Froome wants to extend Team Sky contract, but could this force Wiggins out?
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Froome wants to extend Team Sky contract, but could this force Wiggins out?

by VeloNation Press at 5:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Tension between two team-mates makes it difficult to see two remaining on same squad

Chris FroomeAfter earlier suggestions that Bradley Wiggins was missing the Tour de France partly so that he didn’t have to cede team leadership to Chris Froome, the prospects of the 2012 winner remaining in Team Sky may well be affected by contract talks with the younger Briton.

Tension has been apparent between the Tour since last year’s race, when Froome sacrificed his own chances by holding back for Wiggins in the mountains. It’s unclear if he would have gained enough time to have overcome his deficit in the time trials but it was clear to those watching that he was the stronger of the two when the road pitched upwards.

In the months since the tension between the two has ratcheted up several notches. Wiggins said last October that he wouldn’t target victory in the Tour de France, telling Eurosport that he would be prepared to back his team-mate there.

“I will be at the start, that is for sure. If Chris is the leader, then we go for it,” he stated. “My priority will be the Tour of Italy. It has become apparent that it is very difficult to compete in two Grand Tours at that level, so it is more than likely that I will be there in a helping capacity.”

However since then he said on several occasions that he wanted to aim for victory in the French race. This eventually prompted team principal Dave Brailsford to name Froome as the likely leader, while the rider himself made clear that he expected Wiggins to support him if he was there.

The latter will instead miss the Tour de France altogether. Officially, a knee issue which cropped up during the Giro d’Italia is said to be the reason why he won’t compete, but several different sources have put his absence down to the tensions with Froome.

If so, Wiggins’ chances of leading a team in another edition of the Tour may well hinge on him moving to a different setup. Froome has made clear this week that he wants to stay where he is, and that he is in discussions about extending his current deal.

“I do feel at home at Team Sky,” he said, according to Orange.co.uk. “I feel I've worked really well with them for the past three years and I feel really fortunate to be in the position that I'm in now.

“I've still got another year on contract with Team Sky, but I'm busy talking with management now to look at lengthening that.”

He said that it was possible that team management could decide to put him and Wiggins in the same Grand Tour again in the future but, realistically, that seems an unlikely scenario. Aside from both being very ambitions riders, their difficult personal relationship would bring an additional stress to that campaign.

Wiggins originally looked likely to remain in the team until the end of his career, but his future with the squad is now under question. While he hasn’t commented of late, the fact that last year’s Tour winner and clear team captain now appears to be the less favoured of the two will rankle with him.

So too the fact that the negotiation talks suggest that Froome may be seen by some as the future of the team.

If Wiggins’ full motivation returns, he will likely want to try to win the Tour again. That looks difficult with Sky as long as Froome is there, and so a move to another squad may be on the cards.

If so, the question is where would he go? Few teams have the budget necessary to sign a rider with his 2012 palmares. Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters ruled out a move back to the squad he raced with in 2008 and 2009, saying that the American setup simply doesn’t have the money needed to even consider that.

It remains to be seen if other teams are linked to the Briton in the months ahead, and if a move does indeed happen.

In the meantime, Froome will focus on his own career and his own Tour campaign.

He said that he learned from what he saw of Wiggins last year, and knows that if he does take over leadership of the race, that it will complicate things somewhat for him.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to be right at the sharp end of the race, but not necessarily deal with all the pressure that Brad had to deal with,” he said. “All the press, the conferences after every stage. I'd see Brad always getting to the hotel a good hour after the rest of us.

“I think I've got to expect that's how it's going to be for me this year at the Tour.”

However he plays down the notion that he could delay taking over leadership of the race in order to minimise those responsibilities.

“I don't think it's something you can really plan that specifically, when you can get into the yellow jersey; if you can get into the yellow jersey.

“At any point if I can get into yellow, that would be the number one goal.”

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