Chris Froome won the 10km prologue around the streets of Lyon on the opening day of the Criterium du Dauphine in his bid to win the race for the second successive year. Alberto Contador was eight seconds adrift of the Team Sky rider, but the success of Froome ends a week during which a war of words has erupted among the team members with former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins seemingly the main casualty.
Ever since Froome attacked on the Stage 11 climb of La Toussuire during the 2012 Tour de France, a degree of animosity has existed between the two Sky riders. Wiggins was unable to match the acceleration of his team-mate and Froome was forced to abandon the attack. His initially reasoning was based on the intent to create an even greater time gap for Wiggins but clearly the two riders were not on the same wavelength.
For 2013, Froome decided to concentrate on winning the coveted yellow jersey and realised his objective with a degree of comfort while 2012 Tour winner Wiggins was forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia with recurring health problems.
Apparently, there had been hint of reconciliation during the winter between the pair with suggestions that Wiggins would be riding the Tour de France with the principle aim of helping Froome retain his title. His form in winning the Tour of California proved that Wiggins was regaining some of his 2012 form and would be a considerable asset for Froome in France.
In recent days, any sign of an improvement in working relations between the two has been damaged by allegations from Froome that Wiggins displayed mental weakness during that infamous Stage 11, with rumours that Richie Porte was his preferred chief assistant for the Tour de France. Wiggins has replied by declaring that he doesn’t expect to compete in the Tour which begins in his native homeland.
Wiggins has now been asked to ride the Tour de Suisse while Froome, aided by Porte, will be racing in the Dauphine which begs the question of whether the two cyclists can ever ride again in the same race. Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has been forced to issue a statement that the Tour team has yet to be selected and that he will decide the eventual team but it seems that either Froome or Wiggins but not both will be chosen.
Froome will be under pressure to deliver the goods in the French and Swiss Alps this week with the climb to Finahut-Emosson probably the most decisive stage. Should he retain his title and prove his fitness ahead of the Tour de France, a decent showing in Switzerland may be insufficient for Wiggins’ short-term prospects and a parting of the ways from Team Sky may be inevitable.
With the 2013 Tour de France starting in Yorkshire, it is a shame that internal politics may prevent the English crowds from cheering both of their two former winners of the prestigious race.