Chris Froome expects a much different Tour de France in the coming month, both on and off the bike, without Bradley Wiggins. Sky's captain explained yesterday during a press conference in Nice, France, that his life is simpler and his leadership unquestioned.
"We've lost a huge engine in the team. If you look at what [Wiggins] could've brought to the team time trial, he could've been a big asset there and also it would've been really helpful for me if he would've been there in the mountains in a support role," Froome said.
"In terms of people speculating about who's the leader within the team - it wasn't even a question for us - but it's something the press was always harping on and it will be nice not to have to answer that question in the Tour."
Froome was given the green light over the winter to lead Sky in the Tour de France, starting June 29 in Corsica. That role follows his service last year, when he helped Wiggins win several events, including the Tour de France.
Froome placed second overall by three minutes and rival Vincenzo Nibali was another three minutes back in third.
Wiggins ride to the overall win, however, was a rocky one.
During the race, he appeared challenged by Froome on a couple of occasions. In both the La Toussuire and Peyragudes mountain stages, Froome seemed capable of riding clear.
Off the bike, Wiggins faced questions about his leadership and doping. Following a question related to the sports recent doping scandals, Wiggins said "c***s" and walked off. He clarified himself later, but he had left his mark.
Froome explained he is a different leader than Wiggins.
"I like to think of myself as being quite an open and approachable guy. If anyone on the team has a problem, I'd like to think they can come to me and not only talk about the problem but also things that we can do better, things that we can try in the race," he said.
"Also from a media point of view, I'd like to think I'm open to any questions the press has and I'm not going to call you all certain names if you ask those questions."
Froome's role this year seemed clear: build confidence, collect wins and lead Sky to an eventual second Tour win. He has won four out of five stages so far, just falling short of the victory in Tirreno-Adriatico.
Wiggins, however, questioned their designated roles ahead of the Giro d'Italia. He said that if he won the Giro, he would also chase a rare Giro/Tour double.
"The team always gave me 100 per cent backing since the Tour route was released last year. They said if I showed I was in form, they'd go for me," Froome said yesterday of the comments.
"It was probably a question mark in his mind at the time, but that's something that he'll have to answer. I'm not too sure what he thought in my abilities [to lead the team]."
Regardless of the events, Froome continues his preparations for the Tour and hopes the best for Wiggins.
"I'm sure he'll bounce back," he added. "Being the athlete he is, winning the Tour last year, he'll bounce back."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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