Chris Froome on the Tour de France: Free from 'pain in neck' after Bradley Wiggins' exit

Sky's lead rider says he is in fantastic form for the Tour and happy pecking order debate is over

Nice

Chris Froome believes the injury-enforced absence of Bradley Wiggins from the Tour de France leaves Team Sky with a "clarity" of leadership that will benefit their bid for another British yellow jersey, describing the frequently tense debate over which of the two riders would lead the race as a "pain in the neck".

Froome will lead Sky into the Tour, which begins in Corsica next week, as clear favourite to go one better than his second place to Wiggins last year. The 28-year-old Kenya-born Briton has insisted all year that he would be the team leader but Wiggins's regular and public querying of which rider would take precedence was only settled once and for all when the defending champion was ruled out of the race through injury. The two have not spoken since Wiggins returned home from last month's Giro d'Italia after illness and injury wrecked his main ambition for the season.

"I wouldn't say stressful but a bit of a pain in the neck to have to keep repeating myself," said Froome of the debate that has bounced back and forth since December. "I know a lot of people would have still been asking that leadership question aimed at me. So in that respect I think it's made both our lives a lot simpler.

"I think we've definitely got clarity in the team, that we all know what we're going there to do and what the goals are. We've got a really capable team going for yellow this year."

Froome said he felt sympathy for Wiggins not being able to take part in the 100th Tour as the champion but was quick to underline where he saw his team-mate had he been fit. "I wouldn't necessarily think that he would be defending his title as such, the course is so different this year. But we definitely are missing the element that he could have brought, the strength he could have brought to the team, to the team time trial. He could have been with us in the mountains to play that support role for me. That's definitely unfortunate.

"He wanted to focus on the Giro d'Italia this year – unfortunately that didn't go to plan. I'm sure he'll bounce back and be targeting other races for later on in the season. He knows what he's doing.

"Having Brad would have added a huge element to the strength, but I do believe we've got all our bases covered with the riders we do have."

Sky will announce their line-up later this week after a successful build-up culminated in victory for Froome at the Critérium du Dauphiné, his fourth of the season. It will include the Australian Richie Porte – earmarked for the role Froome played last year – as well as Pete Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas, Olympic gold winners on the track in 2012. Froome believes he will enter the race in prime form.

He said: "I feel as if I'm in fantastic condition coming into the last week. I'm happy with where I'm at, the numbers are there. I've got the backing of a fantastic team. I don't think at this point I could ask for too much more."

Sky are confident Wiggins, who is unlikely to attend the Tour, will race again this season, although he is still undergoing treatment on the knee problem that hampered him in Italy. He is expected to target the time trial at the world championship in Florence in September.

"Our focus with Brad is getting him ready to race again this season," said Tim Kerrison, who coaches both riders. "Brad's obviously very disappointed how the season has gone. But he's determined to reset his goals and turn things around. He's back training, he was in Majorca last week. He's back in the UK now. He came back to get some treatment on his knee and he's back out training today working towards the goals we are putting in place for this season."

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