Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome are at loggerheads over who will lead Team Sky at the Tour de France.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Giro d’Italia, where Wiggins will bid to add a second Grand Tour to his palmares, the 32-year-old said he wants to win both the Giro and the Tour in 2013.
Froome finished second behind Wiggins at the 2012 Tour and, with the 2013 edition taking place over a more mountainous route, the Kenyan-born Brit looked set to lead Team Sky at this year’s race, with Wiggins focussing on the Giro before riding in support of his team-mate at the Tour.
However, Wiggins believes Team Sky’s leadership at the Tour may not be decided until just a few days before the Grand Depart in Corsica – or until a “natural hierarchy” develops during the race itself.
When asked whether the team had made a decision on who would be leader at the Tour, Wiggins said: “Not yet, no. I think that decision will be made probably in the last three days before we get to the Tour.
“I think whoever is in the best shape should be really. It is too early to decide but we are both, as we have now for the last six months, been going towards that same goal. Someone will get the nod.”
Froome has enjoyed a superb start to 2013 having won the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and Tour de Romandie titles. Cadel Evans and Wiggins went on to win the Tour de France having won the Tour de Romandie in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
But, with his leadership at the Tour called into question by Wiggins, the 27-year-old Froome, who insists he has the “full backing” of Team Sky’s management, issued a statement in response to the defending champion’s comments.
“There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year,” said Froome. “I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013.
“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.
Froome added: “Attempting to win the Tour de France, is a massive undertaking, and will take total commitment from each and every team member.
“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.”
Only seven riders have won the Giro-Tour double. The late Marco Pantani was the last in 1998, while Stephen Roche won both Grand Tours in 1987 before going on to win the World Championships.
But, having won the Olympic time trial title just 10 days after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France, Wiggins believes he is well-placed to add his name to the list.
“It’s like last year and the Olympics,” added Wiggins. “I was focused on that and the Tour. This year the Giro comes first”
“My saving grace is that I haven’t gone out and tried to cash in on the Olympics and got my face everywhere – got on game shows and all this stuff – like most of them have done.
“I went back to work on January 1. I’ve been out there grafting with my team. I’ve gone back to trying to do what we do best – and that’s trying to win bike races.”