Road not track the focus for Bradley Wiggins at London 2012
Man who helped Team GB win team pursuit gold at Beijing may be kept in reserve in case of illness or injury
Bradley Wiggins, a member of the Great Britain team that won gold in the team pursuit at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, is unlikely to feature next summer when the country seeks to defend that title in London, although he may be kept in reserve in case one of the squad falls ill or becomes injured shortly before the Games.
Instead, the 31-year-old will focus on racing the Tour de France with Team Sky before riding the Olympic road race six days after that Grand Tour finishes in Paris.
Then, on Wednesday 1 August, comes the event in which Wiggins is looking to win the fourth Olympic gold medal of his career, the individual time trial, a discipline in which he clinched World Championship silver in Copenhagen in September behind Germany’s Tony Martin.
Speaking to The Guardian, Team Sky and Great Britain coach Rod Ellingworth outlined Wiggins’s plans for the coming year saying, “The chances of him doing the team pursuit are really slim now. I don't think he will be doing it. He wants to do the Tour then the road race and time trial at the Olympics."
Over the past few weeks, the team pursuit squad has been training at the velodrome in Manchester for events in the new year such as the UCI World Cup Classics that will see the Olympic Velodrome in London make its competitive debut, as well as the World Championships in Melbourne in April.
Wiggins hasn’t been involved in that training block, however, nor are those track meetings on his schedule for the early part of the 2012 season, with team pursuit coach Dan Hunt telling the newspaper: "He doesn't have the track in his programme at the moment. It's certainly not his priority."
In terms of the Olympics, Wiggins’ focus is on the road race and the time trial, Hunt said, although he added that should one of the pursuit team be struck down by illness or injury, “he does have the proven ability to step in with a few days' preparation as he did before the Manchester World Cup last season.”
"You can't say he will never do it, his name will be in the system. So the team pursuit is an option but not the first option," agreed Ellingworth, who masterminded the three-year project that culminated in Mark Cavendish, supported by seven British riders including Wiggins, winning the World Road Championship at Copenhagen.
While in its preparation for London 2012 British Cycling is focusing on the realities of the new Olympic track programme, with riders concentrating on the events that will feature next August rather than those that have been cut from the programme, one can’t help wondering if Wiggins’ priorities might have been different if the individual pursuit still featured on the programme.
At Beijing, he successfully defended the Olympic title he had won at Athens in 2004, which would have given him the opportunity to aim for a hat-trick in the event next year in the city in which he grew up; that chance was denied to him, however, after the individual pursuit was cut from the programme in a shake-up that also say the points race and Madison disappear and the introduction of a schedule that sees five events each for men and women.
Instead, the early months of 2012 will see Wiggins, who in September clinched the first Grand Tour podium of his career when he finished third in the Vuelta behind overall winner Juan Jose Cobo and his own Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, focus on the road.
According to Ellingworth, his preparations for the Tour de France will begin with the Tour of Algarve in February and include the Tour of Catalonia and the Tour of Romandie, but possibly not Paris-Nice, a race in which he finished third last year.
Wiggins’ final major race before the Tour de France will see him defend his title in the Criterium du Dauphiné.
Meanwhile, the man who will defend his Olympic title in the time trial next August and who finished third in Copenhagen, four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara, has been spotted today in Kingston-upon-Thames checking out the route of next year's race.
The Swiss rider also finished third in the road race behind Spain’s Samuel Sanchez in Beijing, although he was later promoted to second after silver medallist Davide Rebellin of Italy was disqualified after failing a doping control.
Accompanying Cancellara today was Johan Bruyneel, his new team manager at RadioShack Nissan, formed through the merger of the RadioShack and Leopard Trek teams. "Just previewed the ITT course for London Olympics w @f_cancellara," tweeted Bruyneel. "It's gonna be a fast one. Thanks to @SigmaSport for your hospitality."