LONDON (AFP) — Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins insists he is happy to accept Sky’s decision over its leader for next year’s race, even if it means he doesn’t have a chance to defend his title.
Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour earlier this year, but the announcement of next year’s mountainous route has led to suggestions that his Sky teammate Chris Froome, Wiggins’ back-up this year, might be better suited to win the race in 2013.
Froome, speaking to The Times on Tuesday, made it clear that he is hopeful of securing the leading role in next year’s Tour.
“The team are saying they are going to back me with the Tour this year. That’s directly from (Sky’s team chief) Dave (Brailsford). He said: ‘You’re our man for the Tour. Focus on it,” Froome said.
Brailsford last month confirmed that Wiggins would likely target the Giro d’Italia and Froome the Tour, though the decision was not final.
“The Tour of Italy would be a very good target for Bradley and leave Froomy then to focus on the Tour de France,” he said.
The newly-crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year will have no complaints if he has to play second fiddle and has already set a new goal of winning the Giro.
Wiggins, who followed up his Tour triumph with a gold medal in the London 2012 Olympic time trial, told Sky Sports News: “The last four years, all the focus has been on the Tour de France for me, trying to win that race… Fortunately I did it this year, then it’s deciding what to do next.
“The Tour of Italy is something I’d love to win; in cycling terms it’s just as big as the Tour for me, but also going back as defending champion next year to try to win a second Tour de France.
“We’re very fortunate that we have two people that can win the Tour de France. Having two people equally as strong, trying to beat the likes of (Alberto) Contador and Andy Schleck, is going to work in our favor.
“It could be any one of us, it could be Chris Froome on the day, it could be me, but once we get on that line we all have a professional obligation. We saw this year what Chris did for me; it could be that I’ll be doing that for
him next year for the team to win.”
Wiggins, 32, expects his team to go into the Tour de France with a clear idea of its leader, but accepts not every eventuality can be accounted for in advance.
“You go out there with a plan,” he said. “That plan may change during the race depending on crashes, illnesses or form, but you certainly start out with a gameplan and follow that gameplan as much as possible… If that’s Chris Froome then the whole eight riders will commit to Chris.
“But we saw a couple of years ago, once I crashed out the team was left without anything to do, really, because all our eggs were put into the basket of me.
“This year, had I crashed out in that first week, we always had a back-up plan with Chris Froome. It always helps to have strength in numbers, it’s a nice problem to have.”