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.”
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.