Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Tour organisers on Thursday evening confirmed that Sir Bradley Wiggins will not be taking part in next week’s event, but hit out at “not precise” British media reports about his pull-out.
And they insisted that the four-day race, which will take place on October 20-23, will not be diminished by the five-time Olympic champion’s absence given the high-quality field assembled.
Newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Guardian had reported that the Abu Dhabi Tour “was never in the 36-year-old’s confirmed schedule”. They said he was focusing on forthcoming six-day competitions in London and Ghent rather than racing with his eponymous team in the UAE capital.
This was in spite of Wiggins being named in the provisional start list for the second edition of the race, which made its debut last year, on Wednesday evening.
But Manolo Bertocchi, on behalf of RCS Sport which is organising the event with Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), told Gulf News that such reports were “not factual and not precise”, although he confirmed Wiggins’ withdrawal.
But he said this was “a last-minute” issue and that it was “normal procedure” for teams to change their line-ups up until a day before the race. He added that Team Wiggins would still compete without their star man.
In a separate press statement, RCS Sport said Team Wiggins had submitted Wiggins’ name for the provisional entry list.
It added: “In addition, as is usual practice for a major race, flights and accommodation had been booked [for him and his team].
“It is important to clarify that the long-standing expectation had been that Sir Bradley would be riding at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour, and that all operations by the race owner, race organiser and its representatives and agents have been based on that expectation in good faith.”
Meanwhile, Bertocchi told Gulf News that Wiggins’ representatives had not offered a reason for his absence, but insisted: “The level of riders at the event is so high, that this is absolutely not a blow. It would have been nice to have had Sir Bradley Wiggins at the event, but the Abu Dhabi Tour is a very important event without him.”
Among those taking part next week are the two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, the two-time Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali and the Abu Dhabi Tour ambassador Mark Cavendish.
And the organisers may even be relieved about Wiggins’ no-show as the recent controversy that has dogged him could have overshadowed the event,
Data stolen by hackers from files held by the World Anti-Doping Agency showed he received three therapeutic use exemptions for an otherwise banned drug.
The TUEs were for anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and 2013 Giro d’Italia. He became the first British winner of the Tour in 2012.
Wiggins and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, the British Cycling performance director until April 2014, have vigorously denied any wrongdoing. They have insisted TUEs were medically needed to address a pollen allergy that exacerbated Wiggins’ long-standing asthma.
The TUEs were approved by the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, and there is no suggestion that Wiggins, or the team, have broken any rules.
Wiggins last raced at September’s Tour of Britain and has since announced his decision to retire at the end of the year, meaning UAE cycling fans will sadly not see one of the sport’s greats grace these shores again.