Bradley Wiggins could become the leader of a new development team created by Team Sky and British Cycling as he gradually winds down his road racing career and prepares to compete on the track at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Wiggins has said he hopes to end his career at Team Sky but the two have yet to formally agree a deal that satisfies Wiggins' requests and Team Sky's needs as it targets the Tour de France and the WorldTour calendar. Wiggins wants to ride the cobbled Classics in 2015 but no longer wants to train for and target major stage races.
Riding for a development team at a Continental level in the second half of 2015 and in 2016 would allow Wiggins to ride minor races to prepare for the track and possible attempt at the new Hour Record set by Jens Voigt. The creation of a development team would also satisfy the new rules for WorldTour teams expected to be introduced in 2017. Taking Wiggins out of the Team Sky squad would also ease tensions with team leader Chris Froome as he prepares for the 2015 Tour de France. Wiggins will target the time trial at the World Road Race Championships in Spain next week, while Froome rides the road race.
Reports of Wiggins riding for a development team first emerged during the Tour of Britain and we're discussed on The Cycling Podcast. Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford told Guardian newspaper that a 'Team Wiggins' development squad would also help develop future British talent.
“We’re still discussing ways of supporting Brad’s Olympic ambitions in Rio, but [which] would also explore the fantastic developmental opportunities which could exist in order to support the next Bradley Wiggins,” Brailsford said.
“We’re looking at that from various different angles, and there are positive opportunities which I am sure we can make happen.”
The creation of a development team wold also bring together other members of the Great Britain endurance squad preparing for Rio. The likes of Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant and Steven Burke all ride for different teams in Britain. Brailsford created a similar project in 2008 sponsored by Halfords to help Nicole Cooke and other riders prepare for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Cooke went on to win a gold medal in the road race.
Wiggins' management company XIX Entertainment -the same as David Beckham and Formula One pilot Lewis Hamilton, refused to give any details on the project but Great Britain Head of Performance Shane Sutton indicated that a “Team Wiggins' could be a pathway to develop future British riders inspired by Wiggins' success at the Tour de France and 2012 London Olympic Games.
“Sir Bradley is under contract to Team Sky and negotiations for next year are ongoing,” a spokesman for XIX Management told the Guardian. “There will be no announcement on his 2015 race calendar until October at the earliest.”
“There’s no better opportunity for a rider to be given the chance to follow in the footsteps of Sir Brad. I’m not sure what his plans are, I don’t think anything is set is stone,” Sutton said.
“From an inspirational point of view, what people would aspire to when they pull on a GB jersey it’s to be Sir Brad, so for us if Brad was to get involved in any way via setting up a pathway that would be fantastic for us.”
Under UCI rules Continental teams have to be registered with national federations in December.