21 June 2013Rob Hayles: 'Wiggins tipped for Classics focus'
Former world champion Rob Hayles believes Sir Bradley Wiggins will bounce back – but admits his old team-mate may need to find a new challenge with Chris Froome determined to assume control of Team Sky’s Grand Tour programme for the long-term.
Wiggins will not defend his Tour de France title this summer after his preparations were hampered by a combination of a knee injury and the chest infection which ended his Giro d’Italia hopes.
That has cleared the path for Froome to lead Sky in France and, at the age of 28 – five years Wiggins’ junior, the Kenyan-born Brit has outlined his determination to dominate on the Grand Tours for the next six or seven years – leaving a question mark over his team-mate’s future.
While the leadership battle between the two may have merely been postponed – with much to be determined by this year’s Tour results – Froome appears to have the upper hand and Hayles believes Wiggins must adjust to flourish once more at Team Sky.
“I doubt that Brad, at his age and after what he’s achieved, would want to leave Team Sky to go somewhere else,” Hayles, who won world and Olympic medals in combination with Wiggins, said.
“I would imagine he will look to stay and find a new target, perhaps to salvage Team Sky’s Classics season. That was originally Brad’s dream, to be competing in Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders and those races.
“People say he was always about the Grand Tours but it’s not true. His original ambition when he was younger was the Classics.”
Team Sky’s focus is increasingly on the Grand Tours – the Tour, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España – and Hayles admitted for the idea to work, the team would need to adjust too.
“Brad has to set himself targets in his career because without a target he won’t attain anything,” he said. “I don’t know if Sky would be set up for it – you wonder if they might look to get rid of some of their Classic-type riders and concentrate solely on Grand Tours – but for Brad it would be an interesting one.”
If anything, the intrigue surrounding the battle between Froome and Wiggins has only increased as Froome has grown in confidence.
Although it is only 12 months since Froome helped Wiggins to a maiden victory in the Tour de France, Hayles admits the relationship appears to be over.
“Froome knows that he can’t work with Brad, and Brad knows he can’t work with Chris, I’m pretty sure of that,” he said.
“There’s a lot of mind games being played.”
The battle began in earnest when Wiggins declared prior to the Giro that he wanted to do a double and intended to defend his Tour crown.
That was despite Wiggins initially backing Team Sky’s decision to let Froome lead the Tour team, and it seemed Wiggins’ injury might be a blessing in disguise.
“I originally thought it was a good move by him to make the decision to miss the Tour quite early on,” said Hayles, who has recently published his autobiography ‘Easy Rider’.
“If Brad was not going to be in shape physically to defend the title the last thing they want is to have him there. He would be disruptive.
“That sounds like a dig at Brad but it’s absolutely not. Brad’s not going to go there as defending champion to help somebody else. That’s not how Brad is. That’s not how most riders are. You can’t fault him for that.