Wiggins admits pressure got to him in 2013, speaks about difficulty of being defending Tour champion
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Wiggins admits pressure got to him in 2013, speaks about difficulty of being defending Tour champion

by VeloNation Press at 11:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
“There came a point where it was fight, flight or freeze”

Bradley WigginsDominant in 2012 and then largely absent from top results for much of last season, Bradley Wiggins has admitted that the pressure of being the Tour de France champion and of coping with greater public and media attention got to him during 2013.

The Team Sky rider, who feels he is now back on track, also makes comparisons with his mental and physical state after the 2004 Olympic Games, saying that on both occasions he struggled to keep his momentum going after achieving high targets he had set out for himself.

“From the moment I won the Tour in 2012 it was always [seen as] inevitable – 'when are you going to start the preparations to defend it next year?',” he told the Guardian, opening up about the stress and expectation. “People would ask that but in my head I'd be thinking, hold on a minute, I've only just come to terms with this one. There came a point where it was fight, flight or freeze, so my initial thoughts were, I don't want to ride next year, I need a year off.”

As early as the autumn of 2012 Wiggins was backing away from the defence of his Tour title, saying at the unveiling of the 2013 race route that he would focus instead on the Giro d’Italia.

The statement was a curious one; not only was he downplaying his role as defending champion at that launch, something ASO was unlikely to have been happy with, but he also effectively became the first Tour winner in many years to indicate he wouldn’t try to win again.

While he tried to get into the shape necessary to win the Giro d’Italia, he never hit the same form in the build-up to that race as he had done during the 2012 season. What’s more, once in the event, he struggled with wet descents, with his focus and also with a knee problem. He ended up withdrawing from the race and missing the Tour.

“I was quite vulnerable then,” he admits, looking back. “There was so much going on. I'd had that injury. I felt quite low. Chris [Froome] was winning everything. It was such a drastic change from the year before. I'd been knocked off the treadmill – finally.”

He said that it was also difficult to keep things going after the highs of 2012, when he won Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de France and the Olympic Games time trial.

“I left for [the Tour start in] Liège in 2012 relatively unknown to the general public and came back five weeks later the most famous man in the country, for one week maybe. No one can prepare you for that. You have this massive high then go below, then you come back up to it and recalibrate. You get back on an even keel.”

He also suggests that the negative headlines surrounding Lance Armstrong and the suspicion that the USADA investigation generated were an additional pressure, and something which made him embarrassed to be introduced at races as the winner of the Tour.

“The Lance stuff was so raw, people were so angry about it,” he said. “I felt like I was constantly being judged, I felt I'd had enough of it, it was constant. Now a year on, not having done the Tour [in 2013], all that side of it has settled down. Now I'm starting to embrace it more that I've won the Tour de France.”

Back training hard again and motivated to show what he can do, Wiggins has made clear he wants to return to the race. To do that he has had to build bridges with Froome, getting back on speaking terms after falling out during and after the 2012 Tour.

He’s also had to accept that defending champion Froome will lead the team in July.

It remains to be seen if there is any change in his ambitions as the race draws closer but for now, he’s insisting that he doesn’t have any secret thoughts of winning the race again.

“There was so much emphasis on winning the first one [by a Briton] and then you've got a guy in the team who's five years younger than me, who finished second and has then gone on to win it who potentially could dominate the Tour for five or six years,” he said, acknowledging that Froome is the better long-term bet for Sky.

"I think Chris has earned the right to defend the Tour this year. I'd love to go back and play a part in that and not just sulk off and give up because I'm not the leader,” he stated.


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