Further details have emerged of the non-payment of prize money for winning the 2012 Tour de France to his Team Sky colleague – and many would say rival – as well as runner-up in that race, Chris Froome. It also transpires that team principal Sir Dave Brailsford considered threatening to dock Wiggins several months’ wages if he ignored team orders to support Froome in last July’s Tour; Wiggins missed that race, with Froome succeeding him as champion.
The story of the non-payment of money to Froome was broken in David Walsh’s book, Inside Team Sky, published last week. According to The Times, the money in question isn’t the €450,000 for first place on GC paid to Team Sky for Wiggins’ victory – that goes into a central pot, and Froome got his share of that – but a £1 million bonus from the team itself.
The newspaper says that Froome learnt from his team mate – not to mention close friend, training partner and fellow Monaco resident, Richie Porte – that he had received money from Wiggins.
But Froome had not, nor unlike the other members of the team had he received the traditional gift of a yellow jersey from the Tour winner or an invitation to Wiggins’ Yellow Ball charity fundraiser in October last year.
During the 2012 Tour, rumours that all was not well between the two Sky riders who had got onto the podium during the previous year’s Vuelta were fuelled by two incidents in particular.
The first came when Froome seemed to attack race leader on Stage 11 to La Toussuire-Les-Sybelles, slowing down only on the orders of sports director, Sean Yates.
That incident gave rise to a tetchy exchange on Twitter between Wiggins’ wife Cath, and Froome’s now fiancée, Michelle Cound.
That was followed by another apparently angry exchange between the two men on the final mountain stage, when Froome could be seen gesticulating at Wiggins.
Referring to the bonus, Cound, who also looks after Froome’s business interests, said: “People don’t necessarily tell each other what bonus they have got. So we didn’t know for sure what the situation was.
“We didn’t know what the other riders got,” Cound said. “But Brad paid Chris nothing.”
On the subject of Walsh’s book, she said: “I don’t believe Brad ever intended to pay Chris the bonus. I think the reason he did is because he knew it was coming out in the book.
Cound added that it was more about the principle than the money, saying: “Brad paying Chris really doesn’t mean that much. It’s about a lot more than the sum of money.”
Wiggins made noises earlier this year about wanting to defend his Tour de France title, even though Brailsford had made it clear that Froome would be Sky’s protected rider, with the course more suited to him.
An injury picked up after Wiggins Giro d’Italia campaign, where he left the race halfway through, saw Sky announce he wouldn’t be selected for the Tour nearly a month before it began on Corsica.
In Walsh’s book, Brailsford outlined his belief that Froome and Wiggins can put professionalism above personal differences, but also revealed that he was prepared to take drastic measures to ensure the pair’s simmering row would not affect the team.
He planned to bring both men together and ask Wiggins – twice – to confirm he would ride for Froome, on the assumption the answer would be in the affirmative.
“Then I would say, ‘OK, if you don’t follow team orders we will agree to fine you three or four months’ wages’,” explained Brailsford.
He added: “This will be a significant amount of money, maybe as much as a few hundred thousand, and I believed it would concentrate Brad’s mind. I was then going to turn to Chris and say: ‘Right, Chris, if Brad goes against team orders, I’m going to give you that money.’ ”
Brailsford added that the proposal was based more on ensuring “goal harmony” – Froome’s victory – rather than “team harmony.”
However, he has insisted that the question of the non-payment of the bonus wasn’t an issue for the team, saying:
“That was a matter for Bradley and Chris and it is now sorted.”
But he did play a role in its resolution.
September’s World Championships in Tuscany saw both men selected for the British squad, with Froome spearheading what would prove to be a lackluster challenge in the rain, and ahead of that race as Cound explained, “Brailsford decided it would be better to sort it all out.”
A week before the race, Wiggins transferred the money to Froome, but Cound said that clear-the-air talks between the pair did not take place: “Chris was supposed to sit down with Brad before the worlds and it just never happened.”
Sky’s preparation for a 2014 season that will see the Tour de France begin on home soil in Yorkshire commence shortly with a training camp on Mallorca, and early season races will give Brailsford and his management team a chance to gauge the respective riders’ form.
The Yorkshire Grand Départ, and the fact the last two winners of the race are both British and ride for a British team means that media attention will be intense in the months leading up to the race, and the relationship between them will be come under particular scrutiny.
The Wiggins and Froome soap opera is unlikely to have run its course just yet.
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.