Bradley Wiggins will line up for his first competitive outing of the season at the Tour of Qatar on Sunday and the British World time trial champion was in relaxed spirits as he talked to the media on the eve of the race. However, he stressed that his build-up to the Classics started in Qatar and that he would be racing in the Gulf with one eye on a strong general classification performance.
“I feel pretty good. I had a hard couple of weeks training in Mallorca and then I sorted of backed off a bit last week because I wanted to feel a bit fresh in order to put myself in the best possible position here, really. It’s no fun coming here tired and I’ve done that before,” Wiggins told Cyclingnews before a mid-morning training ride.
Wiggins was initially due to race the Challenge Mallorca last week but altered his schedule in the build-up to the Spanish event. His major objective for the spring remains a tilt at Paris-Roubaix before he bows out from his road racing duties at Team Sky and focuses on the track and his development squad.
“I’ve never enjoyed the races in Mallorca, I’ve always found them a bit up and down and you train quite hard going into them so I’ve found that I’ve been tired in the race,” he said, explaining why he had changed race schedules.
“I never really get out of it what I want, especially at this time of year. I just stayed with the team at the training camp until that ended and then I stayed in Mallorca on my own during the race so that I could back off for this race. What I don’t want to do is start backing off in races like Mallorca or here in order to try and perform because I want to have this bigger picture and view with the Classics later on.”
The Tour of Qatar is almost exclusively based around pan-flat road stages but this year the event features a 10.9 kilometre individual time trial. The stage will be Wiggins’ first chance to show off his rainbow jersey and he will ride a limited edition Pinarello F8 road bike, modified for the stage with a lower stem and thinner handlebars as riders are not permitted to ride time trial bikes.
There are a number of strong time triallists at the race but should Wiggins perform to his potential he could find himself in with a chance of competing for the overall classification. The ‘bigger picture’ is to focus on the Classics but Wiggins hinted that a strong start to the season would add momentum to his charge towards Paris-Roubaix.
“The target here is to try and race hard and have a good time trial but it’s hard to predict for the TT at this time of year because we’re on road bikes,” he said.
“I just want to put myself in the best position possible to do the best ride and see what happens. If it lands you in half decent GC spot, you just try and defend it. It’s so up and down here and it only takes one day to miss an echelon if it’s windy.
“I think it’s that mindset with going forward for the Classics. It’s about commitment and as I said it’s not just about getting the training miles in here. It’s that whole Classics mindset now and with no Tour further down the line it all starts here, really.”
Wiggins cut a relaxed figure as he talked to the press before his ride and he admitted that a winter without the pressure of Grand Tour duties and commitments had helped him not just focus on the Spring but also create a more composed, almost laid-back, mentality.
“I can see the end. I get parole in April, I'm happy about that. It's going into a new chapter in my life, with the Hour and everything. Not having the pressure of the Tour is a nice burden not to have, that continual weight-loss thing. That's a massive strain off my shoulders. I'm 80kg now, which is eight heavier than the Worlds. It's not fat, I've been in the gym all winter. I feel a lot better putting power out on the flat, which fits in with the classics and the Hour,” he said.
“I was 82kg in Beijing. In 2011 at the Tour, I was 69kg. I still don't think I would have had a good Tour; I was past it, I had no power and I was 71.5kg when I won the Tour.”
Once Wiggins completes his term at Team Sky in April, all attention will turn to the boards. The Hour Record attempt is pencilled in for June and then the march to Rio 2016 begins in earnest. While the road remains the focus for now WIGGINS – the rider’s development programme – is busily taking shape.
“I've not had much involvement so far, but it's going well. People send me messages saying 'do you like this colour'? I've left it to the people who have been running it. I didn't want to get too distracted by things like people asking me what bottles to use. I'll be focusing more on it from April, but from a performance point of view. I don't want people ringing me up saying they haven't been paid and stuff.”