Christmas is May 31st as far as Team Sky’s Chris Froome is concerned.
Sky team management announced today that his arch rival for the captain role at the Tour de France has now been decided once and for all. Reigning Tour champion Bradley Wiggins won’t even make the trip to Corsica for the Grand Depart.
That’s a gift that Froome will really appreciate now that one of his most dangerous rivals has been eliminated — the own teammate Wiggins. Their long-running battle of words and the confusion surrounding who would be the tour boss is over.
Froome is now free to focus all his energies toward beating Contador, Evans and Rodriquez instead of wondering where Wiggins is hiding the knife and when he’s going to stab.
The Sky press release cited Wiggins’ on-going knee problem after a Giro d’Italia of illness, crashes and miserable weather. “With illness, injury and treatment Brad has gone past the point where he can be ready for the Tour. It’s a big loss but, given these circumstances, we won’t consider him for selection,” said Sky manager Dave Brailsford.
On the other hand, Froome will look at that loss as a huge addition and a significant boost to his chances for winning the 100th edition of Le Grand Shindig.
Wiggins still harbors resentment for what he perceived as an attack from Froome on La Toussuire in last year’s Tour. The attack — or acceleration — lasted all of twenty seconds but Wiggins is still irritated by it eleven months later. He made a point of criticizing Froome’s move in his autobiography My Time.
Brailsford summed up the situation with the sporting version of “that’s life.” “Whilst we all know these things happen in sport, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a huge disappointment for everyone in the team – and above all for Brad.”
Well, everyone on the team except Chris Froome. Eliminating the prospect of a three week Hinault-Lemond style battle on the roads of France takes a huge load off his mind.
The 100th edition of the Tour de France promises to be a huge birthday celebration. Only the reigning Tour champion won’t be there to light any candles.
“It’s a huge disappointment not to make the Tour. I desperately wanted be there, for the team and for all the fans along the way – but it’s not going to happen,” said Wiggins. “I can’t train the way I need to train and I’m not going to be ready. Once you accept that, it’s almost a relief not having to worry about the injury and the race against time.”
It’s an even bigger relief for Froome.