With Chris Froome sealing victory in the Tour of Romandie on Sunday it looked like the Tour de France Sky leadership debacle would finally be put to bed. Froome is clearly in the form of his life - all year he's consistently beaten the likes of Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez in much the same way as Bradley Wiggins swept aside the competition in 2012 and just as it looked like Froome had settled the score on the road, he also set the record straight away from it as I mentioned in last weeks post when he declared that he was "100% Team leader for the Tour de France" but Bradley Wiggins wasn't about to let this one lie...
It would be a push to say the ongoing power struggle at Sky has resulted in a 'war of words' but there definitely appears to be some tension between the pair perhaps carried over from last years Tour where it looked as though cracks started to appear in the final week but whether this situation is what it seems I can't be sure - the whole thing could be a tactical fabrication as I've discussed before, but for the purpose of this post lets assume this isn't the case. Bradley Wiggins told the BBC today that:
"The Tour de France is my focus, it's just that I'm doing the Giro before. It's like last year and the Olympics, I was focused on that and the Tour. This year the Giro comes first. There's been a lot of talk about [me riding in support of Chris Froome] but it's for the team management to decide. We are both on different paths and we're both professionals. We have been there before. We're on the same team and we know what needs to be done. I would be comfortable in a supporting role but it's not like I'm going to ride 200km on the front and swing off and lose 30 minutes. I want to be there at the death, I want to be on the podium. Somebody will need to make that decision. It will be quite hard, and I'm glad it's not me, but Dave [Brailsford] is good at it."
This latest comment does look like a bit of a reaction to Froomes comments last week but it's not the first time Wiggins has said the Tour is his goal and it's unlikely to be his last but should Chris Froome really be worried? It's been more or less proven that the double can't be done in the modern age. Contador struggled in the 2011 Tour after riding the Giro and we saw how Froome cracked in the Vuelta last year after supporting Wiggins at the Tour. I think from a team management point of view the egg's have to be in the Froome Basket based not only on the situation but on Form as well - afterall we havn't seen all that much of Wiggins in 2013 and thanks to a mechanical in Trentino he didn't really have to show his hand. If other teams have struggled then Sky are familiar with doing the impossible though - all be it on a scientific basis and now their chief coach Tim Kerrison says that a Giro - Tour double is possible, according to those all important figures.
|Kerrison says Giro-Tour double is possible.|
So, is this a Hinault/Lemond scenario building? Will we see Wiggins attack his own team leader at the Tour, will it be there in plain view for the world to see? Well, it's unlikely anything that dramatic will happen, especially in the modern sport where it boils down to facts, figures and methodical training both physical and tactical. The likely scenario is this: Froome goes in as team leader, see where all the numbers are at after the first week and then maybe based on the data things *could* change. It's unlikely that Wiggins will play any real 'domestique role' instead both riders will be protected with Wiggins acting as 'last man' to Froome in extreme cases, very much like the Tour last year. Expect to see them both crossing the finish line each day at the sharp end of the race as the rest of the team sacrifice themselves on the slopes.
There are however a few little in-house rivalries building around the Tour though and it's not just Chris and Brad. BMC are in a similar position with Teejay Van Garderen and Cadel Evans and again over at Movistar there is the Nairo Quintana / Alejandro Valverde conundrum. It's these little sub-plots that make the Tour de France a great story, but like any story we are unlikely to know the true outcome until the very end...