LONDON (AFP) -- Team Sky said star riders Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins have been selected in separate Tour de France warm-up races this month.
Wiggins became the Tour’s first British winner in 2012 and was succeeded a year later by Froome, who will lead Team Sky in the 101st Tour, which begins in Leeds on July 5.
With the Tour just over a month away, Froome will defend his title in the Critérium du Dauphiné, a prestigious Tour warm-up Wiggins won in 2011 and 2012, from June 8-15. Wiggins will be at at the Tour of Switzerland from June 14 to 22.
Froome is joined by Richie Porte, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate, Geraint Thomas and Xabier Zandio in the eight-man Dauphine squad, with all seven likely to accompany him at the Tour, leaving space for one more rider.
“Both the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse are WorldTour events and we are looking to perform in both races,” Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said. ”Bradley heads to Switzerland with a strong team after a great win in California and we've got the right group for the Dauphine, especially considering the nature of the course.”
Sky’s nine-man Tour lineup is expected to be confirmed after the conclusion of the Swiss race by Brailsford, who was tight-lipped on Wiggins’ possible Tour inclusion last month.
The June lineups come after publication of Froome’s autobiography, “The Climb,” which may have reignited suggestions of a feud between him and Wiggins, who last raced together for Team Sky in February 2013 at the Tour of Oman and for Great Britain at last September’s world road championship, where no British rider finished the race.
But Brailsford insisted the lineups for the events were purely selected with a view to establishing who would be best to feature in the Tour de France.
“Both of these races will form part of our selection for the Tour,” he added. ”We have to name 13 riders in a long list during June and we’ll do that from across the squad, including riders at the Route du Sud, not only those in the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse groups.”
After winning the Amgen Tour of California, Wiggins said he would be happy to ride in a support role for Froome in July, telling VeloNews, “I’ve said all along, I’ve said from the start of the season, if I’m fortunate enough to be at the Tour, it’ll be in support of Chris. I can’t say that [enough].”
However, asked by the BBC in the context of an interview about his new book, coauthored by Walsh, Froome said nothing had been determined about Sky’s 2014 Tour team.
“It comes down to what is best for the team,” Froome said, “and who is going to do the best for the dynamics of the team.”