Sir Bradley Wiggins has confirmed he will almost certainly not be racing at this year’s Tour de France and could be forced to leave Team Sky if he wants to compete in the race again.
Wiggins became the Tour’s first British winner in 2012 and was a year later succeeded by Chris Froome, who will lead Team Sky in the 101st Tour, which begins in Leeds, after establishing himself as the British squad’s lead rider.
Froome and Wiggins were last week selected to compete in separate Tour warm-up races in the clearest indication yet that Wiggins would not line up in Yorkshire on July 5, and the latter has now confirmed he is not likely to be part of Team Sky’s nine-strong team.
“As it stands, I won’t be there,” he told BBC Breakfast. “The team is focused around Chris Froome.
“I am gutted. I’ve worked extremely hard for this throughout the winter and up to the summer. I feel I am in the form I was two years ago.”
He added: “I also understand that cycling is a team sport and it is all about Team Sky winning and Chris is defending champion.”
After a sub-standard 2013, Wiggins is in fine form.
The seven-time Olympic medallist won the Tour of California last month, just weeks after placing an impressive ninth in the one-day classic Paris-Roubaix, held over the cobbles of northern France which will feature in a key fifth stage of this year’s Tour.
“After Paris-Roubaix and California, I was physically ready to go,” he told l’Equipe.
“But the last few weeks, it gradually became clear that unless something happened to Froome in Dauphine, I will not do the Tour.
“To be honest, I’ve had my doubts since April. After Roubaix, I had a bit of hope but then after California, I knew that (my team-mates) would be going to altitude, but I would not be involved.
“The plan was that Chris and I would both do the Tour, Chris would be the leader and I wanted to play a supporting role. It’s obviously disappointing.”
And with Team Sky now clearly making Froome their priority for the Tour, Wiggins has admitted he may have to switch teams if he is to have another chance of winning the yellow jersey.
“Having missed it this year on the form I’m in at the moment, then the likelihood is that I’ll probably miss out again next year,” he said, speaking to BBC Radio Five Live.
“So if I want to go back to the Tour, I might have to start accepting the reality that I have to change teams.
“I’ve spoken to a few people, I have to explore my options, but at this stage I’ve just been focusing so much on the training that you kind of let the people dealing with the contracts deal with those.”
Froome will defend his title in the Criterium du Dauphine, a prestigious Tour warm-up Wiggins won in 2011 and 2012, from June 8 to 15, with Wiggins at the Tour of Switzerland from 14 to 22.
Froome is joined by Richie Porte, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate, Geraint Thomas and Xabier Zandio in the eight-man Dauphine squad, with all seven likely to accompany him at the Tour, leaving space for one more rider.
Wiggins is supported at the Tour of Switzerland by Joe Dombrowski, Christian Knees, Luke Rowe, Dario Cataldo, Philip Deignan, Ben Swift and Pete Kennaugh.
The June line-ups were announced after publication of Froome’s autobiography, The Climb, which may have reignited suggestions of a feud between the pair, who last raced together for Team Sky in February 2013 at the Tour of Oman and for Great Britain at last September’s woeful Road World Championships.
The nine-man Tour line-up is expected to be confirmed after the conclusion of the Swiss race by Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford.