Bradley Wiggins is targeting wins in the opening and closing days’ Individual Time Trials in this year’s Giro d’Italia, which gets under way in Amsterdam on May 8, and says he is taking the race seriously rather than just using it as preparation for the Tour de France.
Talking to the Gazzetta dello Sport – the full version appears in yesterday’s print edition of the Italian sports daily – the former Garmin-Slipstream rider adds that he believes that his new outfit, Team Sky, which gets its official launch in London this coming Monday, can also put a rider into the Giro leader’s pink jersey following Stage 4’s Team Time Trial from Savigliano to Cuneo.
And if all goes to plan and the triple Olympic gold medallist puts in one of the best times in Amsterdam or even wins the stage, which is followed by two likely bunch sprints as the Giro completes its three-day visit to The Netherlands, it could be Wiggins himself who becomes only the second Briton to pull on the Maglia Rosa, which Mark Cavendish wore after Team Columbia won the Team Time Trial in Venice that began last year’s Centenary Giro.
Wiggins will be one of several big-name non-Italian riders in this year's Giro, including World Champion Cadel Evans, former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, who finished fourth last year, and the Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov, who rides his second Grand Tour since returning from his two year ban for doping. However, the race will be missing the likes of Lance Armstrong as a result of the Tour of California being moved back in the calendar.
Asked why he had decided to ride both the Giro and the Tour de France, Wiggins explained, “because I did that for the past two years, and it bore fruit. The Giro is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable races, and this will be the sixth time I take part in it. In 2010, compared to 2009, I’m concentrating on two targets: riding well in the Giro, and the general classification in the Tour de France. You have to make a choice – look at Sastre, who last year aimed at the Giro too, and performed badly in the Tour.”
Wiggins acknowledges, however, that climbs such as the Zoncolan, Mortirolo and Gavia do present a challenge. “I can do it, but it will be difficult,” he said. “I tackled the Zoncolan in 2003” – although as the Gazzetta points out, that year the ascent was from the opposite side to the climb in this year’s race – “and it had gradients like I’d never experienced. They are climbs that are more suitable for riders like Franco Pellizotti,” adding that he puts the Liquigas rider among the favourites for this year’s Giro.
Despite that, the British rider claims that he could be among the leading players in the 12.9-kilometre Individual Time Trial climb to Plan de Corones, and says that for the general classification, Team Sky’s hopes rest with the Reading-born Italian rider Dario Cioni, who finished fourth in the 2004 Giro, and who will be supported by a strong squad.
Talking about his transformation from a track rider into Grand Tour contender, Wiggins says: “Last year I decided to concentrate on the road, putting the track to one side. I lost weight and muscular mass. I’m now 77 kilos, but at the start of the Tour de France, I weighed 72 kilos. Diet has played an important part, but also long training rides of up to five or six hours and the fact of having ridden two Grand Tours.”
Explaining the changes he has made to his diet, Wiggins revealed, “no sugar in coffee or in food, which means 400 calories fewer each day. And no pasta with gluten, only rice. Nigel Mitchell, nutritionist for the national squad, now at Team Sky, has helped me.”
Following the Tour de France, Wiggins took the unusual step to make public his blood readings on the internet, and outlined his reasons for having done so. “At the Tour de France, certain people started to raise doubts about my performance. That’s natural, when someone like me explodes from nowhere to take fourth place. I got angry. But I wanted to show that there was nothing to hide. Publishing my blood values was one of the few ways of doing that.”
Given that he rode for Team High Road in 2008, Garmin-Slipstream in 2009 and is set to race for Team Sky this year, the Gazzetta asked Wiggins whether a need for change is in his character.
“Perhaps,” he reflected, “but no-one could have foreseen what happened. After saying goodbye to Cofidis following Moreno’s positive test in 2007, Mark Cavendish gave me the chance to go to High Road to help him in the sprints. But I didn’t feel satisfied, so in 2009 I moved to Garmin, where I had greater responsibility.
My fourth place in the Tour de France coincided with the launch of Team Sky, the first British squad. It was an unrepeatable opportunity, with the same group of people with whom I’ve won three Olympic golds on the track. I had to embrace it.”
Wiggins added that Team Sky “will be different to all the existing teams. A new mentality, and cutting-edge methods. The team buses will be designed like the first class cabin of an intercontinental flight. Each rider will have his own Apple Mac and iPhone. And we’ll be going to races to win, always.”
Despite Team Sky’s scientific approach, Wiggins claims there’s also room to have fun, too. “I don’t take everything seriously,” he said. “I train and think about cycling, but the world isn’t just about bikes. You can have fun, too. Many riders in the peloton are too serious, I don’t understand someone who yells in your ear on an ascent. It’s a game. Come on.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.