Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) will not defend his Tour de France title.
Britain’s first winner of cycling’s greatest race has accepted that recovery from a combination of illness and injury will prevent him from rolling out from Corsica in the yellow jersey of defending champion.
The Englishman withdrew from Giro d’Italia earlier this month with a chest infection. Recovery and subesequent “intensive treatment” for a knee injury has prevented him from training with the required intensity for the Tour.
Wiggins described the situation as “a huge disappointment” but one from which he would recover.
“I desperately wanted be there, for the team and for all the fans along the way – but It’s not going to happen,” he admitted.
“I can’t train the way I need to train and I’m not going to be ready. Once you accept that, it’s almost a relief not having to worry about the injury and the race against time.”
The Londoner pointed to his experience at the 2011 Tour, where his hopes of winning the race ended with a crash in the first week.
“I’ve been through this before, when I broke my collarbone, so I know how it works,” he said. “I’ll get this sorted, set new goals for this season and focus on those.”
Wiggins’ return to racing in 2011 saw him claim a podium spot at the Vuelta a Espana. Victory in the Spanish national tour in August would make up for his disappointment in Italy.
Sky team principal, Sir Dave Brailsford, said the Tour champion needed further rest, and described the circumstances as a huge disapintment for the team “and above all for Brad.”
“With illness, injury and treatment Brad has gone past the point where he can be ready for the Tour,” he confirmed.
“It’s incredibly sad to have the reigning champion at Team Sky but not lining up at the Tour. But he’s a champion, a formidable athlete and will come back winning as he has before.”
After withdrawing from the Giro, Wiggins had been expected to make his return at the Tour de Suisse, or the Criterium du Dauphine – another race he would have contested as defending champion.
But team doctor, Richard Freeman, said that while the chest infection contracted at the Giro had cleared up, further “medical investigations” into a knee injury revealed a more significant condition than first realised.
“It’s needed intensive treatment and, whilst it will be fully resolved, Bradley now needs to rest completely for five days before a gradual, return to full training over a period of two to three weeks.”
Wiggins’ statement will finally end speculation over who will lead Team Sky at the Tour.
Team-mate Chris Froome, second to Wiggins last year, and winner already this year of the Tour of Oman, Criterium International, and Tour de Romandie, had been designated leader by Brailsford, but Wiggins’ public statements suggested he intended to defend his title.
The Londoner backed his team-mates to produce a second consecutive winner of cycling’s biggest race, but did not name Froome in Sky’s press release to confirm his absence from the race.
“This team has so many riders in great shape, ready for selection and we set incredible standards for performance which shouldn’t be compromised,” said Wiggins. “We need to have the best chance to win.”