NICE, France (VN) — Chris Froome, one year on from helping Bradley Wiggins take Great Britain’s first Tour de France victory, heads the Sky squad in France. Over the next month, he will have a clear and out-right leadership role without the defending champion at his side.
“Unfortunately, we lose out on another big engine for the team time trial and also someone who can be there in the mountains, and also, he would’ve been a great support for me,” Froome said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“But the one thing that I don’t think either of us would miss is, from the media perspective, all the questions that are being asked about the leadership of the team. Obviously that’s a lot more clear-cut now.”
Wiggins dominated last year’s race. The Brit took massive gains in the two time trials and added to it in the mountains. Standing on the podium on the Champs-Élysées, he had just over three minutes on Froome and some six minutes on Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
After a dominant year, including the gold medal in the Olympic time trial, Wiggins changed tracks and headed for the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Instead of winning, he has struggled. A chest infection saw him abandon the Italian race midway in and a knee problem is keeping him from starting the Tour de France.
With Wiggins set to roll into Italy, Sky management had already given Froome the green light to lead the team.
Froome has won all but one stage race, Tirreno-Adriatico, that he participated in this year. He starts the Tour with victories in the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tour de Romandie, and Critérium du Dauphiné.
He also has Sky’s faith. During the Giro, the British super team silenced questions over leadership by naming Froome as captain. Wiggins would continue to try for the Giro win and go on to help Froome in the Tour, according to the plan at the time.
Wiggins preferred not to even discuss the matter. He said, “My mind’s just here at the Giro.”
The British duo appeared at odds at times during last year’s Tour. Froome briefly rode away from his captain on the La Toussuire climb and appeared to be waiting for him again on the Peyragudes stage in the Pyrénées. With Wiggins at home, Froome’s leadership is clear.
Porte Plan B
Australian Richie Porte will likely be Froome’s main mountain helper as he was in races like the Critérium du Dauphiné. The two get along well and train together anytime they are both at their base in Monaco.
“He’s my best friend in the peloton,” Froome said. “We both have similar backgrounds, in the way that we enjoy outdoor lifestyles, him in Tasmania and me back in Kenya and South Africa.”
He explained that he might even help Porte win the Tour in the coming years, or this year.
“Definitely, I think we can bounce off each other a lot. He knows that he’s definitely has my support if he’s there to target a race and the other way around also, as is the case this year,” Froome said. “Richie’s definitely capable of winning the Tour [this year]; he’s our likely plan B.”
Even with the team yet announced, the 28-year-old should have Porte and other top domestiques backing him for an eventual overall win. With their support and Wiggins at home, Froome has his golden opportunity to claim a Tour title.