Bradley Wiggins has confirmed that the Giro d'Italia will be his major goal of the 2013 season, conceding that teammate Chris Froome will have priority and be team leader for the Tour de France, while he hopes to finish on the podium.
In long interviews published in Italian and French with the Gazzetta dello Sport and L'Equipe newspapers, Wiggins also talks about his dislike for fame, why he shaved off his sideburns and how even a batman fancy dress outfit failed to stop people recognizing him in a pub in France during New Year celebrations.
Wiggins is currently holed up in Mallorca, reportedly doing rides of up to eight hours with coaches Tim Kerrison and Rod Ellingworth. He is set to make his season debut in the Challenge Mallorca races in early February, before his first clash with Giro d'Italia rivals Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans at the Tour of Oman. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is also on Wiggins' hit list for April, after studying the key stages of the Giro d'Italia and riding the Giro del Trentino.
"(The Giro) wasn't a sudden choice. After winning the Tour, which I'd been chasing for several years, I asked myself: 'And now what?' and started to think about the Giro," Wiggins told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"After seeing the route, which is hard but not too hard like in the past, I decided. The Giro d'Italia is my new challenge, my new inspiration, the new fire that burns inside me. I think in some ways it'll be more difficult to win it than to the Tour. That's because of the difficulty of the climbs. And there will be riders like Nibali, who will be better prepared compared to the Tour de France of 2012 and they know how to ride the Giro d'Italia to win it. "
Wiggins has ridden the Giro d'Italia five times during his career but has never targeting overall success. He won the opening time trial in Amsterdam in 2010 and pulled on the maglia rosa but suffered early in his career and finished outside the time limit in 2003 –his Grand Tour debut.
"That Giro was the worst thing I've done in life!" Wiggins said.
"Before finishing outside the time limit, I was almost always last overall, Pantani was riding and Cipollini was in the rainbow jersey. Mario had the charisma to slow the race down when he wanted. Then he crashed, retired and the rhythm went up a lot…."
"But I love the maglia rosa. I said in 2010: it's iconic. Historically the Giro has the same value as the Tour but it's more 'human'. The Tour has probably become too big."
Wiggins has played mind games with the media, his teammates and probably even himself during the winter. He confirmed that he will also ride the Tour de France but avoided saying he will attempt to complete the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double. Wiggins acknowledged that Chris Froome deserves his chance in France in July after his loyalty in 2012.
"For now I've got the Giro on my mind. Who knows what my form will be like afterwards? If things go to plan, my teammate Chris Froome will have priority for the Tour, he'll probably be the leader," Wiggins said.
"I hope to hope to have another great Tour after the Giro: that's the new challenge, perhaps another podium. It's also better to have two cards to play rather than just one. There won't be any problems between me and Chris, no doubts about each others loyalty. He was ready to win if something had happened to me in 2012 and that could be happen the other way in 2013. Of course we won't be the only ones riding, at the Giro and at the Tour."
The L’Équipe interview focused much more on Wiggin's public profile, his fight for privacy and how his accident in November helped him refocus and find the motivation to isolate himself from the world like a boxer before a fight.
"I'm really an introvert, so my natural instinct is to play a role, and that gets amplified when I drink. But I think I started to embrace who I am, what I have accomplished and what people think of me, rather than trying to fight it all the time, as I did at the beginning," Wiggins said, accepting that his life will never been he same again after winning the Tour de France and a gold medal at the London Olympics.
"I was determined that nothing would change and I thought I could continue to do the same things with my family but I realized pretty quickly that it might be the case anymore," he said.
"For the New Year I was in France skiing; we went to the pub with friends and we were all dressed up, I was Batman. Despite the mask, someone recognised me. He asked: 'Are you Bradley Wiggins?' I said, 'No, my name is Jeremy.' I said, shit, and I left the bar because I didn't want someone to take a picture of me dressed like Batman… It's slightly worrying that I can't fool around like I'd like to do with my friends."
Wiggins reveled that his training accident happened late in the day because he'd been busy doing other things his personal managers had pushed him to do. After being hit by a car and damaging his finger and ribs, he realised he had to escape the madness of celebrity and focus on the thing he loved the most: riding his bike.
"On the day of the accident, I had a lot of things to do and so I trained in the evening to get in my hours. After what happened, I cancelled everything. I took three weeks off, I thought that it was getting crazy. I wanted to go training, to rediscover the thing I loved, so I came to Mallorca, rented a villa outside the city, and nobody knew where I was. I rode all day, I rode all the climbs where we'd trained before the Tour last year, and I started to really understand how I had got mixed up in all the bullshit, all the celebrity. It was a turning point. All I wanted to do was get back on my bike and win races again."
Despite his huge success in 2012, Wiggins insisted he is still hungry for more cycling success.
"When I came here (Mallorca) in November and December, it quickly returned," he said. "The desire is still there, it's not disappeared. It's just that now I have different goals. Trying to win the Giro and perhaps Liège, keeps me motivated.
"I also like to train, get the best out of myself, and try other things to see if I can still be better. I've been training at a high intensity for two years now and Tim (Kerrison, his coach) thinks I can still improve. That encourages me a lot. I won the Tour, but that does not mean that I'm at my peak.
"We always come here to do the hard work. So it is as if nothing had changed, despite the success. Nobody calls me Sir Bradley. When you're here, it's for a single reason, there are no distractions, you train all day, massage, food and then go to bed. Nothing has changed when I go for breakfast at 6:00am. I'm still the only person there at that time. It's a bit like a boxer who returns to training before a big fight."