PARIS Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins has hinted that fellow Briton Chris Froome is likely to replace him as Team Sky leader for this year's race, which is expected to favour the pure climbers.
Wiggins, whose main target in 2013 is to add the Giro d'Italia title to his list of honours in his quest to retire having won all three grand Tours (France, Italy and Spain), insisted he would not race as Froome's domestique, however.
"I would love to win the Tour for a second time if given the opportunity, not necessarily this season, that would be great, but it is likely that Chris will be the team leader this year," Wiggins told French daily L'Equipe on Tuesday.
"But it does not mean that I'm going to work at the front of the peloton for 200 kilometres everyday for Chris.
"Something could happen to Chris... he could be sick, he could crash as it happened to me in 2011 when we ended up without a team leader."
Renowned climber Froome helped his team mate through the mountain stages of last year's race to eventually finish second behind Wiggins, who added further insight into his plans to target the Giro this year.
"The Giro is my new challenge. It's my inspiration. It's the new fire burning inside me. I think that to win it, in some ways, will be harder than winning the Tour," the 32-year-old told Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"There will be some riders, I'm thinking of (Vincenzo) Nibali, better prepared than on the 2012 Tour (de France). And who already know how to race a Giro to win it."
Wiggins was adamant there would be no issues between him and Froome after questions were raised during last year's Tour over his team mate's loyalty.
"There won't be any problem between me and Chris. No doubts about reciprocal loyalty. He was ready to win in 2012 if anything happened to me," said Wiggins, who has radically changed his racing programme.
He will take part in the Majorca challenge next month before participating in the Tour of Oman (February 11-16), the Tour of Catalunya (March 18-24), the Giro del Trentino (April 16-19) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 21) classic before the Giro (May 4-26).
(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin; Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John O'Brien)