Giro d’Italia: Considerable weight of expectation on Wiggins, says Elliott
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Giro d’Italia: Considerable weight of expectation on Wiggins, says Elliott

by Conal Andrews at 4:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Giro d'Italia
 
Stakes much higher twelve months on

The past two days of the Giro d’Italia have been difficult ones for Bradley Wiggins, who has struggled on the steeper climbs of the Giro d’Italia. The Briton was spoken of by some as a contender for a high overall finish in the race, but lost 25 minutes in placing 104th on Monday’s stage to Monte Zoncalon. Yesterday’s time trial was a little better, but dropping four minutes and 51 seconds en route to 67th overall will nevertheless be less than he would have hoped for prior to the Giro start.

Team director Sean Yates explained that the terrain in Italy does not really suit Wiggins’ attributes. "The climbs in the Tour de France are very different,” he said this week. “We've got to keep looking at the bigger picture - that race [the Tour] is Bradley's ultimate goal.”

On Monday Yates had said that the rider didn’t feel at his full strength. "Bradley didn't feel too good - maybe yesterday took a lot out of him - and that's it for him on the GC. As I said yesterday, the climbs in the Giro just do not suit him…the one today up Monte Zoncolan was so steep that it was almost bordering on the ridiculous.”

But one issue Wiggins faces this year is the weight of expectation. Twelve months ago he rode the Giro in order to prepare for the Tour de France, but nobody expected big things from him. He had not shown any aptitude for the Grand Tours and so every solid ride he did in the mountains was a boost to his confidence. Going on to finish fourth in the Tour de France was a big psychological boost, as it was far better than he or his then-Garmin Transitions team had hoped for.

The image of Wiggins shouting ‘yes, that’s what I’m talking about!’ when he climbed strongly in the Tour last year, startling a bemused Levi Leipheimer, show the motivational high he was on. He probably never imagined that he could be quite so good in the race, and so each day brought more and more positive reinforcement.

This time round, there’s many more people watching him and expecting big performances. He’s now a proven top five finisher in a Grand Tour and is being paid a million pound salary by Team Sky to be its number one rider. Wiggins’ had a lot of publicity back home due to considerable media coverage and, compared to 2009, the stakes are certainly higher.

According to former top sprinter Malcolm Elliott, his compatriot has a lot of expectation to deal with, to live up to. “It’s a big ask, a very big ask,” he told Reuters. “Having seen what he did last year I’d like to think he can do it—to show that wasn’t a flash in the pan—but there is a lot of pressure on him. I feel for him, there is a real weight of expectation on that team now. It’s tough and it only takes one bad day and it can be all over.

“He had a bad day in the Giro on Sunday and I suppose he’s just going through the motions there now.”

Elliott stresses that he has been impressed with Wiggins’ transformation from an Olympic-winning track rider to a top Tour contender. “It’s not long since he was a pure track rider so he’s done fantastically well and I’d love to see him do well in the Tour again. It’s hard to quantify really. He’s still new to the game in a way so there could still be lots more to come through.”

What Wiggins needs to do in the days ahead is to get through the high mountains, perhaps picking a stage to try to show well in, and thus boost his morale. The concluding time trial in the race is obviously a target for him and if he can end things as he began them two and a half weeks ago – with a victory – then he will come out of the race psyched for the Tour.

Of course, being in peak form for July is really all that matters. But showing himself and others that he is on track would certainly take the pressure off.

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