan A. Froome will need to just prove it on the road, and I hope he does so. Sky will need to be careful that other contenders do not exploit this while Froome and Wiggo are watching each other rather than the race.
I also think that Wiggo wants to show this year that he does not have to rely on absolute and total dominance in TTs to win a stage race.

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jova54 [668 posts] 3 years ago
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Would you expect anything less from Wiggins?
He's made a career of winding people up and watching them spin to destruction and Michelle Cound is the latest one to fall for it.
I reckon Sir Wiggo sees this year as the last chance he'll have to win the tour a second time and so will probably be looking to go out in a blaze of glory.
What can they do? Sack him? Having spent so much time and effort to get him onto the Sky team they couldn't afford to piss off the UK supporter base.
Wiggins is British, he may be Belgium born and have an Aussie Dad but he thinks and talks like the people who support him and he has real character, like it or not. He has been around for years and we've watched in wonder as he transformed from a track racer to a GT competitor.
Froome is also British, but born in Kenya and he is boring. He has no individual character and to the general British public he appeared from nowhere last summer and they're probably not bothered if he disappears back there again.
Allez Wiggo!

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Metjas [362 posts] 3 years ago
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let me assure you that to the general British public Wiggo last year was a wonderful, but unexpected revelation  3

I'm mostly interested what happens on the bike during bike races, and from what I've seen so far this season, Froome is the more exciting and complete rider.

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mogrim [50 posts] 3 years ago
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Please please please don't let Sky win it.

Wiggins, Froome - in another team ok. But not in Sky. No. Cav for the green, and Bertie for the yellow. Please.

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