Bradley Wiggins: ‘For three kilometres, I’ve ridden like Miguel Indurain’
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bradley Wiggins: ‘For three kilometres, I’ve ridden like Miguel Indurain’

by VeloNation Press at 1:38 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Britain said he didn’t expect to be third overall after ten days of racing

Bradley WigginsSpeaking to the press on the first rest day of the 2011 Vuelta a España, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins has said that the Vuelta a España has gone even better than he anticipated, and that it is essentially confirmation that he is now a big contender for three week races.

The Sky Procycling rider was the strongest two days ago on the ascent of La Covatilla, dropping several of the race’s big names including the-then leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). He then finished third in yesterday’s time trial and is third overall, 20 seconds behind his team-mate Chris Froome, and with a buffer on some of the more dangerous climbers in the Vuelta peloton.

“I’m satisfied because my crash was only eight weeks ago,” he said, referring back to the big pileup which broke his collarbone and ruled him out of the Tour de France. “After that my operation, I didn’t imagine that I’d be third at the Vuelta after ten days of racing.”

Wiggins had won the Critérim du Dauphiné prior to the Tour and went into that race determined to equal or better his fourth place of 2009. That meant that his withdrawal was hard to take, and also that his confirmation at the Vuelta has been rewarding. “It was a hard month of July for me. I couldn’t watch the Tour on TV until the Pyrenees but then, I was like a fan,” he said. “I’ve was very excited by what Thomas Voeckler was doing. I rested for ten days, I trained for ten days in Girona, Spain. I’m racing the Vuelta for the first time and the course suits the climbers! My current third place only confirms that I’m a rider for the Grand Tours.”

Wiggins’ time trial ability is well known, coming as it does from his British Cycling background and also from his strengths as a multiple Olympic gold medal winning track rider. His climbing has never been a forte, although in recent years he has improved it. This year his level in the mountains has jumped up a notch, and Sunday’s display was arguably the best of all.

“Everyone was at his max,” he said, thinking back with satisfaction. “When I push 450 watts like I did on Sunday in such a difficult climb, who in the world can do more? Only Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck but they aren’t here. I’ve seen some guys attacking but they couldn’t maintain their speed and stay away. They even paid for their efforts.

“When I took the lead of the front group three kilometres away from the top, I rode fast despite the headwind. I’m pretty good at guessing when my adversaries aren’t well. For three kilometres, I’ve ridden like Miguel Indurain! I had never done that before. I’ve done it after the great work done by Chris [Froome]. It’s fantastic for him to be in the lead. He deserves it and it takes some pressure from me.”

Wiggins was expected by many to take the race lead yesterday, and did ride to the required level for much of the 47 kilometre Salamanca test. However he faded near the end, and this allowed both his team-mate Froome and Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) to finish the day ahead of him in the general classification.

Until that point, Wiggins was the undisputed leader of the team. Froome must now be given an opportunity as well, although the Kenyan-born rider admitted yesterday evening that he wondered how the turnaround would be received.

Wiggins plays down any suggestions that it could cause tension. “We haven’t spoken about it yet but there won’t be any problem between us,” he said, although he stopped short of talking about tactics and whether or not Froome would be equally supported. Presumably this will be the case.

What Wiggins did make clear in that he didn’t lose sleep over his fading at the end of the time trial. “I’m very satisfied with my performance,” he insisted, despite losing a minute towards the end. “I’ve respected my plan with a very fast start. I gained time over all the riders who are fighting for GC: Nibali, Rodríguez, Scarponi and a few others. Only Chris Froome rode faster than me but he’s not an adversary, he’s my team-mate. I wasn’t racing to beat Tony Martin but to be in a good position at half way into the Vuelta. And here I am.”

He’ll now to his utmost to fight for the final red jersey in the race, something which would make him the first-ever British winner of the Vuelta. After that, he will travel to Copenhagen and battle with Martin, Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek/Switzerland) and others for the world time trial title, another of his big career goals.

Longer term, he acknowledges that next year’s Olympics will take place in London, but states that he must prioritise the Tour. In fact now, for the first time, he seems to consider that he could even stand on the top step of the podium in Paris in the next few years. “Winning a fourth gold medal would be nice but I absolutely need to focus on the Tour de France,” he said. “If people question whether or not I can repeat my performance of 2009 [where he was fourth], my only concern is: when will I win it?

“I’m a bit like Cadel Evans before July this year. I’m 31. Time flies. At the start of the next Tour de France, it’ll be three years after I finished 4th. In 2010, I didn’t have a great shape. In 2011, I crashed. In 2012, I have to perform.”

He believes he can fight for the yellow jersey, and also that the much-rumoured move by Mark Cavendish to the team could play in his favour. “If Mark joins Sky, the whole team will be riding at the front to prepare the sprints in the first week,” he said. “I’ll only have to follow and that’s the best way to stay out of trouble.”


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