REIMS, France (VN) — The words seemed so harmless there on the Harrogate street in chalk. Simply, “Where’s Wiggo?” and an arrow, pointing to the Sky bus.
It was a question asked out of nationalism many times in the UK, and now, seems one of pragmatism. Where is Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, given that the 2013 champion Froome crashed out during his defense campaign, just 5 days into the Tour?
The short answer is at home, taking pictures of bikes he’s recently acquired. Wiggins was unceremoniously left off the 2014 Sky Tour roster, many speculated due to tension with teammate Chris Froome that dates back to his own 2012 Tour win. The team went all in on Froome, and Wiggins was left to spend July at home.
But Sky principal Dave Brailsford wouldn’t second-guess his Tour roster on a rainy Thursday morning with Froome already at home in Moncaco and Aussie Richie Porte sitting in the top 10.
“If we thought Brad could be a plan B, then we would’ve selected him,” Brailsford said. “Richie Porte is our plan B and we selected the team on the facts that we had at the time, and that’s how it panned out. I take full responsibility for it. That’s part of my job, [I] make decisions and I stand by them. Everyone else can decide if it was good or a bad decision.”
It will likely take until the third week of this Tour, in the Pyrenees, to see if Brailsford made the right calls on his roster, though it’s a tall order for any team to lose its captain and still contend for the overall.
Star-studded Vuelta roster?
The immediate plan for Froome is still as clear as the overcast sky across northern France, as the team looks at the damage he sustained in three Tour crashes in two days, two weeks after a significant tumble at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“You have to stop and take stock of the situation. Until we found out exact the nature of his injury, and what that recover and rehab program looks like, it’s a bit early to speculate on the rest of the year,” Brailsford said. “There are obviously quite a bit of WorldTour races left, which would be a consideration, a grand tour would be a consideration, the Tour of Britain might be a consideration, so… Until we get the facts on his injures and rehab, it’s early to speculate.”
Froome has finished second in the Vuelta a España in 2011 and fourth in 2012, after arriving second in the Tour de France earlier that season.
Sky went to Spain in 2011 to ride for Wiggins. During the race it became clear Froome was in better form, though the team ultimately held him back. Froome was finally unleashed but by that point it was too late; Juan José Cobo had been given too much time already, and Froome finished second. Wiggins finished third.
Is it time the sport sees Wiggins and Froome together again at the same grand tour?
“It’s not confirmed yet, we’ll have to see how [Wiggins] goes in the Commonwealth games and where we are at after that,” Brailsford said of Wiggins’ riding the Vuelta. Brailsford said it was Wiggins’ primary goal to peak for the individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships, to be held in Spain in September.
Wiggins may also defend his title at the Tour of Britain, though Brailsford wouldn’t rule out his two aces in the same Spanish grand tour. “If it makes sense, if it’s the right thing to do from the performance point of view then why not? But let’s wait to see first and take stock of the situation,” he said.