Sir Bradley Wiggins will ride for double gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after he was left out of Team Sky’s nine-strong line-up for the Tour de France.
Only two Britons, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, were named by Sir Dave Brailsford as Sky seek to claim the yellow jersey for a third successive year, and his omission leaves Wiggins free to return to the track.
Wiggins has never won gold at the Commonwealths – he has three silvers to his name – but will be favourite to win on the road in Glasgow. He is also set to ride in the individual pursuit in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (we are in a world of cycling knights here).
It sets up a last tilt at the Olympics on the track and road in Rio two years down the line but leaves Wiggins’ future with Sky less clear.
Brailsford said it was “a very, very tough decision” to leave Wiggins out of the Tour team – he has not ridden the race since his historic triumph in 2012, when he became the first British winner of cycling’s blue riband event.
“In elite sport, selection of a team is one of the most difficult parts,” said Brailsford. “Bradley’s been a great champion – is a great champion. He has been fundamental to the growth of cycling in this country. But my job is to look at the best probabilities to try to win, to picture somebody on that podium with the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysées and work back from there.
“You try to take the emotion out of it. On this occasion, Bradley will miss out. But it’s one race, there’s still the future and there’s a lot more racing in Bradley.”
Wiggins’ contract with Sky runs out at the end of the year and the Australian team Orica-GreenEdge are keen to recruit him as their leading man. Wiggins, who won the national time-trial crown on Thursday evening ahead of Thomas and defending champion Alex Dowsett, retains ambitions on the road and while he seems unlikely to ride another Tour de France for Sky, a new deal that leaves him free to pursue his last Olympic hurrah in between early-season Classic duties for Brailsford’s men remains the likeliest next step.
Froome will set off from Leeds next month at the head of a strong-looking Sky line-up that includes Thomas, who finished last year’s race despite fracturing his pelvis on the opening stage.
An opening to the Tour on home soil will see Sky field fewer British riders than ever before; Ian Stannard and Pete Kennaugh had their hopes of making the final nine damaged by illness and injury.
The Australian Richie Porte will be Froome’s key lieutenant, and the man to take the lead should Froome falter. Spaniards Mikel Nieve, David Lopez and Xabier Zandio, Austrian Bernhard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus and the American Danny Pate complete the line-up. That makes more Spanish riders than Britons, while Thomas, at 28, is the youngest in a team with an average age of 32.
Becky James, Britain’s world champion sprinter, has withdrawn from the Commonwealth Games. A rib injury forced James, a leading contender for gold in Glasgow, out of the Welsh team.