Sunday, 29 June 2014

Where’s Wiggo?

There’s no point searching for Britain’s most famous cyclist in this year’s Tour de France; when Sky announced their line-up for the 2014 tour on Friday Brad’s name was notable by its absence. I'm not disappointed by the decision - I’m actually angry that the nation has been deprived of the opportunity to watch their most illustrious rider compete once more in the world’s greatest cycling race.

The decision to omit Wiggins from the team flies in the face of all reason. Froome is a clear favourite to win the general classification, but cycling is a team sport and he will need the strongest possible set of riders to support his efforts. Wiggins had promised that he would be happy to ride for Froome this year, and, alongside the likes of Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellera he would have been one of the most formidable domestiques in the peloton. His strength would have been invaluable in the sections of pavé that will cause chaos in stage 5 and when chasing down breakaways in the long stages of the final week. There is no question that he is in good form at present too; while he had to withdraw from the Tour de Suisse his performance at the National Time Trial Championships last week (he won, easily) shows that he has recovered well and is still in the form that took him to victory in this year’s Tour of California.

Of course the purpose of a cycling team isn’t solely to win races; the team must also consider the needs of their sponsors. When viewed from this angle the decision not to select Wiggins seems even more of an aberration. The team’s paymasters may actually have preferred Froome to be dropped in favour of Wiggins: as last year’s Sport’s Personality of the Year demonstrated, Wiggins has a popularity that transcends the narrow world of cycling and Wiggins competing in the race would have garnered more viewers than another Froome victory.

No, there is only one possible reason why Wiggins will not be riding this year’s Tour de France, and that is because Froome does not want him there. To be quite honest I don’t particularly care what Froome’s reasons may be; he has always seemed a petulant and querulous individual and this is in all likelihood a continuation of the grudge that began (publicly at least) at the 2011 Vuelta. Froome should not be choosing the team; this is the task of Dave Brailsford who should have picked Wiggins for his ability, for his popularity and because he has a palmarès that should have earned his place in the team a hundred times over. Opting instead for an easy life seems an uncharacteristically weak decision; perhaps Brailsford no longer has the stomach for the role.

With Wiggins in the squad I would have supported Sky and Froome. Without him I am wholly ambivalent about the general classification. Unless something unexpected happens, like the smaller teams I will be more interested in stage wins than overall victory. I shall be cheering on Cavendish at every possible opportunity, hoping for a stage win for Millar in his final tour and supporting Garmin every time they try to harry and disrupt the autocratic tactics of Team Sky.

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