No slot in Team Sky’s Tour de France squad and as yet no contract extension from the British team either: it’s almost a certainly – and one that he’s voiced - that Bradley Wiggins will have to leave the team in order to ride the Tour de France again.
The initial speculation is that Orica GreenEdge is the team most interested in signing the former Tour de France winner. During the Giro d’Italia team boss Matt White sang Wiggins’ praises, harking back to their relationship at Garmin-Slipstream which saw Wiggins announce himself on the Grand Tour stage in 2009 Tour.
On Friday morning Wiggins confirmed that he had spoken to White recently, adding further fuel to the fire. White also confirmed to Cyclingnews that a conversation between the two had taken place but that it was far from a full-on negotiation.
Behind the scenes White is busily trying to improve Orica-GreenEdge’s squad and it’s no secret that he is looking to bring in a grand tour contender. There aren’t many on the market though. Wiggins is in a small group that includes Cadel Evans and at a push Michael Rogers and Rui Costa.
“We are looking for a GC guy and that’s the truth. Brad is a guy who would fit into our team, I’ve said that but I can’t elaborate further on who we are interested in.” White told Cyclingnews on the eve of the announcement that Wiggins would miss this year’s Tour de France.
Avoiding a short but potentially obvious game of Guess Who with the only vital questions being, does he have sideburns or does he own a small dog, White added, “There’s no need to cause problems for riders who are still under contract but we’ve got a couple of options out there. There’s one guy I have in mind but there are different plans if that doesn’t come off. Anything is possible in the market but we’re not interested in talking to riders who have contracts for next season.”
That rules out Richie Porte for certain. The Australian still has a year left on his current deal at Sky and Brailford looks intent on keeping him given that he talked up his position as the team's second in command only last week. Brailsford may see a move for Wiggins as a welcome relief, if it’s his intention to let him go. He certainly can’t begrudge any form of approach given how Sky wrenched a contracted Wiggins from Garmin in 2009.
“Richie Porte will not be coming to the team for next year and I can confirm that. We’re not interested in breaking a rider’s contract," White said.
It’s not just GC aspirations that White has to balance as he looks towards 2015. Orica-GreenEdge has become one of the most successful teams in the world over the last two year, blending sprint success with major wins in the Classics and overall titles in week-long races. It’s been a steady progression for the squad and White believes that they’ve matured enough to realise their hopes of success in grand tours.
However everything has to fall into place and White is certainly aware that he’s not building a team from scratch. Instead he needs to find the right blend, the right sort of GC rider who can work within the existing framework of the team. It’s still expected that Simon Gerrans and Giro d’Italia sensation Michael Matthews will pen new lucrative deals too but White looks certain to let go some riders in order to make room for a rider in the Wiggins mould.
“It’s a tricky balance but that’s why we have to get the right person. We’ve always said that we’ll move for a GC guy if they fit with our team and if we’re ready. We could have started with GC guy but we had modest ambitions at the start and wanted to win bike races but the team had to mature. We’ve won Catalunya, we’ve won Poland and we’ve won Down Under a couple of times and now the team is ready to make that next step if the person is available and willing to come. Then the team is ready to take a lot of opportunities in stage races.
“There’s not a heap of genuine GC riders on the market so that’s why it has taken us a while to identify that person and for them to be available. If we can find that right person to fit into the culture of the team then we’re going to go for it.”