A combination of a course that suits him and the stunning form that he has shown over the last nine months has led many observers to the conclusion that this could be the year that Bradley Wiggins makes history by becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France. As is seemingly and regrettably inevitable with cycling, with improved form comes whispers about how it is achieved. Cynicism is never far away. But Wiggins is paying it no attention and is pretty explicit about the secret of his success. And you can hardly miss it - it's a big volcano in the middle of Tenerife.
Wiggins and his Team Sky colleagues have been extreme training on Mount Teide, the third highest active volcano in the world, since last May. And the 32-year-old admits that it is providing him with a mental and physical edge.
“It’s disappointing if anybody doubts me - that’s what happens when you start winning in this sport,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“Traditionally, it is difficult for some people to get their heads around such consistency and progression. It’s so much easier for critics to start casting doubt rather than to appreciate what we are doing here and how everybody at Sky is working like dogs in a very focused way, especially up here on Teide. They don’t see how the modern sport is developing. They don’t want to.
“People will think what they will think but I’m not the slightest bit bothered. I don’t read the cycling press and I don’t Twitter anymore and let people know my business. I’m a cycling recluse really and love it.”
Wiggins has enjoyed a remarkable run of success since late summer 2011. He finished third in the Vuelta a Espana before heading to the road world championships in Copenhagen, where he won silver in the time trial and then helped Mark Cavendish win gold in the main event. His form has continued into 2012 - a year that, so far, has seen him become the first Briton to win Paris-Nice and achieve further glory at the Tour de Romandie. Now he feels more ready than ever to tackle the Tour de France and claims that he isn't feeling any extra pressure due to his position near the top of bookmakers' lists for overall success.
“I did 32,000 metres of climbing around Teide during a two-week camp last month and, by the time we finish this latest fortnight, I will have done another 32,000 metres,” he said.
“From April 1 this year to the day I line up for the Tour de France prologue on June 30, I will have done 100,000 metres of high-quality climbing. There is no other environment that can beat Mount Teide. We ride our bikes, get a massage, eat and then sleep. The we get up and do it again. And again. We have altitude, heat and virtually empty roads most days. Everything is geared to one thing, achieving the fitness and form required to win the Tour de France.
“I’m not nervous about the Tour anymore, just excited. I’ve learned to be a team leader, which I struggled with initially. Being the focus of a big team and the individual so many amazing riders are working their butts off for is not easy. I could only be comfortable with that once I had been able to prove to them with big race results, and setting the tone in training, that I am worthy of their support. I have done that now and I am confident in my fitness. I know what I am capable of."