Tour of Britain: Wiggins limits losses on the Tumble

"It's all to play for in London," says Sky rider

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) kept his hopes of defending his Tour of Britain title alive after finishing fifth on the race’s queen stage, which finished atop the climb of the Tumble. He lost time to one of his biggest rivals, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but is still within touching distance of the overall lead.

The Sky rider is undoubtedly the favourite for victory in the final time trial in London on Sunday, but he is wary of Kwiatkowski. “It's doable. It's not impossible. It's a good time trial for me. I think 11 seconds to Kwiatkowski is going to be touch and go. It just depends on what kind of day he is on,” said Wiggins. “It’s all to play for in London, and I’ll have the best-looking bike.”

Wiggins won’t be just looking at Kwiatkowski over the remainder of the week. “I can't account for [current leader Edoardo] Zardini, he is a bit of an unknown, and [Nicolas] Roche,” he explained. “On paper you would say I would take seven seconds off him [Roche] but there are still three or four days… It could all change. It's not a foregone conclusion.”

The 34-year-old Wiggins knew that the stage three summit finish on the Tumble would be more about minimising losses than anything else, with an eye to making up the deficit in the time trial on Sunday. “I didn't have many options really. I'm not Contador. So it was just a case of sticking to my own game plan really rather than trying to go for heroics at the bottom and paying the price.

“A lot of people underestimated the climb today. It was pretty tough, without swearing, it was hard… I knew the climb from a few years ago so I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Once you come out of the forest there it is still a long way to go.”

Wiggins is not an explosive rider on the climbs and he said that his aim was to stick with the main contenders, which he did until the final few hundred metres. In the end, he finished 14 seconds behind the stage winner, with some help from his teammate David Lopez – a man Wiggins believes could have won the stage had he not stuck with his team leader.

“I didn’t really have the acceleration to keep going with them on the climb. I knew I’d have the sustained effort right the way to the end which I did have,” Wiggins said.

Stage three of the Tour of Britain is only Wiggins’ seventh day of racing on the road since the Tour de Suisse in June. He spent some time on the track after missing out on the Tour de France selection, but was down to ride the Vuelta a España. However, some late changes to the schedule saw him come to Britain to defend his title. Considering the lack of race days, Wiggins has drawn confidence from his performance on the Tumble.

“I've trained really well. But there is an element of unknown because you've not had anything to compare yourself with,” he said. “I’ve done 35 days of racing this year and I’m pleased that I’m still up there. It shows I’m in good shape for the Worlds, which is more pleasing.”

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