The question of who will lead Team Sky at the Tour de France has dominated column inches in the opening months of the season, and while Chris Froome does not enjoy the speculation, he has admitted that he can understand he and Bradley Wiggins’ internal battle has so captured the public imagination.
“I don’t enjoy the specific talk, the he says, he says stuff. But given the territory and what we’re doing it’s understandable and it’s great to see so much interest,” Froome told The Evening Standard.
Sky manager Dave Brailsford has confirmed that Froome, and not reigning champion Wiggins, will lead Sky at the Tour, which gets underway on June 29 in Corsica. Wiggins had previously spoken of his own desire to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour in the same year, but his maglia rosa ambitions unravelled due to illness in the second week and it remains to be seen in what shape he enters the Tour.
“Who knows on Brad,” Froome said. “It depends on how he pulls out of it. It comes down to a management decision and what job they see him doing. We’re definitely going to have a pretty strong team regardless.”
Froome has enjoyed a fine start to the 2013 season, winning the Tour of Oman, Critérium International and Tour de Romandie, and he lines up as the favourite for overall honours at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.
“I don’t feel like I’ve hit my best form yet. It’s been good but not like I’ve been absolutely flying yet,” Froome said. “I feel on the rise but I’ve still got a few weeks to the Tour, there’s still headroom.”
At the Tour, Froome expects Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) to pose the greatest threat. “He knows what he’s doing, he’s won a lot of Grand Tours. He’ll be hidden away in Spain somewhere riding himself into form, I’m sure,” Froome said.
Contador was an absentee last year, as he completed his suspension for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour, and Froome believes the general standard will be higher this time around than it was in 2012.
“I think people were a little bit deluded by how easy it was last year. People are talking about how we can choose who will win this year, that first and second is guaranteed. Last year, we had it easy in terms of competition and in terms of luck. Things went our way and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when things don’t go our way,” Froome said.