Bradley Wiggins has been ruled out of the Tour de France by his Sky team. In a statement on the team website on Friday afternoon, it was announced that the defending champion will not be on the start line of the Tour due to an “ongoing knee condition.”
Wiggins abandoned the Giro d’Italia citing a chest infection and a knee injury, and had struggled to train since, prompting speculation in Friday morning’s newspapers that he would be forced to forgo his Tour defence.
“With illness, injury and treatment Brad has gone past the point where he can be ready for the Tour. It’s a big loss but, given these circumstances, we won’t consider him for selection,” Sky manager Dave Brailsford said.
“He hasn’t been able to train hard since the Giro and now he needs further rest. Whilst we all know these things happen in sport, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a huge disappointment for everyone in the team – and above all for Brad.”
Wiggins admitted that it was a disappointment to miss out on lining up for the Tour with the number one dossard but explained that the nature of his injury – an inflammation of the left knee – meant that he could not train sufficiently to ensure an adequate level of form in July.
“It’s a huge disappointment not to make the Tour. I desperately wanted be there, for the team and for all the fans along the way - but it’s not going to happen,” Wiggins said. “I can’t train the way I need to train and I’m not going to be ready. Once you accept that, it’s almost a relief not having to worry about the injury and the race against time.”
It is Wiggins’ second setback of the 2013 season – illness forced him out of the Giro d’Italia – and he compared the disappointment to his untimely abandon of the 2011 Tour due to a broken collarbone.
“I’ve been through this before, when I broke my collarbone, so I know how it works. I’ll get this sorted, set new goals for this season and focus on those,” said Wiggins, who returned to finish on the podium at both the Vuelta a España and world time trial championships on that occasion.
The Sky team for the Tour will be led by Chris Froome, who finished second overall last year and has already claimed victory at the Tour of Oman, Critérium International and Tour de Romandie this season.
“This team has so many riders in great shape, ready for selection and we set incredible standards for performance which shouldn’t be compromised,” Wiggins said. “We need to have the best chance to win.”
When Wiggins abandoned the Giro ahead of stage 13, the emphasis was placed on his chest infection, with the knee injury mentioned as an afterthought. Sky doctor Richard Freeman confirmed that Wiggins had recovered completely from his respiratory illness but that the knee condition was more serious than initially feared.
“The chest infection that caused his withdrawal from the Giro has responded to treatment and rest. It has completely cleared up,” Freeman said “However, further medical investigations on the knee injury that we were managing at the Giro showed the condition was more significant than we thought.”
Wiggins will spend five days off the bike, Freeman said, before returning to training “over a period of two to three weeks.”
Wiggins’ withdrawal also removes the possibility of an internecine struggle for team leadership with Chris Froome during the Tour. In early May, Wiggins had spoken of his desire to win both the Giro and the Tour, prompting Froome to respond with a press release reiterating that he was the team leader for the Tour. That hierarchy was subsequently confirmed by manager Dave Brailsford.