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Bradley Wiggins says he's in better shape for Giro than he was ahead of last year's Tour

Sky rider who followed race as a teenager through pages of Gazzetta dello Sport prepares to challenge for maglia rosa

With a little over five weeks to go until the Giro d’Italia begins in Naples, Bradley Wiggins says he is in better shape now than he was ahead of his successful assault on the Tour de France last year.

“In training last week in Tenerife, on the climbs, I was ahead of any point last year before the Tour,” revealed Wiggins in an interview with The Times in which he laid out his ambitions to add the maglia rosa to the maillot jaune. “I am on track to give myself the best shot.”

Wiggins has worn the Giro leader’s jersey before, winning the Prologue in Amsterdam during Team Sky’s first participation in the race in 2010, but he would eventually finish a lowly 40th on GC.

That was his first Grand Tour after his surprise fourth place finish in the 2009 Tour de France, riding for Garmin, although the difference now is that while in 2010 he was a potential contender, as Tour de France champion and with a Vuelta podium place secured in 2011, he goes into May's Giro as one of the favourites.

While the Giro organisers have said that part of the reason for including two individual time trials in the route of this year's race was to attract Wiggins to it, he revealed to The Times that there was a time when he had to go out of his way to discover news of the race.

His initiation to it came back when he was a teenager and would head to a newsagent’s in Soho to buy the Gazzetta dello Sport after finishing his Saturday shift in a West End hotel kitchen.

“You had to search for the Giro,” said Wiggins. “I’d find it in the Gazzetta, pages and pages of what was going on at the Giro, just to look at the pictures, plus a strip down one side of the results. When you are 13, that’s the kind of thing you look forward to.

“There were always white backgrounds to every mountain picture. Any pictures I had of Miguel Indurain on my wall always had snow in the background.”

Then, towards the end of the year, he’d get to see the actual racing. “Bromley Video would bring out a video of the race, so I’d watch it while riding on the turbo. That was my introduction.”

Wiggins was asked why he is prioritising the Giro this year, rather than focusing on the defence of his Tour de France title, having made history in Paris as the first British rider to win the race.

“It’s just what I want to do. You’ve got to be so careful that you don’t end up just fulfilling other people’s expectations,” he replied.

“Historically the Giro doesn’t really suit me. It is more of a challenge than the Tour in some ways. I’ve had to come out of my comfort zone a little bit.”

Partly that is due to the particular demands that the tougher climbs encountered in the Giro place on a rider, with Wiggins drawing on the memory of his first participation in the race in 2003.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he recalled. “Every day was a nightmare, every morning they’d knock on my door to wake me up. I hated it.

“Ten years ago I would never have imagined being able to compete in this race,” he went on, adding that his training has focused on making sure he is equipped to deal with the Giro’s specific demands.

“I always said I’d love to get to the end of my career and be remembered as someone who won the Tour and the Giro. The Giro is something else in my eyes. That shows real versatility,” he continued.

In part, his decision to ride the Giro will have been influenced by the amount of time-trialling in the race which plays to one of his real strengths, but it’s also motivated by his ringside experience of watching Cadel Evans Tour de France title defence crumble last year as the Australian struggled with his form and fitness.

“I never want to be like that,” Wiggins maintained. “In hindsight, would he have ever started the Tour last year? I didn’t think it was a great defence of his title. And I’m sure he’d be the first to say so.

“These are my best years. I don’t want to be saying, ‘I had a great year in 2012, I am just going to go with the flow this year’ and miss a year through not being bothered. There was an element of ‘What the hell do I do now?’ after the Olympics last year. The minute I started thinking, ‘I’d like to do well in the Giro,’ I was, ‘OK, I am willing to sacrifice everything.’”

The Times points out the contrast between the romantic idealism of the teenage Wiggins who would run to the shop to buy the Gazzetta, and the much criticised approach taken by Team Sky whose pace-sitting on climbs has led to accusations that they are riding by the numbers and draining the excitement from the sport.

“Yes, we get slagged off a lot for it, especially in recent weeks,” Wiggins acknowledged. “But the reality now is that you have to do it more scientifically to get the best out of you. I realise I am not the most talented bike rider in the world, I am not a great climber, not a great time-triallist, not a great sprinter. I am a jack of all trades.

“I am a fan ultimately, but being a fan and a romantic doesn’t necessarily win you bike races. I am very calculated about what I do. It might not be the most beautiful way of winning bike races, but it’s the way I can do my best.”

While Chris Froome will spearhead Sky’s challenge at the Tour, Wiggins of all people knows that a carefully planned campaign can be brought to a sudden and unexpected halt, having crashed out with a broken collarbone in the opening week of the 2011 race.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that during those three weeks in France this summer, he could emerge as Sky’s strongest contender, and he plans to be in the best shape possible for the race.

