Wiggins has faith in team-mate Froome

Bradley Wiggins has admitted Team Sky colleague Chris Froome would be his biggest rival for Tour de France glory — if the Britons were on rival teams.

After an eighth day in the race leader’s yellow jersey was successfully negotiated, Wiggins faces five more to determine if he can become the first British winner of the Tour, in the 99th edition of the race.

Following the 158.5-kilometre 15th stage from Samatan to Pau yesterday, won by Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-Bigmat), Froome was two minutes five seconds behind, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2:23 adrift in third and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) 3:19 behind in fourth, with Ireland’s Nicolas Roche back in 13th overall, some 10 minutes behind Wiggins.

The other Irish rider in the race, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), finished in the main peloton and preserved his overnight position of 65th overall.

Martin will aim to move up the leaderboard tomorrow when the race heads into the Pyrenees.

Wiggins, however, has faced a barrage of questions over who is best placed within the Sky team to go for the yellow jersey and he gave short shrift to the interrogator who suggested Froome is his main challenger.

Wiggins said: “We’re first and second on GC [general classification]. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out. He’s my team-mate. We’ll keep it like that.”

The Tour resumes following today’s second rest day with tomorrow’s 197km 16th stage from Pau to Bagners-de-Luchon, which is the first of two difficult days in the mountains.

Some believe Froome, who finished second to Wiggins’ third at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana and has been in impressive form in France, is the superior climber and should be Team Sky’s leader.

The Kenya-born Brit, meanwhile, expressed a wish to be backed by Team Sky in 2013 if the Tour route is mountainous, as expected.

Froome yesterday insisted comments in a French newspaper — suggesting he could win this Tour, but not with Team Sky — were misinterpreted and he remains fully committed in his support of Wiggins.

Froome said: “There were a lot of things taken out of context there. There’s no bad blood in the team. We’re still here with the same goal.”

Wiggins knows his place on the top of the podium on Sunday is not yet secure and Saturday’s penultimate-day 53.5km time-trial to Chartres will also be important.

“There are gaps in the GC of course, and yes we are in a great position, but even the time-trial on Saturday could see gaps,” said the 32-year-old triple Olympic champion, who won the stage nine time-trial.

Wiggins, who finished in the peloton, 11:50 behind Fedrigo, insisted it was not a day for a sprint finish, particularly after Team Sky sports director Sean Yates had consulted rival teams and determined no one was willing to share the workload to chase the day’s six-man escape.

“There were 2,000m of climbing in 150km,” Wiggins said. “It was not flat. It was tough out there.”

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