Blazin' Saddles

New Sky book to ruffle Wiggo’s feathers?

Blazin' Saddles

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The latest tome by Irish journalist David Walsh lifts the lid on his time spent embedded inside Team Sky last year - and a certain knighted rider will not be happy with the results.

In 'Inside Team Sky', Walsh explains how Sir Bradley Wiggins - then just plain Wiggo - refused to pay team-mate Chris Froome a slice of his win bonus after becoming Britain's first ever Tour de France victor in 2012.

According to Walsh, Wiggo paid everyone from Sky's winning Tour team except his leashed super-domestique, who finished second after helping steer Wiggins through the high mountains.

It was not until the week of the 2013 World Championships - two months after Froome himself had been crowned Sky and Briton's second successive Tour champion - and a whole 14 months after Wiggins topped the podium in Paris - that the debt was finally settled.

The sharing of such information is bound to antagonise Wiggins, who recently reiterated his desire to ride next year's Tour in support of Froome before taking to the track ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Whether or not Wiggins will fit into the Sky machine next summer remains to be seen - especially now that Froome has his best buddy Richie Porte to lean on for support.

Another anecdote from the new book explains how Porte - who Walsh describes as having a "small man attitude" in the introduction - let down his guard a bit during the Tour de France after-party. Bolstered by a number of bubbly beverages, the Tasmanian is said to have approached Walsh fairly aggressively, prodded him in the stomach and sounded off about how critical certain sectors of the media had been towards Sky and their success.

Of course, Blazin' Saddles could have written a much more insightful blog on the subject had he actually read the book, which is hitting the shelves this weekend. But amid fears that Father Christmas may be dropping it down his chimney next month, your faithful cycling scribe simply downloaded the free sample on Kindle.

The opening chapter or so doesn't exactly tell us much, but it does offer an insight as to what will follow. The first paragraphs read well and have been constructed nicely - clearly in less of a rush than Walsh's hurried Lance Armstrong-themed book Seven Deadly Sins, which seemed to be littered with typos and heavy syntax.

Well written and pithy, it's filled with anecdotes and references. Saddles particularly liked the story of the 'Clouded Yellow' butterfly which deliciously tees up the rest of the book - the part which, alas, fell beyond the boundaries of the free sample.

Walsh describes Edvald Boasson Hagen as "so classy... that everyone wonders why he doesn't win more". We learn that Movistar recruit David Lopez roomed on his own during the Tour because "Froome prefers to room with his friend Porte" and, well, someone's got to do it (the number nine not being divisible by two).

A few paragraphs are taken to the hammering home of Walsh's observation that Sky do not call their soigneurs 'soigneurs' but 'carers'. On the surface, it's a minor statement, given that the verb 'soigner' literally means 'to care'. But below that, it's more antagonistic; an attempt by Sky to escape the negative connotations of the word 'soigneur' (which conjures up images of Willy Voet with a trunk load of drugs) and, as such, a "two-fingered salute to the peloton".

Tellingly, Walsh then proceeds to refer to Sky's carers as soigneurs, whereby perhaps holding his own mirror up to those two fingers.

What other nuggets to we gleam from the free sample? Well, that Froome and Porte both had six bikes each for the Tour, meaning the mechanics had a total of 47 steeds to look after in France.

Team Sky, Walsh says, were "consistently friendly, helpful, at times disarmingly honest, and always interesting".

Casting himself as Sky manager Dave Brailsford's second wife, Walsh touches on the journalist Paul Kimmage's earlier attempted marriage with Sky, which "didn't survive the honeymoon". Kimmage rubbed people up the wrong way with his constant scrutiny and there was a fear within the team that he would have a negative impact on performance.

Brailsford swiftly withdrew his initial offer to allow Kimmage to shadow Sky - and there ensued a turbulent break-up. It didn't make things any better that Brailsford then shacked up with Kimmage's friend Walsh, no doubt with a fairly elaborate pre-nuptial agreement.

Tut tut... isn't there a rule about dating your friend's exes?

When Kimmage made a cheap shot at Boasson Hagen before the Grand Depart in Corsica, Brailsford took it exceedingly badly. Walsh elaborates on this with candour, clearly stressing just how much of a hash Brailsford made of things.

Simply from reading the first 20-odd pages, you quickly pick up on how Walsh seems to go out of his way to show just how much everyone at Sky seemed to like him - not only sticking in the knife with regards to "one of my closest friends" Kimmage, but also casting himself as some kind of avuncular presence who both indirectly lifted the team and brought out the best in their riders.

One hopes that in the remainder of the book Walsh doesn't actually do a John Terry and metaphorically try and climb the podium alongside those he was meant to be scrutinising.

It's quite apparent, reading between the lines of those introductory pages, that while Kimmage is the kind of guy who would have joined Sky in the hope that he would uncover something nefarious, Walsh on the other hand was probably hoping for confirmation that the team were doing things the right way.

That, in a nutshell, is what splits the two camps and has encouraged the Kimmage-friendly cynics to accuse Walsh of selling out.

One such person is an online cycling forum activist called Digger, whose Twitter handle is 'F*** the hypocrisy'. In the introduction of Inside Team Sky, Walsh mentions Wiggins' famous expletive-ridden rant against the "f****** w*****s" who hide behind anonymous identities and take pot-shots from the comfort of their own armchairs. Later in the book, Walsh actually singles out Digger as particularly noxious.

"So apparently I've been named in the Walsh book as an example or the worst excesses of social media," Digger Tweeted on the day of the book release. "David, I hope the selling out is worth it."

Having had a pop at Walsh's skills of research, Digger continues: "What part of Froome going up mountains faster than known dopers do you find so believable David? Froome would need to wheelie up the Alpe, signing breasts, talking on his mobile, before Walsh would have doubts."

It seems that some people won't be happy until Froome becomes Peter Sagan... and Walsh sticks the knife in.

'Inside Team Sky: The Inside Story of Team Sky and Their Challenge for the 2013 Tour de France' by David Walsh is out now.

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