PARIS (AP) — Bradley Wiggins will not defend his Tour de France title because of a knee problem, giving teammate Chris Froome the chance to win cycling’s premier race after finishing runner-up last year.
Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour, but he has not been able to prepare properly leading to the June 29 start of the race.
He withdrew before the 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia two weeks ago because of a chest infection. His Team Sky said Friday he also has an “ongoing ... condition” with his left knee and would not be considered for the squad.
“It’s a huge disappointment not to make the Tour. I desperately wanted be there, for the team and for all the fans along the way — but it’s not going to happen,” Wiggins said in a team statement. “I can’t train the way I need to train and I’m not going to be ready. Once you accept that, it’s almost a relief not having to worry about the injury and the race against time.”
Last season was an astonishingly successful one for Wiggins. In addition the Tour, he also won the Paris-Nice stage race, Tour de Romandie, the Dauphine Libere and the Olympic gold medal in dominant fashion in the time trial.
“It’s a big loss but, given these circumstances, we won’t consider him for selection,” Sky’s team principal Dave Brailsford said. “It’s incredibly sad to have the reigning champion at Team Sky but not lining up at the Tour. But he’s a champion, a formidable athlete and will come back winning as he has before.”
With Wiggins out, Froome will become the undisputed team leader for the Tour. Sky had already said that Froome would be its team leader, although Wiggins had indicated he may have tried to ride for victory if he were in contention toward the end of the race.
Relations between the two were frosty during last year’s Tour, with Froome sometimes looking much the stronger rider in the climbs but being thwarted by team orders to support Wiggins rather than try and attack him.
This prompted a spat between Wiggins’ wife and Froome’s girlfriend, with the women showing support for their partners by exchanging barbs on Twitter.
Froome finished second at the Spanish Vuelta two years ago and won a bronze medal in the Olympic time trial. He has shown good form this year by winning the Criterium International and Tour de Romandie.
Wiggins was looking to follow his Tour success with a Giro victory until his bid was derailed by illness. Although his chest infection has cleared up, team doctor Richard Freeman says there are still concerns with his knee.
“However, further medical investigations on the knee injury that we were managing at the Giro showed the condition was more significant than we thought,” Freeman said. “It has needed intensive treatment and, whilst it will be fully resolved, Bradley now needs to rest completely for five days before a gradual, return to full training over a period of two to three weeks.”
Wiggins had to withdraw from the 2011 Tour early on after breaking his collarbone in a crash. He has promised to come back stronger from this latest setback.
“I’ve been through this before, when I broke my collarbone, so I know how it works. I’ll get this sorted, set new goals for this season and focus on those,” Wiggins said. “This team has so many riders in great shape, ready for selection and we set incredible standards for performance which shouldn’t be compromised. We need to have the best chance to win.”