Bradley Wiggins reveals how training on Tenerife can help him ride to Tour de France glory

Team Sky rider prepares for cycling's biggest race with altitude training amid island's volcanic landscape

by Simon_MacMichael   May 23, 2012  

Bradley Wiggins chases during the Vuelta (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson).jpg

Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins has revealed the role a volcano on Tenerife has played in his emergence as one of the favourites for this summer’s Tour de France, as well as his conviction that he can become the first British rider to win cycling’s biggest race.

Situated off the coast of North Africa, the summit in the Teide national park has become a magnet for pro cyclists undertaking altitude training, its location also guaranteeing good weather.

In today's Guardian, cycling writer William Fotheringham describes the beautiful yet harsh conditions, and also hears first hand how the 3,718 metre volcano – the road up it reaches an elevation of 2,100 metres – has come to play such a pivotal role in Wiggins’ Tour de France preparations.

The background lies in the 32-year-old’s disappointing performance in the 2010 edition of the race, his first participation in it with Team Sky, which had recruited the rider from Garmin-Transitions in controversial fashion to lead it in its debut season.

In 2009, the multiple world and Olympic champion on the track had made his big breakthrough on the road, finishing a remarkable fourth behind Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong.

With Team Sky building its season around Wiggins’ Tour challenge, there were high hopes that he would become the first British rider to secure a podium placing in the Tour de France, but those were dashed as he lost time to his rivals in the mountains and eventually arrived in Paris in 24th position. He would later gain one place as a result of Contador’s disqualification.

As a result, Australian sports scientist Tim Kerrison, whose background was in swimming and rowing but not cycling, was brought on board by Team Sky to help Wiggins rethink his entire approach to preparing for the big races and in particular the Tour, which last year featured a greater amount of riding at 2,500 or higher than is seen in a typical edition of the race.

After participating in a two-week training camp on Tenerife, last June Wiggins went on to secure the biggest win of his career on the road up to that point, the Critérium du Dauphiné. His Tour de France campaign was derailed by a crash that resulted in him breaking his collarbone at the end of the first week, but he was back in August to race in the Vuelta, finishing third, with Team Sky colleague Chris Froome second behind Geox-TMC's Juan Jose Cobo.

Those performances were without doubt aided by that experience that Wiggis gained at altitude, although training on Tenerife has other benefits, as Kerrison related, saying: "Unlike some high-altitude venues, it's possible to train at sea level, which is less damaging at high intensity; unlike Alpine locations the weather is relatively stable in April and May."

Wiggins, who by his own admission has in the past gone through periods when training is not uppermost in his mind – after winning Olympic gold in the individual pursuit at Athens in 2004, he famously went on a bender that stretched into days, then weeks, then months – insists he is now fully focused on achieving his ambition of winning the Tour.

"I said I wanted to train for the Tour without any compromise," he revealed. "I'm getting to a point in my career where I want to look back with no regrets." That new approach sees him switch between intensive training camps and targeting wins in specific races, a strategy that this year has already reaped rewards in the shape of overall victories in Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandie.

It is expected that by getting Wiggins used to defending a lead in high-profile races such as those, he will be better equipped to deal with the mental pressures should he find himself in the maillot jaune this summer.

The latest training camp, where Wiggins was accompanied by Team Sky riders who will support him in the Tour when it gets under way in Liege on June 30, took place this month, with the rider aiming to have accumulated 100,000 metres of climbing in his legs by the time the race begins.

The training has also become more intensive, as Wiggins himself outlined: "Yesterday was 25‑minute efforts in 35C heat, three of them. It's hard to tell a layman what it feels like: it's hard in a very sweet way, all mixed up with the endorphins."

Kerrison maintained that the training programme being followed will enable Wiggins to cope with the tougher ascents featuring in the Tour this year. "When I came in, people believed Brad was only good up to about a 7% gradient; now he can cope with up to 13%," he explained.

"Three of the lads were wasted by the end but you realise that, if you can do that effort now, it's the Tour winner," added Wiggins. "You can hardly breathe but it's the kind of effort that wins the Tour."

The ability to cope with such a demanding schedule also reflects the efforts the Team Sky rider has put in to areas such as core fitness and his upper body strength, which Kerrison and Wiggins believe helped him pull off a surprise win in a sprint stage at the Tour of Romandie.

