Team Sky are making a mistake in not taking 2012 champion Bradley Wiggins to the upcoming Tour de France, says Tinkoff – Saxo's sports director Bjarne Riis.
“Sky can of course do whatever they want, but I strongly feel that it is a huge mistake if they do not have Wiggins,” Riis told TV2, the Danish television channel.
Wiggins, who did not compete in last year's Tour due to knee injuries, has said earlier this season that he would be willing to support his teammate Chris Froome's efforts to retain his Tour crown.
After months of speculation concerning his selection, however, Wiggins broke ranks and told the BBC that he would not be selected for Sky's nine-man squad for the grand tour. The team insist that team selection is not yet finalised.
The frosty relationship between team leader Froome and fellow Briton Wiggins has been subject to intense scrutiny ever since Froome attacked his then team leader during stage 11 of the 2012 Tour de France.
The pair have not raced alongside each other since the early 2013 at the Tour of Oman and have, in fact, only seen each other at Sky's winter training camps since Wiggins won the Tour almost two years ago.
Riis has criticised the British team's handling of the situation and claimed that he would never have allowed the affairs to deteriorate the way they have.
“First of all, I would like to say that Sky is not my team, fortunately,” said Riis. “There's no doubt that I would have taken a different approach. It's a bit sad to see that it would take the turn and let it go that far. It would certainly not be acceptable on my team."
With just two weeks ago until the Tour starts on English soil, Riis is confident his team, led by a resurgent Alberto Contador, will be able to break Sky's two-year stronghold of the world's most prestigious bike race.
His belief will have been strengthened by the fact that Contador finished second in the recent Criterium de Dauphiné while Chris Froome struggled late in the race and only managed to finish 12th.
The Danish former cyclist has been impressed by Contador's form this season and says that this is the best the Spaniard has been since joining his team in 2011.
“I have not seen Contador better with us,” said Riis. “Whether he has been better than that, I could not comment on, but while he has been with us, there is no doubt that it is the strongest I've seen him.”
Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009. He was then stripped of his 2010 Tour win over a drug test and following suspension. When he returned he was lacking his normal sharpness and has suffered the past two seasons.
In last year's Tour de France he was never able to compete with Froome and ultimately finished in a disappointing fourth place, more than six minutes behind the man he will try to topple this July.