Bradley Wiggins re-confirms that he wants a Giro/Tour double
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Bradley Wiggins re-confirms that he wants a Giro/Tour double

by Ben Atkins at 1:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Giro d'Italia
 
Defending champion may support Froome in July but won’t “won’t swing off and lose 30 minutes”

bradley wigginsBradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has once again raised the spectre of a Lemond/Hinault battle with teammate Chris Froome in this year’s Tour de France, as he has repeated his intention to defend his title in the race. Although the 33-year-old will start the Giro d’Italia on Saturday with the intention of taking the overall victory, he confirmed that he intends to go for the double of Giro and Tour this year.

“The Tour de France is my focus,” he told the BBC at a pre-Giro media day at a Wigan hotel, “it's just that I'm doing the Giro before."

Although the prospect of aiming at two Grand Tours will require Wiggins to peak twice in reasonably close succession - or maintain one long peak - he feels that his 2012 season set a successful precedent for this.

“It's like last year and the Olympics," he explained. "I was focused on that and the Tour. This year the Giro comes first.”

Team Sky took a highly unusual one-two in last year’s Tour as Wiggins’ victory made him the first British rider to finish on the race’s podium, with Froome finishing just 3’21” behind him.

[The disqualification of Lance Armstrong from all his results since 1998, however, means that Wiggins retrospectively made the Tour podium in 2009, although this was not confirmed until after his victory - ed]

Teammates finishing on the top two steps of the podium is very rare in the modern era, with the most notorious example being that of Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond in 1985. Lemond helped senior rider Hinault to his fifth Tour win on the understanding that the Frenchman would return the compliment the following year but, by the way Hinault rode in 1986, it appeared that he had reneged on the bargain.

Lemond won regardless, however, with the positions reversed from the previous year.

Before Wiggins and Froome last year, the last time two teammates had finished one-two in the race was when Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich did it in 1996. Like Lemond, Ullrich won the following year but, unlike Hinault, Riis didn’t have the necessary form to try to defend his title.

Although it has been generally understood that Froome would be the team’s leader at this year’s Tour, this has never been actually confirmed by Wiggins or the Sky team.

bradley wiggins,chris froome"There's been a lot of talk about [that] but it's for the team management to decide,” said Wiggins. "We are both on different paths and we're both professionals. We have been there before. We're on the same team and we know what needs to be done.”

Wiggins may well ride the Tour as a super-domestique for his teammate, but this would not be at the expense of his own ambitions, he says. This presents the possibility of reversing the 2012 podium places, a la Lemond and Hinault, but whether it would be achieved with similar infighting in the Sky camp remains to be seen.

"I would be comfortable in a supporting role but it's not like I'm going to ride 200km on the front and swing off and lose 30 minutes,” he said. “I want to be there at the death, I want to be on the podium.

"Somebody will need to make that decision. It will be quite hard, and I'm glad it's not me, but [Sky team principle] Dave [Brailsford] is good at it."

Why the Giro?

bradley wigginsAs a Tour de France winner, many in the United Kingdom - a country where cycling is not a mainstream sport - don’t understand why Wiggins is targeting a less well known race instead of going straight for a defence of his title in July.

“It’s quite difficult for people to get their heads around the Giro, because it is all about the Tour de France,” Wiggins explained to the BBC cameras, “and the Tour de France is very much in people’s minds and it has the public image - the Tour de France - that Lance [Armstrong] helped create in this country. But the Giro is - if not bigger than the Tour de France in cycling terms - for me, anyway… having grown up with cycling as a kid, you only have to look at the roll call of people that have won it…

“That’s changed in the last few years slightly - in the last ten years - I think, in the modern era with Lance, because he never went and did it. But had Lance [gone] and won it, everyone would have known about the Giro.”

The list of greats that have added their names to the Giro’s roll of honour is what makes Wiggins want to go to Italy and win himself.

“But the likes of Merckx, Indurain, etc, they’ve all been there and won it,” he said. “As I say, it’s something I watched as a kid and was fascinated by, and it’s a race that I’ve been to and hated, and I said I’d never go back to. So it’s always had that kind of love-hate thing.

“It’s a huge challenge, probably bigger than the Tour de France, which I like about it; I like being the underdog in some respects. So that’s what’s given us the motivation to do what we’ve done really.”

Traditionally the Giro is a more mountainous race than the Tour, with fewer time trials for the non-climbers to fall back on. This has changed little in 2013, with more kilometres against the clock in Italy and fewer in France, but Wiggins has still had to change his preparation for the style of race that he will encounter at the Giro.

bradley wiggins“I think I’ve certainly improved from last year,” he said. “In training for the Giro we’ve had to train for the demands of climbing more - climbing on steeper climbs - which we’ve focused on. The races I’ve done this year have been more out of my comfort zone; they’ve been more mountainous, without time trials. I’ve had to not rely on that time trial to pick up wins, and I’ve accepted that, and I’ve accepted it’s part of the bigger picture.”

Wiggins’ build up to the Tour in 2012 saw him win Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné on the way. This year has been very different, with fifth places at the Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino his best results so far, but he insists that all is going to plan for his Giro campaign.

“Obviously people have said ‘you haven’t won a race going into this, and last year you’d won all these races,’ but all the races I won last year, I won through the time trials,” he explained. “But I think in terms of what I’ve been going for, and the bigger picture, then I think I’ve definitely improved.

“My climbing’s improved a lot. I’ve come off those silly [ovalised] rings now; I’m back on the normal o-rings, and it’s been a really good transition really. In doing what we’re doing for the Giro it can only benefit the Tour really, in terms of how much climbing’s in the Tour.”

“So that’s the challenge this year, as I’ve said all along, is the Giro/Tour double really, and being in as good a shape as possible coming into the Tour,” he confirmed.

The lure of the Giro/Tour double

Most of the Tour greats have done the Giro/Tour double at some point during their careers. Eddy Merckx did so three times, with the other five-time Tour winners Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain all managing it twice. Five-time Giro winner Fausto Coppi also did the double on two occasions, while Stephen Roche did it during his incredible ‘triple crown’ season of 1987.

The last rider to achieve the feat was Marco Pantani in 1998, however, and nobody has come close since, with Giro winners usually finding themselves exhausted at the Tour.

Surprisingly, the Giro/Vuelta double has only been achieved three times, although this is largely because - until 1994 - the Vuelta was held in the spring, and the two races were too close together for riders to peak for both. Eddy Merckx and Giovanni Battaglin did it once each before the date change, with Alberto Contador managing it in 2008 after his Astana team was not invited to the Tour. Joaquim Rodríguez came close in 2012, finishing second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta.

No rider has ever won all three Grand Tours in the same season, although this is arguably due to the fact that Merckx only rode the Vuelta once.

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