Team Sky are facing the prospect of a civil war after Chris Froome insisted he would lead the team at the Tour de France, just hours after Sir Bradley Wiggins suggested he would defend his title this summer.
Wiggins has prioritised the Giro d'Italia – which starts in Naples on Saturday – in this year's calendar, but said that he saw it as the first part of a potential double.
Those comments brought a swift response from Froome, who clearly expects Wiggins to return his favour from last year and support his own efforts to win the yellow jersey.
"There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year," Froome said in the statement, reported by VeloNews.com.
"I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013. I have been reassured by the management at Team Sky that I have their full backing, and at no time has the leadership of the Tour team been in question.
"Attempting to win the Tour de France is a massive undertaking, and will take total commitment from each and every team member.
"The Tour team has yet to be selected but with the depth of talent that we have at Team Sky, I have no doubt that the strongest and most willing riders will be there to support me."
Froome has been in outstanding form this season, confirmed by last week's victory in the Tour de Romandie.
He supported Wiggins in last year's race, and took second place overall.
It has long been thought that the roles would be reversed in this year's race, but Wiggins cast doubt on that in his comments yesterday, saying he was keen to defend his title.
The 33 year old, who became the first Briton to win the Tour last summer, said he did not believe Team Sky boss Sir David Brailsford would make a call until the final days before the race, or perhaps even once it was under way.
"At this stage, all being well, it may be that we end up joint leaders for that first week until the racing decides," Wiggins said.
"Without racing against each other when we hit the mountains or whatever, the racing decides naturally who the leader becomes.
"It may be that we both stay in contention until that week, Chris wins the mountain stage, takes the yellow jersey in which case there is a natural hierarchy there.
"And then I try and finish second as he did last year.
"That may not happen - there may be a clear-cut leader before you get there. This is all hypothetical, I may crash tomorrow in training and end up in hospital again. We will see."
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