Bradley Wiggins has confessed that he was “a bit up my own backside" ahead of his ultimately disappointing showing in this summer’s Tour de France, adding that he found the support he and the rest of Team Sky received during July’s race “humbling.”
Wiggins, then riding for Garmin-Slipstream, had finished a surprise fourth behind Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong in the 2009 Tour.
Going into team Sky’s debut season, expectations had been high that the British cyclist, a triple Olympic gold medalist on the track, could be a contender for cycling’s biggest prize on the road and become the first rider from these shores to make it onto the Champs-Elysées podium.
However, in an interview with Sky News, the 30-year-old, who failed to recapture his 2009 form and finished the Tour in 24th place, admitted that the burden of living up to the pre-race hype had taken its toll.
"I was a bit up my own backside to be honest, with regards to trying to be a tour contender and how a tour contender should train and be at races,” Wiggins admitted. "That's rubbish to be honest, it's not me.”
The high point of Wiggins’ year came on the opening day of the Giro d’Italia when he claimed the maglia rosa after a storming ride in the Prologue in Amsterdam, but by his own admission, “I became increasingly miserable as the year went on towards the Tour, and that reflects in other things, like not wanting to talk to the press and things like that.
"I just wanted to go back to normality as quickly as possible and get away from this person I was trying to be in the whole year, from signing with Team Sky to the Tour de France.
"At that point you just want to take the hat off and go back to being normal for a bit and that couldn't come quick enough once we arrived on the Champs Elysées."
Speaking last month at the team’s post-season training camp in Windsor, Team Principal Dave Brailsford said that the strategy of focusing on one rider and one race had proved misguided and that goals for the 2011 season would have less of a singular focus.
The disappointment of the Tour apart, the team did manage to notch up 20 victories in what was, after all, its debut season, and as Brailsford had done during the three-week race in France, Wiggins singled out the support that Team Sky received as the biggest highlight of the year.
"Right in middle of all this self pity and wallowing and things like that, aside from that there's the success story of what the team has done.
“We were 21st overall in the Tour [NB – the highest placed Team Sky rider in the Tour was Thomas Lövkvist, 17th overall, while it finished 11th in the team rankings] and on the roadside that created this fan base that we had.
"The jerseys, the painting on the road, this crazy guy from Bristol who goes round with all these banners - it was mad, and that's after one year - can you imagine what it's going to be like after three, four, five years?
"It was quite humbling actually that these people didn't really care where you were on the Tour, it was the fact that you were out there trying your hardest.
"That was the success of the team this year for me," he concluded.
In a separate interview with the Daily Telegraph, the newspaper quotes Wiggins from his book, On Tour, which charts his 2010 Tour de France campaign, as saying that taking part in the Giro proved to be valuable in helping bond the team together.
"At the Giro d'Italia this year we had such good team morale and had a really good time, a good laugh. And we had the pink jersey.
"When you’re successful it’s easy to have a good time. It’s when things are going badly that you withdraw and, maybe, don’t have such a good time.
“The Giro was brilliant. We were in it together and we all crashed together. There was a real sense of being in a team. A good group of riders who succeeded together and failed together.”
However, Wiggins has no plans to try and ride the Giro ahead of next year’s Tour de France, adding: "Christ, never doing that again. It's just too close to the Tour and the demands of the two events are just too high. Four weeks recovery time is not enough, but until you try it you don't know how you'll cope."
Admitting that he might have tried to be too clever ahead of the Tour de France in going off early in the Prologue in Rotterdan to try and avoid the forecast rain – as it turned out, he actually copped the worst of the weather – Wiggins is nevertheless relishing the prospect of riding in next July’s race.
“We’ve changed the race programme beforehand so I arrive at the Tour a bit fresher,” he told the Telegraph. “Obviously we’re going to experiment with altitude training next year which should make the difference. Just looking forward to it now."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.