Bradley Wiggins is already talking a good fight in the build up to next year’s Tour de France and despite speculation surrounding his future remains focussed on improving on his fourth place from 2009. The Olympic champion spoke at the recent track meeting in Manchester – Revolution 26 – and believes that he has the ability to beat Lance Armstrong, the rider who stood between him and the podium in Paris this July.
Wiggins had taken a three week period off the bike after racing his most gruelling yet most successful season on the road. In previous years, with his focus lying on the track, a sixty day road programme was par but in 2009 Wiggins raced from the Tour of Qatar in February, before competing in the Classics, Giro d’Italia, Tour, Worlds and Sun Tour in September.
“I raced ’till very late in the season with the Sun Tour after the World Championships. To be honest it was perfect really as it extended my season and meant less time pissing around as I only had a small concentrated break, but still got everything out of my system that I needed to,” Wiggins told journalists in Manchester.
“It was my definitely my longest season and I did roughly a hundred days of racing,” he added.
Wiggins, who admitted to gaining a small amount of weight in the off season still looked in good condition after enjoying all the benefits that come with spending time off the bike. “I’ve put on a bit of weight, lager does that to you but I’m not really thinking about diet,” he said.
Wiggins has already earmarked the racing schedule he’ll compete in before lining up as one of the favourites in Rotterdam on July 3. Unlike rivals like Armstrong, the Schlecks and Levi Leipheimer, he’ll opt for his traditional programme of the Classics and the Giro as preparation, instead of racing in the new, revamped Tour of California in May. “I’m going to be a bit overweight at the Giro and that limits what you can do but it’s just training there,” Wiggins said. “I’ll start my season in February and then do most of the early season Spanish races Tour of Murcia, Catalunya, and then couple of the Ardennes. From there I’ll go to the Giro and then the Tour de France. Essentially it will be pretty similar to 2009.
“I never really like going to the US,” he added. “I find the trips quite long and the Giro is always far more relaxed and I’ve got the confidence to ride it quite controlled - race the first 10 days hard and then work for the team or go in the grupetto. It worked really well for me in 2009.”
As for the Tour itself, Wiggins has already sized up a few stages but believes that despite the mountainous profile and critics willing to write him off as early as the route unveiling in October, he can improve and beat Armstrong. “I’ve looked at some of the Tour stages. A lot of people think it won’t be a great Tour for me but that first week if anything is advantageous to me,” he said. “Those cobbled stages could have big gaps to the guys like Andy, Contador, and the guy from America.
“I had one bad day at the Tour this year and that happened to be when it was the day with the most mountains in it and everyone thought it was a weakness of mine but on some of the other stages I was really comfortable on the climbs,” added Wiggins. “It will make for an interesting race and I still think I’m a better rider than Lance and a few of the other guys.”
If Wiggins is to challenge the number one favourite, Alberto Contador, then he’ll need to make a similar improvement to the one he made in 2009, when he wowed the cycling world. “When it really comes down to it Contador is in a league of his own, so is Andy too but after that there are four or five guys and there isn’t that much between them,” said Wiggins.