Bradley Wiggins’ omission from the Critérium du Dauphiné this month has raised doubts over his participation in next month’s Tour de France.
The eight’stage event is considered a key warm up race for next month’s Tour de France. His team mate and rival Chris Froome will participate whereas Wiggins will instead compete in the Tour de Suisse.
Team Manager Dave Brailsford has insisted that riders from both races will be considered for Sky’s Tour de France team, however the decision has sent the rumour mill into overdrive.
This year’s Tour is set to depart from Yorkshire, England on July 5th but Wiggins’ troubled relationship with the defending Champion Chris Froome may have cost him his place.
The 2012 Tour winner stated previously that he would support Froome in this year’s event but would cycle for himself on time trials. However, anticipation has been building since April with Wiggins’ Tour of California win demonstrating his return to form as a GC contender after being absent for much of 2013 through injury.
With Froome ill in April and May, there was even talk of Wiggins as a possible plan B for Team Sky until Froome’s recovery and return to form. Brailsford himself added further to the intrigue when asked whether Wiggins would start the race as a Plan B, rather than as a support for Froome.
“If you want to win the biggest events in the world, normally the guy with plan A tends to win…. It’s not often you get ‘Let’s revert to plan B’ and win. It’s not the norm.”
This was widely seen as a rebuff to Wiggins and both riders have trained in separate camps this month. Brailsford is famous for his principle of marginal gains; whereby any improvement, no matter how small is embraced to improve his riders’ performances. And with Wiggins not participating in the Critérium du Dauphiné, perhaps the threat to team harmony was too big a problem for Brailsford to ignore.
Froome also hinted at his preference for Richie Porte, his loyal general from last year’s win.
“I think Richie Porte has really stepped up his condition, which is good at the moment. He’s certainly got the potential to be riding for the Tour de France podium…. As far as Bradley [Wiggins] is concerned, the final nine riders selected to start the race in Yorkshire is a hot topic. That’s going to come down to what is best for the team, who is best for each role and the team dynamics.”
And Froome’s comments coincide with the release of his autobiography The Cimb which only heaps more fuel on the fire. Froome deals directly with their difficult relationship describing how the team had to negotiate Wiggins’ moods and his own frustration at cycling under Wiggins as a domestique.
It’s the latest installment of bickering involving partners exchanging insults on twitter and remarks in the media, in a feud that stretches back to 2011.
If Wiggins is omitted in July, this year will most likely be his last with Team Sky. At 34, Wiggins might fancy one more crack at a grand tour and it has been suggested he will link up with Shayne Bannan, a previous Team Manager at Orica GreenEGDE.
Wiggins could also bring his road racing career to a close altogether and return to the track. Whatever his decision is for next year, if Wiggins is omitted come July, his relationship with Froome will be one less obstacle for Team Sky to surmount as they attempt to win their third consecutive Tour de France.
Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.