Monday 23 October 2017

Sky upbeat on keeping Froome and Wiggins

Christopher Froome flashes a thumbs up and a big smile as crosses the finish line of the 20th stage of the Tour de France
Christopher Froome flashes a thumbs up and a big smile as crosses the finish line of the 20th stage of the Tour de France

Alasdair Fotheringham

As the last railings were cleared away after the late-night celebrations of the centenary edition of the Tour de France, Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said that Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome would ride together in the future – possibly in next year's Tour.

Asked if Wiggins could lead the team again in a Grand Tour, Brailsford said: "Potentially. We'll have to see how the rest of the season goes. We're not in the game of ruling things out; we're in the game of ruling things in."

That includes the possibility of Wiggins and Froome, winners of the 2012 and 2013 Tour de France respectively, competing together when the race starts in Yorkshire on July 5 next year.

The Sky supremo intimated that would have been the case this year had Wiggins not opted to make the Giro d'Italia his main target – and then failed to start the Tour de France because of injury.

It is unlikely that Wiggins will either return to the Vuelta a Espana, which begins in late August and was where he finished a breakthrough third in 2011, or the Giro, which he abandoned ill and injured in May.

Richie Porte currently seems to be Sky's most likely leader in the Italian Grand Tour, while Wiggins has already ruled out this year's Vuelta, preferring to focus on September's Tour of Britain and the world time-trial championships.

Froome, meanwhile, will be building towards the road-race world championships in September and then end-of-season classics like the Tour of Lombardy.

For next year's Tour, it seems likely that Froome and Wiggins could well both be present – once more reviving the whole question of who would be the team leader, an issue which has been rumbling along since the Vuelta in 2011.

Since then – as Froome showed himself to be the strongest climber in the 2012 Tour and Wiggins the most solid all-rounder – Sky's leadership question has been a subject of constant speculation, to the point where Froome issued a press release affirming his top spot for Sky (as the team had always stated) for July.

The plot thickened further when Froome said he wished Wiggins had been on the Tour after a day when Sky came under intense pressure from Alberto Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff squad and Froome lost 69 seconds.

However, Froome and Wiggins' relationship on a personal level seems to be difficult, with Froome's shortest answer in the whole of his Tour winner's press conference coming when he was asked if he had heard from Wiggins during the race or received any congratulatory text messages from the Londoner up until that point. He hadn't.

Yet another issue muddying the water is that Wiggins himself has questioned whether he will again win the Tour de France.

However, Brailsford is adamant that the question of whether his two riders actually click personally is irrelevant. All that matters is whether they work as a team. "Everybody goes on about, can they be friends? I don't spend a nano-second worrying about whether they get on or not," Brailsford said.

"People talk about having team unity and team harmony... I don't buy that at all, most of the best teams I've been with, they're not harmonious.

GRITTY

"This is a gritty environment, where people are pushing hard. Same with the Olympic team. There are agitators and it's a hard environment to spend a month in." What you need is what Brailsford calls "goal harmony".

"I don't care if people like each other or not, but there's a big difference – and they all understand the difference – between professional and personal behaviour," he said.

"You can have the best friends, the closest-knit group, but if they're not 100pc aligned behind the goal, it's not going to work. When there's a goal there, everybody aligns behind that goal and does absolutely what's expected of them to achieve it." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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