Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Sir Bradley Wiggins, left, and Chris Froome have been jostling to be the principal rider for Team Sky.
Sir Bradley Wiggins, left, and Chris Froome have been jostling to be the principal rider for Team Sky.

Wiggins-Froome's cycling rivalry at Team Sky is churning out a theatre on wheels

The growing feud between Team Sky cyclists Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins is exactly what the sport needs. Just don't call it a soap opera, warns Will Batchelor. 

"We don't want it to go down the football route and become a soap opera."

- Geraint Thomas, Team Sky rider, musing on the latest round of hostilities this week between his gilded teammates Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.


At least, I think that is what he said.

It was hard to hear him above the din of stable doors being slammed shut while hooves clattered away into the distance.

As Thomas must surely know, this one entered soap-opera territory a long time ago.

Short of Team Sky ending all news conferences with the drum salute from British television show Eastenders, it is hard to see how it could become more of one.

An elder "brother" arguably failing to repay the unstinting loyalty of his family? Soap opera.

A younger "sibling" attempting to break the bonds of the accepted hierarchy? Soap opera.

A beloved, wise old patriarch forced to choose between his two favourite sons? Soap opera.

Glamorous wives and girlfriends slinging e-drinks into each others' faces at their local hostelry, the Twitter Tavern? Guys, we can barely see you for the suds.

In case you have not been following this particular story, I should probably give you a summary. I believe this is how they do it nowadays.

Previously, on Team Skystenders ...

Hey, Froomey, thanks for helping me to win the Tour de France, I really appreciate it!

No problem, Wiggo, can I rely on you to return the favour next year?

Yes, of course you can mate! Well, sort of. Actually, no you can't, I want to win it again.

'Ere, you said I could win the Tour this year and now Wiggo says he fancies it. So who's it gonna be, Dad ... erm, I mean Dave Brailsford (Team Sky general manager)?

Yeah, Dave, you said last year it would be my Chris' turn. If you change your mind now, he will walk away from you forever! Won't you, Chris?!

Yes dear.

OK everyone, just calm down! I've made my decision. My principal rider for this year's Tour will be ... (agonising pause) ... DUM-DUM-DUM, DUM, DAD-DA-DUM!

Cut to adverts.


In reality, of course, a soap opera is exactly what cycling does need.

Every sport can use a little added spice, especially one that otherwise revolves around a group of sinewy men pounding their way up what looks to the untrained eye like an identical stretch of mountain road for 12 hours.

To the casual observer it can all seem a little ... robotic. Flashes of human emotions, even the baser ones like jealousy, greed and resentment, are a useful reminder that these guys really are flesh and blood. Mostly clean blood, too, nowadays.

Cycling professionals must know this, too. While I would not agree with cynics who claim the rivalry is entirely staged for PR purposes, it does seem that nobody is trying very hard to put a lid on it.

So Wiggins gives yet another inflammatory interview, Froome fires off a counter statement, and even his girlfriend, Michelle Cound, who is also part of his team, feels free to mouth off on Twitter again last year she had an exchange of terse Tweets with Wiggins' wife.

Far from being embarrassed by this latest outburst, Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, seemed delighted to discuss it on a national radio station this week.

"It is a great problem to have," he chuckled.

Meanwhile, Brailsford continues to spin out the story by withholding a definitive answer.

When he named Froome last year as his primary choice for the Tour, he was quick to insert a "to be confirmed" get-out clause.

And now we are simply told that "anything can happen" between now and the start of the Tour, so we'll just have to wait and see.

This is pure theatre: a bottoms-on-seats tactic that appears to be paying dividends.

Thomas acknowledged as much in the same interview, saying that "the sport really needs these types of stories, it gets people talking".

So we agree on the principal, that cycling needs human drama.

He just does not like the term "soap opera" and has the usual minority sportsman's resentment over the cultural domination of football.

I cannot do much about the football thing but, if high-minded cycle fans prefer, we could call the Wiggins-Froome soap opera a "narrative arc".

That sounds a little classier, doesn't it?

A little more European, a little less vulgar.

With the Giro d'Italia starting tomorrow and the Tour less than two months away, I cannot wait for the next episode. Sorry, I mean the next development of the narrative arc.





twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National