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Officially confirming what Bradley Wiggins said on Thursday evening after his win in yesterday’s British time trial championships, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has confirmed that the 2012 Tour winner will not be part of this year’s squad, and that Chris Froome will be backed by Richie Porte and others.
“It’s a very, very tough decision,” Brailsford said about leaving Wiggins off the squad. “He has been a great champion, is a great champion. But my job is to pick a team to win.”
Wiggins and Froome have had a tense relationship on the team, with issues first surfacing when the duo were the two strongest riders in the 2012 race. Although Wiggins said several times this year that he was willing to ride for the younger Briton, the team has decided that the selection of another rider in his place is better for team harmony, and so he will not be at the start in Leeds.
“It has been a golden decade for cycling. Bradley Wiggins lies at the heart of a lot of that success, and although he has not been selected for this race he is still a key member of Team Sky and a great champion,” said Brailsford.
Wiggins won the Tour of California in May and had hoped this would put him in the frame. However he said earlier this month that he understood he would not be selected, and that he was likely to leave the team at the end of the year.
Brailsford then said the team would not be finalised until after the Tour de Suisse. A strong ride there by Wiggins might have helped his cause, but he was only fourteenth in the opening time trial, then withdrew after a crash on stage four.
Froome will be joined by Porte, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Bernhard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka, David López, Danny Pate and Xabier Zandio. He has won the Tours of Oman and Romandie this season and while a crash hampered him in the Critérium du Dauphiné and contributed to him losing the race lead, he said today that he was fired up for the race.
“Everyone in the team is hugely excited about the Tour de France starting in the UK, and racing in front of home fans as defending champion will be an incredible honour,” he stated.
“We did a recce of the Yorkshire stages a few weeks ago and the excitement was already starting to build and the support that we have received has been fantastic. I’ll never forget the atmosphere on the roads during the London Olympics and to receive similar support at the Tour would be amazing. There’s no greater motivation for us than riding in front of our UK fans.”
Although Alberto Contador has been in very strong form this year and was able to drop Froome on two consecutive stages in the Dauphiné – albeit after the Briton had his crash – Brailsford sounded upbeat about the team’s chances.
“Team Sky returns to the Tour de France with the reigning champion and we are looking to win the yellow jersey for the third time in three years and a second consecutive time for Chris Froome,” he said. “Defending champion Chris Froome is an exceptional talent, a brilliant stage racer, and he’ll lead the team.
“We know how hard it is to win this race and that it takes a totally focused and carefully constructed team, with the right blend of riders, to give us the best chance of victory. Each rider has been selected to play a specific role which will involve total sacrifice and commitment to the team’s ambition of reaching the Champs Élysées in yellow.”
He added that the team was selected with performance in mind, rather than sentiment. “Given the number of talented riders in Team Sky, this approach has inevitably lead to some very tough decisions,” he accepted. “However it’s crucial to remain totally focused on the desired outcome and we’re racing to win.”
Wiggins has another target to aim for; British Cycling today confirmed that he will join the track squad for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“I’m very happy to be able to welcome Sir Bradley back to the track team for the Commonwealth Games – his addition will be a real morale boost to the rest of the track squad,” said head coach Shane Sutton. “The decision of who will ride what event will be made nearer the time.”