Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has backed his former team boss Dave Brailsford after the Team Ineos manager left both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas off Ineos’ Tour team.
The British team will base their 2020 challenge around the defending champion Egan Bernal after controversially deciding to leave Froome and Thomas at home after both riders were off the pace at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné. Thomas will now target the Giro d’Italia, while Froome will race the Vuelta a España.
Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France and finished second a year later, while Froome has won four Tours and was gunning for a record-equaling fifth title after returning from a horrific crash in 2019.
Wiggins has previous experience from being left off the Tour de France while under Brailsford’s management. In 2013, when racing as the defending Tour champion, he was diagnosed with a knee injury, and a year later he was left at home for a second year, even though he was both fit and healthy.
“I think you probably take it as a given as a previous winner and his [Bernal] status in the team that he will always be selected for the Tour. But this is what makes Dave Brailsford such a good manager and why he’s been so successful really. And I experienced this myself within the team that no one is really bigger than the team and he can take that emotion to one side and select a team purely on his assets and the form guide really,” Wiggins said during his podcast with Eurosport.
“They don’t make these decisions lightly, there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, there’s a lot of numbers, facts, and Bernal’s clearly the one that they are putting their money on with the addition of (Richard) Carapaz who’s riding, last year’s Giro winner. You’re probably looking at a two-pronged attack.
“But I don’t see it as a negative thing. They’ve always had this plan, this goal, to win all three Grand Tours in a season and Geraint’s got himself another month now to get himself into the shape he wants to be in, and the fact he’s riding the Giro you’d have to say he’s going to be a contender for it," added Wiggins.
Wiggins backed Brailsford’s decision but also pointed out the benefits for both Thomas and Froome given that they have the pressure of the Tour lifted from their shoulders and have been handed new goals for the remainder of the season. The extra time to prepare for the Vuelta and the Giro, respectively, gives both riders additional time.
“You don’t leave Geraint out the Tour team lightly, that’s a big decision to make. And G would have been part of that decision. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had; he’s committed, he’s hard, nothing phases him, he’s good to have around, he’s so calm. And so Geraint will be the first to say ‘I don’t think I’m in the form to be a potential winner of that race although I could perform a role up the first parts of the mountain then fall away towards the top’," continued Wiggins.
"Dave will have said ‘you’re better than that, four more weeks training and you can win the Giro.’ And that’s what they’re going to do, and G would have been part of that decision. I imagine that it’s a relief more than anything because you think of the pressure that he would have been under.
“Froome’s on a forward trajectory from where he’s come from, as he said in his message, from where he was this time last year. He’s got a chance to win the Vuelta; I wouldn’t put it past him but he’ll certainly be up there and he’s got another eight weeks to get up to that. The romantic vision we had of him coming back and winning the Tour after his horrendous accident. It was probably asking too much of him.”
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