Sir Dave Brailsford has dismissed any notion that Sir Bradley Wiggins could become Team Sky's back-up leader to Chris Froome at July's Tour de France.
Brailsford has six weeks to decide whether the former Tour winner should be allowed to ride with the current champion for the first time since 2012, when Froome helped Wiggins win the grand tour, amid some controversy.
Brailsford admitted that he had trouble seeing Wiggins stepping in as leader and going on to challenge for the overall win were Froome to struggle.
“The bottom line is, as far as my experience has been, if you want to win the biggest events in the world, normally the guy with plan A tends to win,” Brailsford told the Guardian. “It’s not often you get ‘Let’s revert to plan B’ and win. It’s not the norm.”
This spring has made team selection for Froome's Tour squad slightly tricky as Wiggins has put in impressive performances at the Paris-Roubaix, where he finished ninth, and later at the Tour of California where he claimed a dominating victory which Brailsford praised.
“The one thing we wanted out of this period of racing was to win the Tour of California, which Brad and the team did in spectacular fashion,” said Brailsford, who was speaking at the launch of Team Sky’s new aerodynamic Tour bike, developed with Jaguar. “I thought his time trial was very, very impressive. It was good to see. He was brilliant from an ambassadorial point of view.”
This spring has been excellent for Wiggins, who has proven his one-day race credentials as well as winning the American stage race. This time last year, in contrast, Wiggins struggled at the Giro d'Italia and had to withdraw after illness and ultimately a knee injury which meant he would not defend his 2012 Tour win.
Brailsford did not reveal when the Tour squad would be announced but last year the selection was made on 26 June, just three days before race start.
Regarding a potential plan B for Sky, Brailsford said: “You’ve got to think about Richie Porte as well, where he’s been at, the level that he operates at.”
The Australian was crucial for Froome's victory in France last year – and rode well in 2012 as well – but has seen little joy as illness and injury have disrupted most of his spring season. He was scheduled to lead Team Sky at the Giro but the team chose to pull him out of the race to allow him to focus solely on helping Froome at the Tour. It is now believed that he is on his way back to form.
Wiggins, who last year was reluctant to accept that Froome would lead at the Tour, has expressed his desire to be at the start when the Tour takes off in Yorkshire. He is now prepared to support Froome.
There is little doubt, however, that the relationship between the 2012 and 2013 Tour winners has not been ideal in the not so distant past. In an extract from Froome's autobiography appearing on Sunday, the current Tour champion talks about the 2012 Tour.
“We rode around him [Wiggins] and his moods like he was a traffic island.”
About an episode where he attacked on the Alps when Wiggins, wearing yellow, seemed frail, Froome added:
“Brad was folding physically and mentally, and quicker than I had thought possible. I got the feeling that he would literally just get off his bike were I to carry on pushing. What was a simple and perfect plan to me seemed to translate for Brad into a public humiliation.”
Froome also felt that he was overlooked two years ago. “I felt that the team weren’t prepared to recognise that I was a potential winner.”
It is Froome's squad and as Wiggins has mentioned earlier in the spring, Froome will have to feel comfortable with the riders included. While Wiggins' recent form suggests that his inclusion should be a forgone conclusion, Brailsford will have his doubts whether the two stars – who have not raced much together since the 2012 Tour – will be able to put their differences aside for the good of the team.
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