Wiggins: "Chris Froome has proved in the past that he can deal with whatever’s thrown at him"
Sir Bradley Wiggins calls on fans to respect former team-mate's right to race
Sir Brad, the 2012 Tour de France champion, also believes Froome will have little trouble putting the anti-doping investigation that overshadowed his pre-race preparations behind him having been cleared of wrongdoing on the eve of the race - and called on fans to respect Froome's right to race.
Speaking as part of his new, exclusive Eurosport podcast, The Bradley Wiggins Show by Eurosport, the first episode of which is out now, Wiggins also admitted Team Sky's financial strength will undoubtedly have helped Froome - but does not think it is reason to criticise the six-time Grand Tour champion.
"He’s in the race now and he’s in with a chance to win his fifth Tour de France," Wiggins said of Froome. "Earlier in the year, I thought it might affect him but he’s managed to remain dignified and rise above it, with an historic Giro, and for me is still a favourite to win the Tour de France. He’s proved in the past that he can deal with whatever’s thrown at him.
"To come off the Giro and into the Tour is very difficult – it’s been shown in the past by other riders. It takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally, but Chris is a special athlete and he can cope with that so he’ll be a favourite.
"But Geraint Thomas will also be there. He’s shown he’s capable of winning the Tour. Team Sky have to make a decision – do they protect Geraint who could be in yellow after the team time trial, or do they find a way to get Froome back in the race? Right now I think the focus will all be on Chris."
On Sky's financial resource in Froome's case, Wiggins added: "There was criticism of this, but if he’s innocent or he believes he is innocent, he’s going to throw everything he can at it to clear his name and he has every right to do that.
"The team have trusted and backed him as they knew he hadn’t done anything wrong. I think in this day and age, it takes money to get legal backing.
"We have to respect that he’s allowed to race, and within a safe environment. He's getting all kinds of abuse at the moment and no athlete should have to go ride under that and have their safety questioned at the sport’s biggest event. Without the leak we wouldn’t even know about it, but that’s the nature of sport now."
On some of his other former team-mates in the race, Wiggins admitted Richie Porte could better Froome in the mountains, but that Froome's strength in other areas of racing made him the favourite.
He also showered Mark Cavendish with praise, and backed the Manxman to use his experience to put his recent injuries behind him when it matters. In what proved to be Wiggins' last ever Tour de France stage, in the yellow jersey, he led then-world champion Cavendish out to victory on the Champs-Elysees.
And Wiggins hailed the Dimension Data rider's commitment to the biggest race on the cycling calendar.
"I don’t think his injuries will stop him, I think he feels ready to go," said Wiggins. "He’s so experienced. He may not be the fastest but he is still capable of winning stages. He doesn’t take anything for granted and I know how hard he prepares and it’s what defines him; he is the Tour de France through and through.
"He’ll know what stages he can win, and he’ll just want to stay out of trouble this first week."
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