By Charles Pelkey
Garmin-Slipstream’s Bradley Wiggins has disputed reports that he is looking for ways to get out of the final year of his contract with the American-sponsored team.
Responding to interpretations of an earlier BBC report that implied that staying with Garmin-Slipstream is unlikely to boost his hopes of finishing on the Tour de France podium next year, Wiggins said he has no plans to leave his team.
“I have a lot of love for Garmin and these stories are not my thoughts on Garmin,” Wiggins said in an email to VeloNews.
After a remarkable fourth-place finish in this year’s Tour, Wiggins, best known for his individual-pursuit feats on the Olympic and worlds’ track has become a target for the new British Sky team.
Wiggins has a year left on his contract with Garmin and the team run by former professional Jonathan Vaughters wants him to honor it.
In an interview with the BBC, Wiggins suggested that he might need to step up to a higher level.
“It’s a bit like trying to win the Champions League and to win the Champions League you go to Manchester United and I’m probably playing at Wigan at the moment.
“I’ll probably have to make that step to do it,” Wiggins was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Like Manchester United, Wigan is in the Barclay’s Premier League, the 20-team league that is British Soccer’s version of cycling’s ProTour. As defending champion, Manchester United is currently ranked second, while Wigan Athletic is ranked 15th.
“I’ve had a good time this year at Garmin but times have changed,” he added. “I don’t know; the Tour changed everything for me really so we’ll see what happens.”
But Wiggins characterized suggestions that he is seeking a quick departure from Garmin as “bollocks.”
Contacted by VeloNews Vaughters said that “Bradley is an exceptional athlete. We are fortunate that he is under contract with us through 2010.”
Wiggins had hoped to finish on the podium of the men’s time trial at the world championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland, on Thursday but was never really a challenger and fell even further out of contention when suffering a mechanical problem.
He crossed the finish in 21st place, nearly five minutes behind Fabian Cancellara, who easily won his third world title in the event.
Team Sky was formed earlier this year thanks to an estimated 25-million-plus pounds of backing, over a three-year period, from British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), with other companies being sought as cosponsors.
Run by Dave Brailsford, the man who spearheaded Britain’s rise to global dominance in track cycling, leading to seven of the 10 gold medals on offer at the Beijing Olympics, the team’s objective is to produce a first British Tour de France winner within five years.
Wiggins, after this year’s performance, would be the perfect candidate, although he hinted that British Cycling officials were keen for him to defend his track pursuit titles at the London Olympics in 2012.
“I think I’ll always be back there in London defending my titles in the pursuit,” added Wiggins, who had placed doubt on his Olympic future after his Tour de France achievement.
Brailsford, speaking to the BBC, would not be drawn on the Wiggins transfer speculation.
“Key British riders may be under contract and we have to respect that,” he said.
Among the riders to have already signed for the team, to be coached by Australian Scott Sunderland, are Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, Australian Simon Gerrans, Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha and Sweden’s Thomas Lovkvist.
British hopes Steve Cummings, Russell Downing, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas have also joined.
—Agence France Presse contributed to this story.