After Bradley Wigggins and Chris Froome got their wires crossed on La Toussuire on Thursday, speculation rapidly began to mount as to the possibilities of an internal leadership battle on Team Sky's Tour de France team.
Wiggins holds a commanding 2:05 lead over Froome at the head of the overall standings, but in spite of the yellow jersey's mastery in the time trial, Froome has appeared the stronger in the mountains. That sense was reinforced by events at La Toussuire, when Froome accelerated and Wiggins was briefly distanced from the group of favourites.
Speaking to reporters in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne before stage 12 on Friday morning, however, team principal Dave Brailsford insisted that there were no problems between Wiggins and Froome.
"We're very happy to have two riders of the quality of Bradley and Chris here," Brailsford said. "Everyone thinks it's a problem but I don't think that. Having the 1st and 2nd rider on the GC at the Tour de France isn't a problem. If we were 20th and 21st, we'd have a problem, but 1st and 2nd isn't a problem."
Wiggins lost contact with the group of favourites following Froome's sustained forcing a shade over 4 kilometres from the summit of La Toussuire. Froome was quickly ordered to relent via his radio earpiece, and when he sat up, Wiggins was able to safely latch back on to the group.
Brailsford dismissed the idea that Froome had looked to attack the yellow jersey and said that his subsequent acceleration within sight of the finish - which gained him two seconds by the line - had been an agreed tactic.
"If Chris wanted to attack, he would have continued until the summit but he didn't do that," Brailsford said. "In the final 500 metres he did attack but the two of them rode together until then. I think that everybody wants there to be a story, but there's no story."
Asked if he wanted to have two Sky riders on the final podium, Brailsford stressed that his sole aim was to hold the yellow jersey in Paris. "Right now, we're 1st and 2nd but the aim is to win the Tour de France above all," he said.
Media interest in a potential Wiggins-Froome leadership contest was whipped up still further when their respective partners appeared to argue about Froome's contribution via Twitter. Perhaps understandably, Brailsford was not keen to wade into that particular debate. "I'm not a marriage counsellor, I'm here to win the Tour de France," he said.
After he reacted forcefully to a press conference question concerning comparisons with US Postal and insinuations of doping aired on Twitter, Wiggins himself said that he was trying to ignore most of what was written in the media and on social networking sites, a stance supported by his manager.
"I don't think that's different from any leading global sports star, is it? If you read everything in the press and you spend your time reading Twitter then you're not doing your job," Brailsford told reporters. "Your job is to write the media, other people to read it and our job is to ride our bike and win a race."
Brailsford was succinct when asked what he would advise his riders regarding reading race coverage. "Ignore most of it, don't read it, that would be my advice," Brailsford said, before adding: "We're not here to read Twitter; we're here to win the race."
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