It’s been the question that has dominated all others in the build-up to this year’s Tour de France: will Britain’s first winner of the world’s biggest cycling race be on the start line in Leeds in two-and-a-half week’s time or not?
Put it like this: if you are tempted to put money on one of Britain’s greatest ever cyclists making Team Sky’s final nine for the race, my suggestion would be to keep your money in your pocket.
At face value it seems almost inconceivable that a rider who took cycling in this country to its greatest peak on the Champs Elysees just two years ago – and followed the most glorious of summers up with time trial gold at London 2012 – should not be deemed worth a place in Sky’s squad. But ability and form this year is not the issue; it is a matter of personality and team dynamic between ‘Wiggo’ and his successor as Tour champion, Chris Froome.
The ‘history’ between the pair dates back to the 2012 Tour when Froome famously rode away from his then team leader on a climb on Stage 11 before being ordered back. Despite proclamations to the contrary from both riders since, the signs have continued that what is, at best, an uneasy relationship between the pair remains.
They have not ridden together in a race this year while the 34-year-old multiple Olympic gold medalist was left out of the Sky squad for the traditional warm-up race, the Criterium du Duphine, after telling the BBC he would not be competing in ‘Le Tour’ “as it stands”.
Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford insisted he had yet to finalise his Tour team but Wiggins’ form in this week’s Tour of Switzerland is unlikely to strengthen his claims for a place in the final nine, amid suggestions his performance may have been affected by his training in the build-up.
Wiggins rode what was an average time trial by his standards on Saturday and two days later finished more than two minutes down on the leaders to all but end his hopes of overall victory.
The downturn in fortunes for this year's Tour of California winner continued yesterday when he crashed on the fourth stage and rolled in almost 12 minutes behind winner Mark Cavendish.
Wiggins' crash ended his involvement in the Tour of Switzerland, with confirmation this morning he would not continue in the event.
The writing seems to be on the wall, but if the inevitable is confirmed British cycling fans will be denied the opportunity of seeing one of their heroes in action on home roads, while followers of the sport in general will be denied an intriguing sub-plot to this year’s race.