Tour de France 2013: Chris Froome on Bradley Wiggins loss

 

Chris Froome says defending champion Sir Bradley Wiggins's absence from the Tour de France is a "relief" after recent media scrutiny of the pair's battle to be Team Sky's leading rider.

But Froome said the loss of Wiggins, the winner of last year's Tour, would be a blow to the British-based team.

Froome, 28, was chosen to lead Team Sky's 2013 challenge, despite Wiggins saying he wanted to defend his title.

Wiggins, 33, later withdrew because of illness and injury.

Analysis

Chris Froome gives a good impression of somebody who doesn't enjoy being interrogated, so the fact his pre-Tour de France media day in Nice is over is probably a big relief. But will it be as much of a relief as Bradley Wiggins not being on the start line in Corsica in 11 days' time?

Froome might not enjoy these Q&As but he's getting better at them. Yes and no was the answer, with enough respect paid to Wiggo's absent "engine" to be tactful. He was less guarded about his real rival Alberto Contador. We will know more about that when Froome is next here in a fortnight's time for the team time trial. He will miss Wiggins then, but only a little bit.

Kenya-born Froome, who was second to Wiggins in the 2012 Tour de France, told BBC Sport: "From within the team it's a loss for us that we don't have his engine in the team time trial, and doing that support role for me in the mountains.

"From that side, it's definitely a loss.

"But from the media angle, always playing on the leadership question, that's certainly a relief."

Froome said the development had come at a time when he felt he was reaching his "prime" and said he wanted to challenge for the Tour de France title for years to come.

And while he was looking forward to his chance to shine in front of the British public, he said he was also keen to stay connected with his African roots.

"I'm 28 and for the next six or seven years my goal is to try to fight for the yellow jersey," he said. "If I can win it once I would be chuffed to bits.

"Certainly in Grand Tours I've been in before, I've been in support of Brad - and at Team Sky we always go in with a goal and stick to it. This is an opportunity for me to shine in that respect and definitely to get more known by the British public."

He added: "I certainly feel I'm carrying the flag for Britain. I feel an honour in that but, at the same time, knowing my roots are in Africa, I'd like that to help motivate people from there.

"Even coming from a third world country, it is possible to get to the top of wherever they want to be."

As for his prospects of taking the yellow jersey this year, Froome also acknowledged the threat of 2007 and 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador in Wiggins's absence, but was confident Team Sky would be able to cope with the Spanish Saxo-Tinkoff rider.

"I've got his measure [but] I am expecting him to be at a different level again at the Tour," said Froome.

"I think everyone lifts themselves that little bit extra for the Tour de France, being the pinnacle of our cycling calendar.

"He knows what he is doing. He's won the Tour, he's won Grand Tours multiple times, but I don't think he is someone we need to be worried about in that respect. We've shown we can race against him, and we can certainly beat him."

Froome, winner of this month's Criterium du Dauphine, also feels this year's Tour de France had a chance of improving cycling's reputation following the revelations of the Lance Armstrong doping affair.

"Unfortunately, he left us with a lot of mess after him, but that gives us an opportunity to step up now and show people the sport has changed," added Froome.