Dave Brailsford has publicly confirmed that Chris Froome will spearhead Team Sky’s challenge in the Tour de France next summer, while this year’s winner Bradley Wiggins will focus on adding the overall win in the Giro d’Italia to his growing palmarès.
The Team Sky principal was speaking last night at Action Medical Research’s Champions of Cycle Sport dinner at London’s Hurlingham Club and also confirmed that the British ProTeam would be looking to get new signing Jonathan Tiernan-Locke into some big races.
Next year’s Tour has a total of 65 kilometres of individual time trials compared to more than 100 kilometres in this year’s edition, one of those two stages against the clock coming during a tough final week in the Alps that arguably suits Froome’ climbing abilities more than it does those of Wiggins.
At the presentation of the 2013 Tour in Paris last month, Brailsford hinted that Froome was likely to be its main hope in the race, and that has now been confirmed by his comments yesterday evening in a question and answer session with Sky TV presenter Dermot Murnaghan.
A supposed intra-team rivalry between Froome and Wiggins, who had finished second and third respectively in last season’s Vuelta, was one of the more compelling sub-plots of this summer’s Tour de France.
The Tour finished in Paris with not only the first British winner of the 109-year-old race in Wiggins, but also a British one-two as Froome secured the runners-up spot.
A couple of incidents during the race – Froome apparently attacking Wiggins on Stage 11 and a discussion between the pair towards the end of Stage 17 once they were left alone in pursuit of stage winner Alejandro Valverde – gave rise to a wave of speculation that all was not well between Team Sky’s two stars.
Froome has insisted that he was simply looking to make up time on GC rivals, having lost more than a minute to a puncture in the first road stage of the race, and Sky’s official line has always been that Wiggins was the designated rider this year and that if a future Tour had a course better suited to Froome’s talents, he would get its full support.
Next year’s Giro, meanwhile – a race in which Wiggins has previously worn the maglia rosa, winning the Prologue in Amsterdam with Sky in 2010 – has a long, 55.5 kilometre individual time trial midway through which should suit Olympic champion Wiggins to a T, as well as a mountain time trial of nearly 20 kilometres in the final week.
According to rumours when the route was launched last month, the course is believed to have been designed in part to help entice Wiggins to focus on winning the Giro rather than concentrating on a defence of his Tour title.
Were he to go on and win the Giro, Wiggins would join some exalted names in winning both the French and Italian Grand Tours, five of whom – Jacques Anquetil, Alberto Contador, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx – have also won the Vuelta. Just getting onto the podium would see Wiggins becoming only the 14th cyclist to have done so in all three Grand Tours.
Finishing the race in the maglia rosa when it ends in Brescia would therefore pretty much seal Wiggins’ place as a legend of the sport, something British Cycling and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton said earlier this week that the 32-year-old had set as a goal.
Others may have won more on the road, but Wiggins also has six rainbow jerseys and three Olympic golds on the track, plus that time trial gold in London. Admittedly, until 1996, pros couldn’t take part in the Olympics, but it’s a pretty impressive haul nonetheless.
As for Tiernan-Locke, the 27-year-old Tour of Britain champion, signed from Endura Racing on a two-year contract, told Torbay area newspaper the Herald Express this week that while his racing calendar for next year hadn’t been decided yet, "There's a possibility I may ride the Vuelta.”
He added: "I want to get a Grand Tour in my legs, to see how I would respond to it. It changes you as a rider, and you learn a lot about yourself."
Brailsford said last night that he would be looking to get his new rider into some big races – a solid performance in this year’s world championships has prompted thoughts that he might target the Ardennes Classics.
The word last night though is that Sky want Tiernan-Locke to shed around 9 kilos to get into ideal shape for next season – and we also learnt that his original nickname wasn’t JTL, down in Devon he was given the monicker J-Lo which he joked with Murnaghan was due to his big butt. That would be the first thing to go if he adopts the Twiggo diet, we reckon.
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