BESANCON, France — At this year’s Tour de France, Team Sky doesn’t need to worry.
After just nine stages and with two weeks remaining before the peloton reaches Paris, Bradley Wiggins already has put his stamp on the race in a bid to become the first British winner of cycling’s most prestigious event on July 22.
But in cycling, accidents happen, something Wiggins knows well after crashing out of last year’s Tour with a broken collarbone.
Never mind. Sky has the perfect Plan B in Christopher Froome, another Brit who would be Wiggins’ main challenger if he was on another team.
The Kenyan-born Froome came to prominence last year when he finished second at the Vuelta ahead of Wiggins. He has been the perfect teammate for Wiggins so far on the Tour, working hard in the first batch of medium mountain stages to defend his leader’s yellow jersey.
Doing this, he claimed his maiden Tour stage win over the weekend, finished second in Monday’s time trial behind Wiggins and is third in the overall standings.
Froome conceded 35 seconds to Wiggins in the 25.8-mile leg from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon, but took 68 seconds off defending Tour champion Cadel Evans.
Wiggins leads Evans by 1 minute, 53 seconds overall, while Froome sits in third, 2:07 off the pace.
“The plan has always been to have a backup leader in the team,” Sky sports director Sean Yates said. “It gives us a little bit of freedom, the freedom to use different cards when we need to. And at this moment of time, Froome is more than capable of winning this Tour if something happens to Brad.”
Froome, a polite 27-year-old whose demeanor contrasts with Wiggins’ off-color outbursts, is adamant he is not on the Tour to fulfill his own ambitions.
“I’m here for Brad,” he said. “I’d love to be up there, the best I can be, fifth, eighth, 10th, whatever it is. If I give everything, I will be happy. The team objective is to look after Bradley and that’s my job to make sure that he arrives in the best position in Paris.”
After his great showing at last year’s Vuelta, the lanky Froome was expected to be one of Wiggins’ top lieutenants at the Tour. He is now proving to himself that he can also win the race.
“He is a very intelligent guy, he comes from a very nice family,” Sky manager Dave Brailsford said. “But he is also a fun guy. He is a real character and all the guys really like him. He is still young, he has got a great future ahead of him.”