Is the 70th anniversary of D-day a good day to bury bad news of the cycling persuasion?
That's what I thought when I saw the ticker feed along the bottom of the TV news report from the Normandy beaches. There, hiding in amongst the stock prices and by-election results, was a tiny bit of sports info: Bradley Wiggins won't be at the 2014 Tour de France which starts in Yorkshire. It was if you weren't supposed to notice such a minor piece of news. It's D-day after all, it's about the landings, the veterans, the nostalgia and the sacrifices made. It's about respect.
Yet respect is not what springs to mind when I think about the Team Sky decision to leave Wiggins out of the Tour team. Again.
The irony isn't lost on me when Wiggins says it's Chris Froome's team, that he's the defending champion and so he gets to chose who is in and who is out. Well hello Brad! Team Sky didn't give you that choice when you won in 2012.
I'm genuinely surprised that the announcement has been made so early because now there's a whole month to mull over who said what, when, where and why. Maybe that's Dave Brailsford's plan; get it out the way, so that when the Tour starts it's old news. A whole month of speculation and analysis of Team Sky's politics and relationships. Fantastic. Stand back and watch the fireworks.
When Dave Brailsford courted Bradley Wiggins back in 2009 Team Sky needed him. Brailsford needed him. The Britishness, the image, the potential and the character of Wiggins was essential to sell cycling as a serious sport to not only to Sky but also to the nation. And that's what Wiggins the product delivered. He gave the whole Sky/British Cycling project credibility and the desired results. Now it seems all that is forgotten and the team management has decided that Bradley Wiggins isn't good enough to ride another Tour de France.
It's as if they didn't see the Tour of California where Wiggins was clearly the best rider there and back at a level which others can only dream of. So much is made of meeting the objectives at Team Sky but that's exactly what Wiggins had done this season.
Saying Wiggins isn't good enough to merit a place at the Tour is tosh, saying he's arrogant, disruptive and doesn't fit in the team is tosh as well. Wiggins the bike rider has been honed and crafted into the athlete he is today by the Team Sky/British Cycling system, the traits he's attributed with are the ones the famous system have allowed him to have. Now to accuse him now of being inadequate is pretty poor.
The real issue
We all know the real issue is the Froome/Wiggins relationship, or rather the lack of it. A rivalry which takes the well trodden path of teammates crapping on each other. The chosen leader struggling with the plucky newcomer is as old the hills but is usually contained with strong management until one of the contestants leaves and sets up elsewhere. If Chris Froome really is deciding the Tour team then that's hardly the strong leadership we've been told to expect from Dave Brailsford. In that case is it any less arrogant than Wiggins has been accused of? Something doesn't add up with Team Sky's defence.
What about the sponsors and fans in all of this? Yorkshire and ASO must have been counting on Bradley Wiggins being present and British fans certainly were.
Wiggins enjoys way more popularity than Chris Froome ever will, has more media coverage and an image that attracts and inspires. Dave Brailsford might like to think it's all about winning but Team Sky aren't buying Tour de France victories when they hand over the money they are hoping to sell subscriptions to their services. It's not hard to work out who has more kudos in that department. I've yet to see a Sky van or billboard with the Kenyan born Brit on it.
Chris Froome might be a better bike rider than Bradley Wiggins, he might be more considered in his interviews, never saying the wrong thing or swearing, but in terms of character it's the politician versus the rock star. PR spiel or an actual opinion, now there's an easy choice.
Call it what you like: rivalry, hatred or mutual dislike, but we all know the problems stem back to the 2012 Tour de France, when Froome dumped on the Wiggins parade and caused a rift which hasn't and won't heal.
Clearly Froome doesn't trust Wiggins not to return the favour at some point hence the separate race programs whenever possible and now the ultimate snub for the Grand Depart in Yorkshire. Things are pretty desperate when a national hero like Bradley Wiggins, first British winner of the Tour, one of the most successful Olympians, BBC Sportsman of the Year, honoured by the Queen, feted and admired throughout the land isn't at the start of a Tour de France in his own country.
It's pretty low to take that opportunity from him. The team can try to hide behind excuses and so-called reasoning but it shows a total lack of respect for what he has given to Team Sky.
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.
Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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