By Julien Pretot
PARIS, April 29 (Reuters) – Team Sky were facing a public relations dilemma on Monday as Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins appeared at odds over who would lead the Tour de France challenge this year.
Hours after Wiggins stated that he would attempt a Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double, teammate Froome said he would lead the British outfit’s bid on the world’s greatest race.
Wiggins won the 2012 Tour with Froome riding in support, taking second place overall after showing signs that he could perhaps topple his team mate in the mountains.
Last year Wiggins and Team Sky principal David Brailsford hinted that Froome would spearhead the team’s challenge on the 2013 Tour which will be more suited to Froome’s climbing skills.
While the team have not made it crystal clear who will be the lead rider, Wiggins said on Monday that the decision would be made just a few days before the June 29 start in Corsica.
However, Froome issued a statement on Monday saying that he would be given the green light to go for victory.
“There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year. I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013,” Froome said in a statement on Monday.
“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.”
The situation prompted comparisons with the 1985 and 86 Tour de France when Greg LeMond, who was supposed to support La Vie Claire team mate Bernard Hinault, had trouble keeping his foot off the gas pedal.
The following year, Hinault, who was supposed to return the favor, attacked in the Pyrenees but paid dearly for the effort.
“Attempting to win the Tour de France, is a massive undertaking, and will take total commitment from each and every team member,” Froome added.
“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.”
Froome has won the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and Tour de Romandie titles this year, while Wiggins has been focusing on preparing for the Giro, which will start on Saturday in Naples.
No rider has achieved a Giro/Tour double since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.