Another advantage that the team’s base on Tenerife affords is the ability to focus on the task at hand, away from the stresses of the world. "When you are training as hard as we are it's nice to have no distractions,” Wiggins explained.” You don't end up sitting at a computer while you rest, you do basic things like reading a book or watching a DVD. It's very peaceful."

He fully expects to reap a reward from those sacrifices come July. "After 2009 I didn't really believe I could win the Tour,” reflected Wiggins. “I thought, 'That's for someone else, kids from Kilburn don't win the Tour.' But I really believe I can win it now."

13 user comments

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Go Brad.

(After all this build-up, I do hope we don't end up with an anti-climax like 2010/11!)

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 14:08


Whilst not wishing to be shallow, I'm glad to see from the video on the Guardian website that he's finally had his hair cut....

His recent racing performances seem to suggest that his training is working. I really hope he wins the TdF this year and it's probably his best chance; he's going to need some stellar team and individual performances and a healthy dose of luck (like all winners of grand tours) though.

posted by Sadly Biggins [271 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 15:34


Ah Tenerife.

I think Fuentes and Ferarri both run practices there Wink

Should see the blue train again at this years TdF. It will bring back all those memories of the USPS Blue train.

posted by Decster [246 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 18:54


It will be the same as other years, Wiggins is an also ran, and nothing more unfortunately.

posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 19:02


Karbon Kev wrote:
It will be the same as other years, Wiggins is an also ran, and nothing more unfortunately.

While I am not into hype, his results and demeanour suggest otherwise.

Who's on your Paris podium in July?

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2418 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 21:26


I dunno it's so unpredictable, almost as much as the Giro. I just don't think he's got what it takes that's all, maybe he will deliver who knows ....

posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 21:32


A definitely not... Well definitely maybe...from Kev then!

And for the record I liked Brad's middle period Weller haircut - despite all the RSM types on this site spluttering over anything longer than a short back and sides. If you've got it flaunt it I say. I suspect Wiggin's skinny mod look is a red rag to a bull for most mamils. Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1221 posts]
23rd May 2012 - 22:25


Karbon Kev wrote:
I dunno it's so unpredictable, almost as much as the Giro. I just don't think he's got what it takes that's all, maybe he will deliver who knows ....

Giro unpredictable?! Top 3 in betting are top 3 ....sounds predictable to me!

A prediction from me regarding Wiggo ... you'll be eating your words come July 20th!

posted by knriley [5 posts]
24th May 2012 - 8:49


I quote "aiming to become the first British rider to podium in one of the 3 big tours"
Doesn't Robert Miller count? He was second in both the Giro & Vuelta in the mid 80s


posted by Are8bikestoomany [1 posts]
24th May 2012 - 9:09


That should have been Tour de France of course - and now it is. Thanks.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9519 posts]
24th May 2012 - 10:32


MercuryOne wrote:
If you've got it flaunt it I say. I suspect Wiggin's skinny mod look is a red rag to a bull for most mamils. Big Grin

Ha ha, perhaps it's a combined waistline+bike envy. I like it Cool

I don't understand why people feel they need to judge or dismiss Brad (or anyone) because of a shaggy haircut. What kind of blinkered, shirt-and-tie-with-matching-shoes wearing coterie have they signed up to?

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of knocking the likes of Wiggins or Cavendish get when all they want to do is race bikes. These individuals are people just like us but who happen to be very good at something we enjoy, not some kind of fantasy heroes with impeccable manners, dress sense and art collection.

@ Are8bikestoomany, it's spelt Millar with an 'a', BTW. The greatest climber and perhaps the greatest GT rider this country has ever produced. Robert was taciturn and sometimes prickly to interview but I don't care, he was something else riding uphill on a bike. And TBH that's what really mattered. I didn't want him to waste his time sitting on a chair in a studio, answering a bozo schmoozing interviewer who knows nothing about cycle sport.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2418 posts]
24th May 2012 - 12:03


Maybe if he rides a vespa to go with the mod haircut he will have a chance.

Seriously, though, I think he'll have a good ride and finish second.

posted by wild man [295 posts]
24th May 2012 - 14:18


Simon E wrote:
Ha ha, perhaps it's a combined waistline+bike envy. I like it

Probably right in my case Big Grin

posted by Sadly Biggins [271 posts]
24th May 2012 - 15:22