“It’s not going to be a case of finish the Giro, have a week off, get fat and then think about starting again,” he insists, and when he is reminded that Stephen Roche, winner of both the Tour and Giro in 1987, has said that he too could achieve that, answers simply, “Yes, maybe.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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mingmong | 11 years ago

He's in good shape. Best of British to him.

WolfieSmith | 11 years ago

It would be lovely if he could. A British rider wins both TDF and a Giro? Jesus. With a sense of history and perspective that is pretty well perfect for me.

With the influx of new fans maybe winning the Giro and a 2nd TDF might be just enough... But there'll still be questions to be asked of course...  37

Wiggins eh? Bit of a chancer...  4

Some Fella | 11 years ago

As VeloPeo points out.... 'Not a great time trialist'? ????????
There is false modesty and there is just sheer delusion.
The boy is trippin if he thinks he isnt a great time trialist.
Im sure he could pull over mid TT, have a haircut, play a couple of verses of some awful Britpop record, shout at someone and get back on the bike and still beat 99% of the people on this planet.

NeilG83 | 11 years ago

I'm not sure Wiggins can win it, but a podium place is a definite possibility, which would be a massive achievement.
According to wikipedia only 13 riders have reached the podium in all 3 Grand Tours.
Anyone know what other big names are riding other than Wiggins, Nibali and Hesjedal?

arrieredupeleton | 11 years ago

It transpired that Cadel Evans was suffering from a 'virus' during his Tour defence. I think he pretty much wrapped in the season after that. He's openly admitted it was a virus although wasn't specific. In fact, I'm not sure he's completely recovered and given this seasons form, it's possible he hasn't. I think that's what Wiggins was alluding to and so I don't think he was being critical.

Leviathan | 11 years ago

Glad to see one night off hasn't effected his preparation. Hard to do otherwise with the Sky team chasing you with a watt meter. My only concern is TIME BONUSES. Nibali could really nibble into any time trial lead by just out sprinting Wiggo at the top of climbs, not the purest of challenges.

The man is already a legend:

Sadly Biggins | 11 years ago

I really hope he does it too, although it's going to be very tough. Agree with VeloPeo that SBW's being a bit modest in part of his self-assessment.

VeloPeo | 11 years ago

"Not a great Time Trialist"? Overly modest there Wiggo.

Really looking forward to see what he can do in the Giro

Samuel Gamester | 11 years ago

rather unkind remarks about Cadel Evans, for all we know Evans was trying the hardest, just didn't have the legs

Simon_MacMichael replied to Samuel Gamester | 11 years ago
Samuel Gamester wrote:

rather unkind remarks about Cadel Evans, for all we know Evans was trying the hardest, just didn't have the legs

You can never say Evans doesn't try, you can see it etched all over his face.

But he did seem to take a longer off-season than usual following his TDF win, and a lot of that was PR stuff to capitalise on it. Early season, he didn't race as much as he's done in previous years.

I took Wiggins' remarks as meaning he'd kept his focus, and that having the Giro to aim for was a big factor in maintaining that.

1961BikiE | 11 years ago

it's going to be a good race, hopefully. Certainly think he'll get top four and will be great if it's numero uno. I think Sky may slightly surprise people in this race and TdF. From what I have seen they seem to be adding to their repertoire. Not a lot, but it seems from races I have seen that they are adding come aggression to the metronome.  4  39

crazy-legs | 11 years ago

I want Wiggins to win the Giro as much as anybody, I wish him the very best of luck in it.

I know that these articles are as much about psychology as anything and a bit of publicity never goes amiss but in some respects it just sets you up for a bigger fall. Same as every year the papers shout "it's [insert British tennis player of choice] time to win Wimbledon, he can do it...oh no, he's crashed out again"

Seems to be the way of the world - set someone on a pedestal so high they can never meet expectations, then kick them when they fail.  2
I hope that's not the case here.

Simon_MacMichael replied to crazy-legs | 11 years ago
crazy-legs wrote:

I know that these articles are as much about psychology as anything and a bit of publicity never goes amiss but in some respects it just sets you up for a bigger fall. Same as every year the papers shout "it's [insert British tennis player of choice] time to win Wimbledon, he can do it...oh no, he's crashed out again"

Difference being that Wiggins has actually won the Tour now. Even then, I don't think there was ever the burden of expectation on him that there was on Henman and now on Murray to win Wimbledon.

Not sure anyone is putting him on a pedestal to knock him down. He can certainly win the Giro, it's a goal he's set, and we've all seen what Wiggins/Sky/British Cycling can do when they set a target.

Likewise, the prospect of Murray winning Wimbledon is a much more realistic one than Henman ever doing so - he is one of the world's leading four players and has now won a Grand Slam (in his 5th final), whereas Tiger Tim only briefly got a world no. 4 ranking, never even reached a Grand Slam final, and probably played above himself at Wimbledon most years.

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