Sir Bradley Wiggins is backing Chris Froome to win a fifth Tour de France title – but not this year, with the 2012 yellow jersey winner picking Geraint Thomas as his choice, predicting that the Welshman will end the race on the top step of the Champs-Elysées podium, repeating his success of two years ago.
Froome will leave Team Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation at the end of the season, one of the reasons behind the move being that it will give him undisputed team leadership at next year’s Tour de France.
He is currently racing the Tour de l’Occitanie, which finishes tomorrow, and will be the first race he has completed since his horrific crash at the Criterium du Dauphiné in June last year.
Assuming he is fully recovered, he is expected to line up alongside Thomas and reigning champion Egan Bernal when the Tour de France, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, eventually starts in Nice on 29 August.
Speaking on his Bradley Wiggins Show podcast on Eurosport, Wiggins expressed doubt that the 35-year-old would be in top shape to win the race – although of course, in this of all years, it is only now that we are starting to get an inkling of the condition the contenders are in.
“I would guess that Chris Froome won’t be at the level this year to win the Tour de France, I think it might take another year of racing but who knows with Chris, I wouldn’t put anything past him,” Wiggins said.
“I do think he has a place in that team, I would take him purely based on what he has done for that team, he has been the face of that team for a number of years now. I also think Chris will be the first in there to say he’s going to help his teammates, but for me it’s a two-pronged race for Ineos between Thomas and Bernal.”
Wiggins said that Froome’s impending move from Team Ineos is a strong sign that his former team-mate has his sights set on securing a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey, however.
He said: “I knew he was thinking of changing teams, I think he needed to really, I think he’s got a lot more in the tank, if he wants it. I don’t put anything past him, he can win another Tour for me.
“I don’t know if he does want it, though, but by changing teams, that’s the biggest statement he’s made.”
Speaking of potential rivals this year from within Froome’s current team, ,which will be officially renamed Ineos Grenadiers ahead of the race, Wiggins said: “I think, on his day, he could still surpass certainly Bernal and maybe Geraint.
“He’s got a fifth Tour de France in him, and he was obviously thinking whether he would ever get that opportunity again at Ineos. By changing teams, he has probably given himself the best chance to win that fifth Tour.
"I know they don’t make decisions lightly, Chris and his team, so he would have put a lot of thought into it and it’s a brave move because there is no certainty in it at all. I see it as such a positive thing, and he’s really looking to go for that fifth Tour de France.”
Wiggins also cast doubt on whether Bernal would have won last year’s Tour de France had the race not been disrupted by extreme weather.
The Colombian took the yellow jersey from Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Julian Alaphilippe on Stage 19 by virtue of being alone at the front of the race at the summit of the Col d’Iseran, where the overall times were taken after the race was neutralised ahead of the final climb to Tignes due to mudslides and hailstorms.
The following day’s penultimate stage was also shortened, with the climb of the Cormet de Roseland cut out, with victory going to Vincenzo Nibali and Bernal crossing the line a quarter of a minute later alongside Thomas – although Wiggins believes that had those two stages followed their original routes, the latter may have retained his title.
“Last year, Geraint Thomas was the defending champion at the Tour de France and Bernal was allowed to shine,” he explained. “I think had we had the stage to Tignes completed last year, I think Bernal would have cracked and Geraint would have won the Tour that day.
“Now you’d have to say, because Bernal was allowed to win the Tour de France last year, with Geraint as defending champion, the same should apply the other way around this year and Bernal is not granted that automatic right to defend the race.
“So Geraint is open to win the race this year and I actually think Geraint will win the Tour de France this year, no question about it, I don’t think there is an argument within that team.” Wiggins added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.