Froome to lead Tour de France, say Team Sky

TEAM Sky principal Dave Brailsford has reiterated British rider Chris Froome will spearhead their challenge at the Tour de France this year, despite Sir Bradley Wiggins’ hopes he would get the nod to defend his title.

Wiggins, who yesterday held on to second spot in the Giro D’Italia with an eighth-place finish in stage three, last week expressed his wish to lead the team next month as the Tour celebrates its centenary year, seemingly defying the strategy set out at the beginning of the year.

However, Brailsford confirmed Team Sky’s plans remain unchanged.

“Given Chris’s step-up in performances this year our plan, as it has been since January, is to have him lead the Tour de France team,” confirmed Brailsford. “Since the start of the season Bradley’s performance plan has focused around training specifically to try to win the Giro and then ride the Tour, while Chris’s has been focused on attempting to win the Tour.”

Froome has won the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and the Tour de Romandie already this year and the 27-year-old is the early favourite with bookmakers to become only the second Briton ever to win the Tour de France, following Wiggins’s historic triumph in 2012.

Wiggins is back in action today for stage four of the Giro, a medium-mountain stage over 244km at Serra San Bruno.

The 33-year-old will hope to bridge the 17-second gap on overall leader Luca Paolini, of the Katusha team, who races in the pink jersey having won yesterday.

Paolini crossed the line 16 seconds clear of the chasing group and also took the lead in the points race from Britain’s Mark Cavendish, though the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider will continue to wear the red jersey today.

“It’s incredible to win like that and take the pink jersey as well,” said 36-year-old Paolini.

“I suffered to stay on during the climb and tried to ride at my pace. I knew there was a little climb near the finish and know I can descend pretty well, so I went for it.”