Sir Bradley Wiggins, Tour troublemaker.
Sir does not mean King.
After his historic Tour de France victory, his gold in the Olympic Time time trial and finally, his knighthood, Bradley Wiggins seems to have decided he rules all.
That would include one of his subjects at Team Sky, last year’s Tour runner-up, Chris Froome.
While Wiggins has decided to focus on winning the Giro d’Italia, he continues to insist he might demand a shot at winning the Tour, too — a feat nobody has managed to accomplish since a drug-fueled Marco Pantani back in 1996. He wants a share of the captain’s role when the Grand Depart starts in Corsica on June 29th.
Meanwhile poor Froome continues to insist he has been promised by team management that he’s “100″ the captain for this year’s Tour. The South African has racked up impressive overall victories in the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and the Tour of Romandie but still finds himself unsure about Sky’s plans for France.
Wiggins isn’t too confused about the future arrangements. ”You plan for the best case scenario, and that is that I win the Giro, come out of it, stay healthy, we do all the training camps, and Chris ends up winning the [Critérium du] Dauphiné, and we both arrive at the Tour in the best possible condition. Then Dave has to make the call.”
Now Froome had thought that team manager David Brailsford had already made that call: the Giro was for Wiggins and the Tour was his. Everybody knows the plan at Sky, it’s just that Wiggins doesn’t like Froome and he likes his plan better.
What’s clear is that for all Sky’s hyper control of all variables, the one thing they have no control over is Bradley Wiggins. His continual sniping at his own teammate Froome is undermining the team and perhaps their best shot at winning the Tour de France. They can’t shut up King Wiggo.
How hard would it be for the strong-willed Brailsford — who has a long and close relationship with Wiggins — to pull him aside and say, “Brad, you gotta shut up about Froomy and the Tour. If you win the Giro and you get to France and Chris lets us down, you’re the man, But until then, shut up. Do it for the team, for crissakes.”
The same goes for coach Shane Sutton, another man for whom Wiggins has tremendous respect. Why hasn’t Sutton said, “Brad, cut the crap. There’s no point in this. Talk to me in the Pyrenees.”
Maybe they have had those conversations and Wiggins has simply ignored the directives. Sir Bradley is having none of that. Besides, the man is still holding a grudge against Froome for one acceleration that happened ten months ago.
Froome is getting a hard lesson in Sky politics and his fiancée Michelle Cound is already taking kick boxing classes in preparation for her death-match with Wiggins’ wife. Sky’s inability to muzzle Wiggins is a guarantee that Froome will ride somewhere else next season even if he has to lawyer his way out. Next home purchase on Froome’s list: paper shredder.
After Froome helped Wiggins to his Tour de France victory, the Brit was effusive in his praise of his climbing domestique. “Every inch of the way on this Tour Chris has been absolutely solid and him not being in an opposition team has been one less thing to worry about. If he was in an opposing team, then you would constantly have that battle all the time. You’d rather have Chris in your camp than someone else’s.”
There are several rich ironies in that quote. The fact is, right now Froome must feel like Sir Brad is on an opposing team and he is having to battle all the time. They are not in the same camp.
Sadly — or fabulously, if you’re a cycling journalist — this story will remain red hot for the next two months until the Tour and then into the high mountains. Twisted Spoke can’t help be reminded of the mind games Lance Armstrong played with Alberto Contador when they both wanted to win Le Tour at Astana. It’s beginning to feel like psychological warfare with Wiggins trying to destabilize and wear down Froome in order to get his shot at a second Tour de France victory.
Ahh, well, we’re just bone-idlers here in California. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a plan A and plan B for the Tour de France.
But Wiggins attitude toward Froome seems like conduct unbefitting of a knight of the empire.