There has always been speculation about the power dynamic between Bradley Wiggins and Christopher Froome, two riders with leadership potential on the same team.
It's not the first time a domestique (Froome) has caught up to or, in this case, surpassed his team leader (Wiggins) to take over the position on the team as GC contender. Those who suspected that this has caused bad blood between the two Tour de France winners may have been proven right last week.
"I think it's pretty obvious that if I couldn't do the Tour this year, then next year,” Wiggins told an interviewer last week. “If I want to do the Tour, I'll probably have to leave Sky.”
Before last week, Wiggin – previous Sky team leader and 2012 Tour de France winner – may have been under the impression that he had spent the year in training to be a "super domestique" in order to support Sky’s new GC contender, Chris Froome, and repay Froome’s domestique efforts during his own winning Tour in 2012.
Team Sky thought differently.
Though the nine-member teams chosen to participate in the Tour de France are prone to switch-ups mere weeks before the Tour itself, Team Sky has essentially solidified their plan to keep the two past Tour winners separated. Wiggins has not been chosen for the Sky 2014 Tour de France team.
"...I am gutted, I've worked extremely hard for this all winter...but I also understand that cycling is a team sport and at the end of the day it's about the team winning. That team is Sky, and Chris is the defending champion," said Wiggins of his team’s decision. This was to be Wiggins’ last Tour de France, as he shifts focus from road racing to track racing and the Olympics.
Wiggins, who is coming off of his recent Tour of California win, is set to ride in the upcoming Tour de Suisse, while his fellow Sky riders on the Tour de France team stretch out their legs in the Critérium du Dauphiné in preparation for the most famous of the Grand Tours.
Speculation about the rift between team leader Wiggins and his right hand man, Froome, came to a boiling point during the 2012 Tour when Froome, who had the legs to accelerate ahead of the peloton, routinely tested them, speeding ahead of the group, until he was called back to protect his GC man. Team Sky seemed to try to shy away from the topic of an intra-team rivalry, probably trying to avoid gross media speculation. But Wiggins' wife and Froome's girlfriend went public with an epic Wag War on Twitter, vanquishing anyone’s doubts.
When asked whether or not the topic of the infamous inner rivalry of Team Sky would be included in his newly released autobiography, The Climb, Froome defended himself, saying, "I think I would have been criticized a lot for not having covered that topic in my autobiography, it was a big part of what happened in 2012 in the Tour de France and up until now people have only seen I think Bradley's version of events that he put out there."
A dismissed former Team leader, a tell-all book, rider speculation, Twitter wars... It’s clear that this is one partnership that's never, ever getting back together.
Check back here Mondays for more Tour preview coverage. The 2014 Tour de France takes place July 5-27.