Sky sports director Dan Hunt says Bradley Wiggins will be up for the win in the Volta a Catalunya for what is the Londoner’s first full-length European stage race and WorldTour event in 2013. Great Britain has had only one Volta winner since cycling’s third oldest stage race began in 1911 - Robert Millar back in 1985.
Wiggins certainly looked very good in the first stage of Catalunya, ripping the race apart on the descent towards the finish and reducing the front group to just 13 riders, including Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and two Sky teammates. He took sixth in what is his strongest performance to date in 2013 and in the process gained 28 seconds on the bunch.
Speaking to Cyclingnews before the stage, Hunt said, “We’ve got guys coming in from Tirreno-Adriatico and a couple of illnesses in the team, but generally we’re going well and we’ve got a guy here [Wiggins] we think can win the race.
“We’ll be on for riding in the traditional Team Sky way. But there’s obviously a lot of people [rivals] here who want to win here too! Looking at the route, there are two fairly easy days, two big GC days [in the Pyrenees] and then a longish run-in to Barcelona. So the GC days are where the damage is going to be done.”
Nor are the two Pyrenean stages to be sniffed at. Apart from the risk of snow - which saw the stages cancelled last year and Wiggins pull out, along with a significant chunk of the field - as Hunt points out “we go up to over 2000 metres [above sea level] so it’s going to be good, tough racing. At the end of the day it’s WorldTour.”
Looking at Wiggins himself, Hunt said “Each race now is part of the build-up [towards the Giro d'Italia], it’s a good hard week. He’s not going absolutely full gas, 100 percent, but it’s looking to being good for May and hopefully the Tour.”
Wiggins has been on Teide in training camps since he raced the Tour of Oman, his last event.
Referring to other Sky riders in Catalunya who are honing their form for the Giro and Tour, Hunt said “if I’m honest, there are so many riders who are strong at the moment, it’s causing a bit of a reshuffle around the Giro and Tour selection: that’s kind of ongoing at the moment.
“Guys that were going to the Giro are maybe now going to the Tour, guys that were going to the Tour are maybe doing the Giro, maybe some guys doing both. It’s a good situation to be in, if the groups are going better than we anticipated, but that means the Giro and Tour selection is very much in the air at the moment.”