At this year’s Tour de France, Team Sky does not need to worry.
After just nine stages and two weeks to go before the peloton reaches Paris, Bradley Wiggins has already stamped his authority on the race and, barring an accident, will become the first British winner of cycling’s most prestigious event on July 22.
However, in cycling, accidents happen. Wiggins knows it well after crashing out of last year’s Tour with a broken collarbone.
Never mind. Sky has the perfect plan B in Christopher Froome, another Briton who would be Wiggins’ main challenger if he was with another team.
The Kenyan-born Froome came to prominence last year when he finished second at the Vuelta ahead of Wiggins. He has been the perfect domesticque for the Londoner so far on the Tour, working hard in the first batch of mountain stages to defend his leader’s yellow jersey.
Doing this, he claimed his maiden Tour stage win over the weekend, finished second in Monday’s time trial behind Wiggins and is third in the overall standings.
Froome conceded 35 seconds to Wiggins in the 41.5km effort from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon, but took 68 seconds off defending Tour champion Cadel Evans.
Wiggins leads Evans by 1 minute, 53 seconds overall, while Froome sits in third place, 2:07 off the pace.
“The plan has always been to have a backup leader in the team,” Sky sports director Sean Yates said. “It gives us a little bit of freedom, the freedom to use different cards when we need to, and at this moment of time, Froome is more than capable of winning this Tour if something happens to Brad.”
After his great showing at last year’s Vuelta, the lanky Froome was expected to be one of Wiggins’ top lieutenants at the Tour. He is now proving to himself that he can also win the race.
Froome was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to South Africa as a teenager with his family. Having started his career as a mountain biker, he turned professional in 2007 and competed for Kenya at the world championships. He opted for British citizenship in 2008 and joined Sky two years later.
During his first year with the British outfit, Froome made the headlines when he was disqualified from the Giro for holding onto a motorbike during a climb.
His rise to notoriety was hampered by bilharzia, a water-borne disease he caught in 2010.
“He showed some fantastic numbers in training and the question for us was why did he not perform like he did in the Vuelta before, but he got this disease and once he got on top of that, his performances improved,” Sky principal Dave Brailsford said.