Sky Procycling were facing a public relations dilemma on Monday after Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins appeared at odds over who would lead the team’s Tour de France challenge this year.
Hours after Wiggins stated that he would attempt a Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double, teammate Froome said he would lead the British outfit’s bid in the world’s greatest race.
Wiggins won the Tour last year with Froome riding in support, taking second place overall after showing signs that he could perhaps topple his teammate in the mountains.
Last year, Wiggins and Sky principal David Brailsford hinted that Froome would spearhead the team’s challenge on this year’s Tour, which will be more suited to Froome’s climbing skills.
While the team have not made it crystal clear who will be the lead rider, Wiggins said on Monday that the decision would be made just a few days before the June 29 start in Corsica.
However, Froome issued a statement on Monday saying that he would be given the green light to go for victory.
“There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year. I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013,” Froome said in a statement on Monday. “I have been reassured by the management at Team Sky that I have their full backing and at no time has the leadership of the Tour team been in question.”
The situation prompted comparisons with the 1985 and 1986 Tours, when Greg LeMond, who was supposed to support La Vie Claire teammate Bernard Hinault, had trouble keeping his foot off the gas pedal.
The following year, Hinault, who was supposed to return the favor, attacked in the Pyrenees, but paid dearly for the effort.
“Attempting to win the Tour de France is a massive undertaking, and will take total commitment from each and every team member,” Froome added. “The Tour team has yet to be selected, but with the depth of talent that we have at Team Sky, I have no doubt that the strongest and most willing riders will be there to support me.”
Froome has won the Tour of Oman, the Criterium International and Tour de Romandie titles this year, while Wiggins has been focusing on preparing for the Giro, which starts on Saturday in Naples.
No rider has achieved a Giro-Tour double since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
Twice former winner Ivan Basso will lead Cannondale at the Giro d’Italia.
The Italian team will be putting their efforts behind Slovakia’s Peter Sagan at the Tour de France, leaving the 35-year-old Basso to have a crack at a home treble.
Winner at the Giro in 2006 and 2010, Basso has had few impressive results this season, but Cannondale are not worried.
“Basso’s results and preparation are to be expected. He’s lining up the Giro,” sports director Stefano Zanatta said. “After two difficult years, Ivan has followed the [preparation] program without injuries or other problems. The course will pass judgement, but few riders are as tenacious and determined as he is.”
Basso finished fifth in the Giro last year and also came seventh at the 2011 Tour de France.
Chinese cyclist Ji Cheng will embark on his second major Tour on Saturday after he was selected in the Argos-Shimano team for the Giro d’Italia.
The 25-year-old — who finished his first major Tour, the Vuelta a Espana — will be expected to help the Dutch team’s German leader John Degenkolb to collect several stage wins.
Degenkolb, 24, has not been in the best of form this campaign, a ninth in the Tour of Flanders his most notable result, but his five stage wins in last year’s Vuelta showed he had the right mentality for the grueling major Tours.
Ji said that the team were in good shape and had enjoyed an ideal preparation for the race.
“We have had a very good preparation,” Ji said. “A training session in Altea [Spain] and the Tour of Turkey. I will be more than satisfied if we can win a stage and if I finish the race. I am expecting a huge fight.”