After four weeks of heated speculation, Sky has decided not to include former Tour de France winner Chris Froome on the roster for the Surrey Classic. Instead, the team will move forward with Bradley Wiggins as the sole captain.
According to a source within Sky, Froome lobbied hard to ride in Surrey and was bitterly disappointed to miss out. However, it is believed that Wiggins pressured Sky management to drop Froome after the South African had largely torpedoed Wiggins own hopes of riding the Tour de France.
Froome had been vocal in stating that he was happy to ride for Wiggins despite their mutual dislike. The two have barely ridden together since their falling out during the 2012 Tour. However team manager David Brailsford made the hard call that team unity was a vital factor in SKy fielding its strongest squad for the 1.HC cetegory event that takes in the climb of Box Mill and finishes on the Mall in the center of London.
Some observers see this as revenge for Wiggins, since Froome pushed him off the roster for the Tour and the upcoming Vuelta a Espana. Wiggins was slated to ride the Spanish grand tour in August but since Froome crashed out of the Tour, he is now taking the lead role in Sky’s plans for the Vuelta.
“It’s pretty obvious, right? Brad is making a power play by taking Surrey for himself,” said Michael Fibbs, a Sky soingeur. “HE’s telling Froome, yeah, sure you got two grand tour rides but I got Surrey. That’s got to hurt Froomie a bit.”
With no plan B to fall back on, Sky goes to the RideLondon – Surrey Classic with no options but Wiggins. At least one critic thinks that’s a dangerous course of action. “It’s a big race, Surrey. Big stage, big pressures, the entire cycling world is watching. Not having Froome there is a shock,” said Andrew Drywhit, a coach for British Cycling. “We saw what happened to SKy at the Tour without Wiggins. Now there’s no Froome in Surrey and I find that baffling.”
Wiggins himself made no mention of the exclusion of Froome. “I’m really looking forward to Sunday and to being back on the road with Team Sky. I always enjoy competing in front of home fans and have great memories of riding this route at the Olympics,” Wiggins said, according to the Team Sky website.
Froome now finds himself the odd man out at SKy. While he is training in Northern California with retired pro Levi Leipheimer, He isn’t riding the Tour of Utah or the upcoming US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado — a race he took part in last year.
It’s an odd turn of events for a man who took over the star role at Sky after his dominant win in the 2013 Tour de France. “I think he’s a bit lost right now. Being left out of the RideLondon – Surrey Classic was a huge blow to his ego,” said Drywhit. There he is out riding the back roads of Santa Rosa with a retired doper while Wiggo steals the big spotlight.”
SKy’s sudden switch of allegiance from Froome to Wiggins in the high profile RideLondon – Surrey Classic has many people wondering just what team boss David Brailsford has in mind. “It’s a clear message to Froome that he better stay on his toes. He’s playing a psychological game with Froome,” said Pierre LeBrague, senior editor at L’Equipe. “You can read between the lines — was Froome really that injured in France or was he not tough enough? Contador was in tears when he left the Tour but Froome didn’t.”
SKy has weathered previous Wiggins-Froome race controversies but never with an event with the unique prestige of the RideLondon – Surrey Classic. Is WIggins on the climb and Froome off the back? It’s doubtful we’ve heard the last of this story.